The history of leprosy is an intriguing albeit neglected part of Cyprus’ local history. The ancient disease of leprosy had prevailed for many years in the island of Cyprus with the first reference to the disease dating back to the 16th century. The first leprosarium on the island started operating around 1800 and was located just outside the walls of Nicosia. For many decades the lepers were isolated in their forest, living in miserable conditions in makeshift huts and in the caves of the surrounding area and were forbidden to enter Nicosia. Upon their arrival in 1878, the British began to reorganize the administration of the Leprosy Hospital and introduced legislation which resulted in the upgrading of their accommodations. In 1955 the hospital and settlement were moved from Nicosia to Larnaca and officially retained that status until 2015.
Envisioning a Museum
Our goal is to research the history of leprosy on the island and create an interactive museum within the old ruins of the leper colony. By bringing to life the stories of the lepers on the island the museum will serve as an educational space where visitors can study the ghettoization of a community, immerse themselves in individual stories and find hope in the ultimate triumph of life that continued in the colony.
Significance of our project
In GIRES, we know that international history cannot exist without local stories. A (re)collection of memories and stories, objects and oral testimonies create unique clusters of information that should be saved from oblivion. We envision a museum that will utilize the remaining buildings in order to best conserve the area which is part of NATURA. In addition, the use of the old leper colony aims at retaining the aura of mystique that surrounds the history of this isolated community in Cyprus. Undoubtedly, the museum will serve as an educational centre regarding leprosy and other related themes such as the impact of infectious disease on society, the progress of medicine, the ghettoization of communities. The museum will lead to the rise of local as well as foreign visitors to the area who will be able to learn about this aspect of forgotten local history.