The 2 large display areas in the Wellcome Museum are on the 1st floor. In other words, you go upstairs to see them. Cultural differences. In England, the 1st floor would be the 2nd in the US. Another I was not aware of until my recent visit is that distances all over Great Britain are still computed in miles. In every other measurement, to my knowledge, the metric system is used.
After visiting the Wellcome, I wrote in my notes “medical marvels beautifully displayed”. This was, in other words, my kind of place.
Henry Wellcome (1853-1936) was born in a Wisconsin log cabin. By 1932 he had co-founded pharmaceutical giant Burroughs Wellcome and Company, been knighted, and was well on his way to collecting 1 million medical objects and oddities. Many of those are on display in his Museum at 183 Euston Road in London. They range from the ordinary, medical glassware, to the curious, Japanese sex aids. In addition to his lifelong interest in health and the human body, Wellcome was an aerial photography pioneer. He also apparently cultivated an attention-drawing moustache.
I was fascinated by the anything-but-ordinary art in the Museum’s Henry Wellcome Cabinet. Like everything else in Henry’s personal collection, they made me gasp and lean in. How could I resist paintings with names like “A man being hit on the head by a falling flowerpot” and “William Price in druidic costume with goats” Canvassing them, I learned that the astronomer Galileo had 3 illegitimate children. Considered unfit for marriage, his daughter Virginia Gamba became a nun, Suor Maria Celeste, and supported Dad in his confrontations with the Catholic Church.
The other large display area on Level One, or the 2nd floor, is called MEDICINE NOW and presents “a range of ideas about science and medicine” occurring since Wellcome’s death. Ruth and I studied a transparent body that lit up, information about malaria, a gross exploration of obesity, etc.
But don’t necessarily expect to find these exact displays if you’re lucky enough to visit this 5 Compass collection for the “Incurably curious” any time soon. By summer 2014, £17.5 from a development fund will have enhanced it with a new gallery, a transformed Reading Room, a new restaurant, etc. The Wellcome Museum will remain open during remodeling and stay amazingly free to enter. It’s worth whatever kilometers, uh, miles you must travel to see it.