Aah, the Wellcome Collection, my favourite museum in London. I like it so much, in fact, that I named my other blog after their tagline: “the free destination for the incurably curious”. It’s within pissing distance of Euston station, yet hardly anybody seems to know it’s there. It’s hiding like plain sight, like a…er, Panamanian golden frog. Or something.The museum is currently being refurbished, but they still have their ‘Medicine Now’ exhibition in place. It’s all about the human body and has some interesting pieces, like an encased slice of a real human body and a grotesque sculpture called I Can’t Help How I Feel, which coincidentally captured the essence of how I felt at that very moment (I was there on this occasion for a blogger breakfast, which meant I’d accidentally eaten two mini chocolate croissants back-to-back and a chocolate twist. Oops.)
They’re also dead keen on interactive exhibitions. In the ‘Medicine Now’ exhibition they use a wall to pose questions to visitors – today’s was ‘What’s the weirdest thing you’ve ingested?’ – and then have one of the staff illustrate it on an enormous white board. As you can see, the museum’s loyal following of oddity hunters have choked down some pretty freaky shit, including a guinea pig’s eyeball, a battery and second-hand gum.
The most disgusting thing of all, of course, was the Pot Noodle. 😉
My visits in the past have included the ‘Medicine Man’ exhibition (currently closed for the refurb but reopening in November), which I would absolutely recommend going to see when it’s back up. It’s full of gloriously morbid artefacts from the history of medicine and doctors, and one very interesting but very sad section about child prosthetics, many of which were developed in the wake of the thalidomide disaster in the fifties. (Thalidomide was a new drug prescribed to many pregnant women for morning sickness, but it also directly caused many babies to be born with missing limbs. I remember one video showed a little boy with no arms or legs playing a game with a nurse by bouncing a ball back to her with his head. The kid looked so happy, but the whole picture was incredibly sad. I often wonder what happened to him.)
On to jollier things, the current exhibition, ‘An Idiosyncratic A-Z of the Human Condition’, features fun objects like sexy porcelain fruit. interesting artwork and oddities throughout the ages. My favourite item was this prosthetic nose, which would have been attached to the face of someone whose hooter had been rotted away through syphilis in the 17th or 18th centuries. (Honestly, I don’t know how our rude forefathers got any procreation done; the whole business is quite horrifying when there aren’t any contraceptives or antibiotics for STDs.)
A word of warning if you’re visiting: the exhibition is very, very cold. Like goosepimply cold. Take a sweater!
The expanded Wellcome Collection, post-builders, opens on 20th November and is called, rather titillatingly, ‘The Institute of Sexology’, and promises over 200 objects spanning art, rare archival material, erotica, film, photography, medical artefacts and ethnography, all about sex. I’ll be covering it when it opens, but if it’s anything like the rest of the museum, it’s going to be fascinating.
The museum is fun to explore on your own, but the tour guides really are exemplary. We had Rob, who was a true fount of weird knowledge and showed us some of his favourite exhibits. They’ve scaled back their events programme a bit during their refit, but you can check out what tours and events are on here.
The Wellcome Collection can be found at 183 Euston Rd, NW1 2BE, pretty much opposite the station. ‘An Idiosyncratic A-Z of the Human Condition’ is open until 12th October 2014, and ‘The Institute of Sexology’ exhibit will be unveiled to the public on 20th November 2014. Entrance is free, but if you would like to support one of the city’s finest museums they have a nice cafe and a gift shop that sells cuddly sperms (amongst other things). You can find more information, including visiting hours, here.
Author: Emily Gibson
Emily is an urban adventurer, blogger and
glutton foodie on an epic quest to uncover the best things to eat, drink and do in London. She lives in East London and loves ceviche, cycling and magic shows. Lifelong nemeses include beetroot, beards and wine served in tumblers.