The Wellcome Collection

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London, England
The Wellcome Collection - Wellcome Collection - Plastinated Body Slice
The Wellcome Collection -  Wellcome Collection - Puruvian Mummy
The Wellcome Collection - Wellcome Collection - King George III's Hair
The Wellcome Collection -  Wellcome Collection-Male anti-masturbation devices
The Wellcome Collection -  The Wellcome Collection

The Wellcome Collection London Reviews

wabat wabat
160 reviews
The Wellcome Collection Feb 10, 2017
The Wellcome Collection (named after founder Sir Henry Wellcome (1853-1936) an American businessman, collector and philanthropist who ended up a British knight) describes itself as “a free visitor destination for the incurably curious” and “explores the connections between medicine, life and art in the past, present and future”. I like to think of myself as incurably curious and I think “a destination for the incurably curious” sums the place up splendidly.

It certainly helps to be curious about things medical – though that term is used fairly loosely and you will find amongst the displays here ivory walking sticks belonging to Charles Darwin, Napoleon’s Bonaparte’s gold (coloured) toothbrush, 18th -19th century ivory Chinese diagnostic dolls, a collection of Japanese sexual aids and the ultimate in Victorian curatives for the most hideous disease of the day, nickel-plated steel male anti-masturbation devices – ouch! (picture two).

Perhaps slightly more medically related is a lock of hair (picture three) purporting to be that of King George III (1760-1820). Royal biological material such as this is extremely rare and recent tests on this hair have found it to contain an unexpectedly high concentration of arsenic which may explain the so-called “madness” of George III if indeed the hair belongs to George III.

Of course, no collection of curiosities would be complete without shrunken heads and mummified bodies. The Wellcome Collection does not disappoint in this regard. Picture four is a mummified male body originally buried in the fetal position from Peru and dated relatively recently when one thinks of mummies (c1200-1400).

While I have to say I am more intrigued by these older curiosities/exhibits, the majority of which, which would have been collected by Henry Wellcome himself – and thus concentrated on this part of the collection - the collection is right up there with modern medical exhibits including some rather controversial items such as a plastinated human body slice – picture five - (on loan from the Institute of Plastination in Heidelberg). Readers may more readily identify with the Institute though the inventor of plastination, Gunther von Hagens and his Body Worlds exhibitions or TV shows.

With about a million items to chose from, visiting exhibitions and what appears to be a policy of not over (read sparsely) filling limited exhibition space what’s on display here changes regularly. Even what are classified as permanent collections seem to be, at most, semi-permanent.

The Wellcome Collection is managed and I imagine almost exclusively financed by the Wellcome Trust which was established under Henry Wellcome’s will in 1936 and is now the world's largest independent charitable foundation funding research into human and animal health.

While most people, including me, come here for the medical exhibit component of the Wellcome Collection, the Trust also manages, as part of the Wellcome Collection, the Wellcome Library, a collection of over 2 million items making it one of the world's greatest collections, for the study of the history and progress of medicine.

On my first visit I found it a rather odd place and could not quite work it out – that is apart from one collection the “Medicine Man” which I thoroughly enjoyed. “Medicine Man” was, as I understood it, part of the permanent collection though I see right now Feb 2014 it is closed to reopen in Spring 2014 i.e. very soon.

To be fair, I only spent a couple of hours here and got so caught up in the "Medicine Man" collection that I had insufficient time to do justice to, or fully appreciate, the remainder of the collection. I will certainly be returning and I absolutely recommend a visit for “the incurably curious” among my readers.

Lack of time also precluded me from visiting what looked like a well stocked bookshop and the café – something else to do next visit.

Opening hours - Galleries

Mon – Closed

Tue , Wed, Fri, Sat 10am – 6pm

Thur - 10am – 10pm

Sun - 11am – 6pm

Entrance Fee: Free
The Wellcome Collection
Wellcome Collection-Male anti-mas…
Wellcome Collection - King George …
Wellcome Collection - Puruvian Mu…
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joseph98 joseph98
129 reviews
For the incurably curious... Sep 23, 2013
The Wellcome Collection is a quirky, unusual museum which fuses art and science to stunningly good effect. Temporary exhibits (last one I saw was 'Souzou', or Japanese Outsider Art, created by psychiatric inpatients) provide a beguiling appetiser to the permanent exhibits upstairs. And that's where things start to get REALLY strange...

Do you feel like having your face scanned and then stretched in to the statistical average? How about examining a cross section of an actual human body? If that sounds like fun to you, then you really need to check this place out.
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sarahelaine sarahela…
651 reviews
The Wellcome Collection Jul 06, 2010
The Wellcome Collection is the museum of the Wellcome Trust, and is a free

attraction for "the incurably curious" right opposite Euston Station in London.

It is an interesting museum, focusing mostly on the history of medicine with

some art thrown in. There is a permanent collection and usually some special

exhibitions. At the time of writing, the special exhibition was about Skin, as

a biological organ and in terms of its cultural associations. The exhibition

spanned from the slightly disturbing medical text books from hundreds of years

ago, showing bodies helpfully removing their own skin, through samples of

tattooed skin and a real mummy from Peru, to modern art installations and the

wax hands that Victorian medical lecturers used to show students what rare skin

diseases looked like. It was really interesting, if occasionally a bit


The permanent collection includes art about health, some interesting

photographs, and other exhibits that you would more normally expect to see in a

museum about medicine. There is also a statue standing on the roof upside down,

which I strongly suspect is an Anthony Gormley.

It is an incredibly interesting museum because the exhibits are so surprising,

and much wider than the collection of medical instruments you sometimes see in

science museums. The use of art and photography in amongst the medical

exhibits, and the slightly shocking nature of some of the exhibits, meant that I

learned a lot without ever feeling like I was being lectured to. I'm planning

to go back and have a better look at the permanent exhibition, because last time

I spent most of my time in the exhibition on Skin.

Entrance is free. There looked like there was decent disabled access. The

galleries stay open until 6pm, and Euston Station is directly across the road.
1 / 1 TravBuddies found this review helpful/trustworthy
sarahsan says:
Sounds like a very interesting museum, but like you said, also a bit disturbing!
Posted on: Jul 13, 2010

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