Plagues and People at Historic Congressional Cemetery - Atlas Obscura
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Washington, D.C., United States

Plagues and People at Historic Congressional Cemetery

Come explore two centuries of illness, disease, and death at one of D.C.'s oldest cemeteries.

From an 18th-century smallpox outbreak to the AIDS epidemic of the 1980s, illness and disease have shaped our nation.

Today, Historic Congressional Cemetery is the final resting spot for thousands of Washingtonians who have suffered through sickness, plagues, and outbreaks. From a beloved child lost to typhoid to victims of the 1793 Yellow Fever epidemic, the early fate of our nation was at the mercy of pathogens.  

Join us as we explore this diseased legacy at one of D.C.'s oldest cemeteries. We will be accompanied by Sabrina Sholts, a curator of biological anthropology at the Smithsonian's National Museum of Natural History (NMNH) and lead curator for the museum's new exhibition "Outbreak: Epidemics in a Connected World." Sabrina will discuss how pathogens “spill over” from animals to people, why some outbreaks became epidemics, and the importance of “One Health” in reducing pandemic risks in the 21st century. Then, we will be taken for a special evening jaunt through the cemetery by local tour guide and author Tim Krepp. He will highlight notable graves of those who were stricken by disease and illness.  

Additional Details

  • Due to the mature and sensitive nature of content, we recommend this event to those who are 15 years of age or older. 
  • This tour will consist of about a mile walk through a cemetery. Please wear comfortable shoes and dress for the weather. 
  • Historic Congressional Cemetery is accessible via public transportation. It's about an 8-minute walk from the Potomac Avenue station and a 10-minute walk from the Stadium-Armory station on Metro's blue, orange, and silver lines. 


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Advance tickets only. All sales final. No refunds or exchanges.