Today many people think of leprosy only as a Third World disease. But the sickness has been an all too common element also of European daily life through the centuries, especially in the coastal regions. In Western Norway there were still many people suffering from this disease after it was practically wiped out from the rest of Europe.
This might be one of the reasons why Bergen in the middle of the 19th century became the scientific centre of the efforts to cure leprosy, through the work of Dr. Danielsen and Dr. Armauer Hansen, who discovered the Mycrobacterium leprae in 1873. Today leprosy is practically non-existant in Europe, and although there are still 10-15 million lepers in the rest of the world (where it is often called Hansen’s Disease) the number of new cases is said to have reached almost a standstill.
The Leprosy Archives of Bergen document the breakthrough of the scientific understanding and description of leprosy on a world basis. The documentary heritage from this turning point of the fight against one of the world’s most dreadful diseases is still internationally sought after and used, and deserves both a safeguarding and wider dissemination.