Wednesday, 2 November 2011

This is not a Review: Wellcome Exhibitions: Charmed Life and Henry Wellcome

Inspired by a recent posting by Ananael Qaa over at his Augoeis blog, I decided to take a slightly extended lunch break and visit the Wellcome trust exhibitions for the first time.

The first exhibition that I visited was about Amulets and Talismans. The formal title of which is: “Charmed Life: The Solace of Objects” by Felicity Powell (6th October 2011-26 February 2012)

Although there were some interesting bits and pieces, nothing really caught my attention for long.

So figuring that I’d spent a fair bit of time travelling to Euston, I should at least visit another exhibition and decided to look at the permanent exhibition: Medicine Man. I’m struggling to put in to words just how eclectic and strange the collection was, so instead I’ll quote the official blurb:
“Henry Wellcome was a man of many parts: entrepreneur, philanthropist, patron of science and pioneer of aerial photography. He also created one of the world’s great museums: a vast stockpile of evidence about our universal interest in health and the body.

More than 150 years after his birth in 1853, this exhibition reunites a cross-section of extraordinary objects from his collection, ranging from diagnostic dolls to Japanese sex aids, and from Napoleon’s toothbrush to George III’s hair. It also provides a very different perspective on some of our own obsessions with medicine and health…”

After coming across an early dentistry chair and an actual torture chair (there were more blades on the latter) I then came across Florence Nightingale’s shoes. Then turning the corner I was confronted by this:

The inscription with the exhibit was as follows:

Mummified male body
Chimu people, Peru, c. 1200-1400
This naturally preserved mummy is from the north coast of Peru, where Chimu culture buried their dead in ‘mummy bundles’. The body would have been seated in an upright position (with the knees at the face). The body was then wrapped in layer of fabric and a false head attached to the bundle. It was then buried with personal possessions, ritual objects and food offerings, revealing a strong belief in a continuing existence after death.

It seemed to me that he was not to happy with being put on display- but mummys don’t always get what they want in the afterlife. Just as I was about to go I found what had drawn me the exhibit, a Hebrew inscription artifact.

Unfortunately this was the best photo I managed to take, as my lurking around this one exhibit for a long period of time was beginning to attract the attention of the staff. I once had a guard follow me around half the British Museum, so perhaps there’s something about my behaviour that sets of mental alarms in museum staff.