They do funding AND shrunken heads: go visit the Wellcome Collection

The Wellcome Trust – oooh, funding! That’s my usual association. So it was good to remind myself this weekend about all the other things they do, including showing the most fascinating collection of health and disease related objects it is possible to imagine. I spent a rapt hour in the Wellcome Collection’s Medicine Man exhibition, viewing Chinese torture chairs, shrunken heads, and shoes for bound feet the size of my big toe. The collection showcases just some of the diverse array of objects Henry Wellcome collected during his lifetime – much was sold off after his death, but there’s certainly enough to be going on with. There’s a fascinating audio guide too: I particularly liked experts discussing how the guillotine’s intended purpose of making executions more humane had the reverse effect, as beheadings became public entertainment complete with snack sellers. I am now grateful to Henry Wellcome not just for establishing a fabulous source of research funding, but also for amassing this inspiring set of objects which highlight the wonderful diversity of approaches to maintaining and improving health. I wonder if I can persuade any of my GP colleagues to replace their surgery signs with strings of human teeth, in the arresting style of old Chinese doctors’ signboards? Might get them some interesting feedback on NHS Choices…

Want to go?

Medicine Man is a permanent exhibition at the Wellcome Collection on the Euston Road in London. Exhibitions are free. It also has a very nice cafe. What more can you want?

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