Willkommen, bienvenue, welcome! to the curious collection founded by Sir Henry Solomon Wellcome (1853–1936). As a newcomer to the Wellcome Collection I was excited to explore the exhibitions on offer, and started on the first floor with the permanent exhibitions.Photographs were not allowed so this image was taken from the Wellcome Collection website.
Medicine Now examines ideas about science and medicine in the years following Henry Wellcome’s death in 1936. Focusing on the subjects: the body, genomes, malaria and obesity, Medicine Now uses artefacts, artwork, displays and interactive exhibits to engage and explore. You really have to go, there are lots of buttons to press and things to learn. It was interesting to understand genomes through a range of medium.
The use of the John Donne poem ‘To His Mistress Going To Bed’ was a lovely analogy of mapping our entire hereditary information. The exhibition investigates the effect the discovery of genomes has had on our society and culture.
Anagram by artist Julie Cockburn creates a visual representation of the genome by punching letters out of numerous colour palettes. Image taken from WellcomeCollection.org
I found it quite adventurous that they compared malaria & obesity, diseases which are found almost exclusively in developing & developed nations. Both diseases threaten lives in very different ways, both are ‘curable’, although I’ve never thought of obesity as a disease before, just the side effects of overeating which, for me, takes away from the tragedy of malaria, but I enjoyed the challenge of the comparison. There are pods where you can listen to expert opinions on both subjects – some I agreed with, some not so much. The Medicine Man permanent exhibition was glorious! It is truly testament to Sir Henry Wellcome’s far reaching mind. There are artefacts, paintings and allsorts of curios.. be warned, the collection contains real human remains. You can see Charles Darwins’ walking stick, Napoleon Bonaparte’s toothbrush, and a whole range of things relating to life, death and everything in between. The Wellcome Image Award winners 2012 were also on display. This is a collection of images using techniques ranging from medical photography to scanning electron microscopy to capture subjects from across the life sciences. Above you can see Loperamide Crystals which are used to treat diarrhoea. This photograph by Robert Ludlow shows the surface (cortex) of a human brain belonging to an epileptic patient. I’ve included this image because it was the winner and is very beautiful in its own way but internal organs don’t help my digestion, so lets move on. This image by Salil Desai depicts the chemotactic behaviour of cancer cells using a combination of fluorescence and phase contrast microscopy.These are the little guys that help brighten your day – Caffeine crystals captured by Annie Cavanagh and David McCarthy.
The special exhibition at the moment is SUPERHUMAN, try and get there before 16th October. It explores human enhancement in variety of ways from 600BCE to 2050 and asks about its moral and social implications. Scratching Both Walls At Once by Rebecca Horn (still image)
Here the artist puts on Edward Scissorhand type gloves in order to extend the human reach, one of the more light hearted exhibits. Image from http://www.simonkeitch.com/
Francesca Steele’s performance piece ‘Routine’ involved her transforming her body through a bodybuilding routine. What’s your reaction to this?Here is Philippa Verney drinking coffee with her foot. This demonstrates that at the time prosthetic limbs were more for cosmetic as they were so heavy, but now they are very practical.
From vibrators to humanoid robots, the exhibition certainly covers a lot of ground and poses some pretty big questions. You can also access the Wellcome Library on the 2nd floor which houses over 2 million items from ancient Egyptian prescriptions to African Voodoo paintings. I’ll definitely be visiting again soon…
Entry Fee: FREE
Location: 183 Euston Road London NW1 2BE