We attended an exhibit preview of Germ City: Microbes and the Metropolis at the Museum of the City of New York this month to explore and reflect upon the complex story of New York’s long battle against infectious disease—a fight involving government, urban planners, medical professionals, businesses, and activists. It reveals how our understanding of disease has changed us physically, socially, and culturally, and the surprising interplay between people and pathogens in an urban context. The exhibition is organized by the Museum of the City of New York in collaboration with The New York Academy of Medicine and Wellcome. It is part of Wellcome’s international project Contagious Cities, which explores the interplay of people and pathogens in urban contexts. Drawing on the model of the Wellcome Collection’s “Reading Room,” Germ City features a hybrid gallery and library where visitors can view historical artifacts alongside contemporary artworks created for the exhibition, delve into the exhibition’s themes with a curated selection of books, and access a wide range of perspectives through digital interactives. Contagious Cities is an international project developed by Wellcome, which supports local conversations around the global challenges of epidemic preparedness and marking the centenary of the 1918 flu pandemic, during which a third of the world’s population was infected and 50 million people died. Cities bring people and germs together. Through the stories it tells, Contagious Cities explores the outcomes of this cohabitation, and the relationship between microbes, migration and the metropolis. Combining different perspectives and expertise, partners in the project are co-producing artist residencies, exhibitions, interactive experiences, events and broadcasts. Together, they are investigating the physical, social, economic and cultural effects of infectious disease.