The Wellcome Collection, London: The free destination for the incurably curious
So you're in London, you've got time to kill but no money to your name... what will you do? We've all been there, and in fact, this is exactly the position I found myself yesterday. After deciding to go see my friends band, Dignan Porch, at the Shacklewell Arms in the evening I realized that in my haste I had arrived a good four hours early. Being someone who, admittedly, is usually late I was at a bit of a loss so I headed to BrewDog in Soho to have an Elvis Juice and think about a fun, interesting and most importantly free activity that I could do to "waste an hour or two."
To be honest, there are plenty of free museums and collections in London, but my favourite by far has to be the Wellcome Collection opposite Euston Station. So, there it is, I finished my beer, hopped on the 73 bus and headed straight to the Wellcome Collection.
So, who or what is the Wellcome Collection?
The Wellcome Collection hosts a large number of artifacts, manuscripts and interactive works that explore the concepts of health, life and humans' place in the world. In total, the Wellcome Collection is home to over 1 million objects, all of which were personally collated by Sir Henry Wellcome.
June 2017 marked the 10th anniversary of the opening of Wellcome Collection and so I was looking forward to seeing what had changed since I last visited about five years ago, and I was not disappointed!
Just one man
The Wellcome Collection does perfectly what many other museums and collections try to do and undoubtedly fail at, that is, interactive education. On the first floor of the impressive venue is the resident 'Medicine Now' exhibition which focuses on the body, genomes, obesity and living with medical science.
As soon as you walk through the doors there is a life-sized plastic human model with buttons that light up the location of various organs and body parts. In all honesty, I didn't do very well at guessing the body organ locations, maybe I should have studied harder in biology.
My second favourite installation was a number of thirty-second video snippets showing footage of 10-year-old children facing the camera 1-on-1. They had been told to act naturally to express themselves to the camera and so obviously there was all manner of weird and wonderful facial expressions and silly faces. The same children had then been located as adults, ten years later, and were filmed for the second time. For the most part, the adults sat patiently, albeit slightly awkwardly, then the two video images were shown side by side whilst interview snippets were played over the top. It got me wondering at what point in our lives do we stop pulling funny faces and instead sit silently and maturely waiting for further instructions. I think I would much rather be one of the children!
Japanese sex aids
Located just next door the 'Medicine Man' exhibition combines a cross-section of weird (and I mean really weird) objects from Sir Henry Wellcome's. Never did I expect to find Darwin's walking stick on display in the same room as Japanese sex aids. But, here it is in broad daylight!
Ayurvedic Man: Encounters with Indian medicine
In recent years Ayurvedic medicine has been taking a leading role in day-to-day healing as more people understand its healing properties. As someone who is interested in Ayurvedic medicine, I was disappointed by this exhibition which focusses on a range of material from different time periods and locations. Most of the items on display are documents, letters and manuscripts which discuss the medicinal approach and benefits. Personally, i would have liked to have seen a more physical display for the ayurvedic exhibition so I left shortly after entering.
Stop in time for a Spiced Chai
I didn't visit the Reading Room this time, but it is a unique large space that offers the opportunity for guests to indulge themselves with hundreds of books covering: Alchemy, Food, Travel, Body, Breath, Face, Pain, Mind, Lives and Faith, each with accompanying object collections and interactive activities. Instead, after all that wandering around I chose to sit down in the busy cafe and enjoy a spiced chai latte with chocolate cake. Yum!
In total, i was there for an hour and a half - the perfect length of time. So, if you find yourself at a loss in London with too much time and no money then be sure to check out the Wellcome Collection and let me know which elements you enjoy the most.