Sunday, 25 January 2009

HOT: Wellcome Collection, 183 Euston Road, London, NW1 2BE

The Wellcome Collection is not one of London's blockbuster museums, like the National Gallery or Tate Modern, but it is unexpectedly interesting - and free. I arrived just in time for the 2:30pm tour, which is worthwhile taking because without any commentary you'll just find yourself staring at glass cases of amputation saws and obsterics forceps.

Sir Henry Solomon Wellcome was the founder of the pharmaceutical company that was the precursor to the megalith GlaxoSmithKline. He was also an obsessive collector, amassing around 24,000 medical related artefacts, ranging from Japanese sexual toys, Napolean's toothbrush, torture chairs and terracotta totems of hair (apparently used as an attempt to cure baldness). A part of his collection is on display permanently as 'Medicine Man'. The other permanent display is Medicine Now, which explores malaria, obesity, the body, living with medical science and the genome - including a wall-to-ceiling bookcase containing the 24 volumes of DNA data, one for each chromosome.
There is also a temporary exhibition at the moment which explores the relationship with war and medicine. The most moving aspect of that exhibition are the videos of people who have been through war, ranging from a soldier suffering from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder after the Falklands, civilian victims of the nuclear bomb in Hiroshima and Vietnam veterans testifying in the Winter Soldier investigations.
PS If you want to check out my face morphed against average facial features, click here. Ghastly!

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