#Shelfies and Sexology

The Wellcome Trust offers recent graduates the opportunity to help shape the future of science-related research, education and arts in their Graduate Development Programme. One of our grads, Emily Pritchard, is coming to the end of her six month rotation at Wellcome Collection and tells us about the variety of projects she’s been involved in.

If someone asked you what stood out most in the first week of your new job in a new city and as a new graduate, a single phone call to IT probably wouldn’t make the cut. Then again, not everyone has to call IT and request them to remove the words “sex”, “pornography” and “penis” from your blocked search terms. This would be only one of the many phone calls IT would receive from me, but it is certainly one that stands out.

This incident marked the beginning of a whirlwind introduction to daily life at Wellcome Collection. Over the past five months I’ve worked across two departments on youth projects, the Wellcome Book Prize, Twitter accounts, websites, books and six exhibitions, including The Institute of Sexology and Forensics.

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Acts of Faith: an A to Z of lucky escapes

In our Idiosyncratic A to Z of the Human Condition exhibition we invited you to contribute to the gallery in different ways, from submitting Instagram photos to marking your height on the wall. For the letter “A” we asked you to tell us about your Acts of Faith which were subsequently illustrated and put on display. Robert Bidder, the illustrator, tells us the about the submissions and how he approached drawing them.

Henry Wellcome was interested in many approaches to healing, including scientific and faith-based healing techniques. One of the many groups of things he collected around faith were votive paintings (also known as retablos or ex-votos) from various Christian traditions around the world.

A votive painting is essentially one that gives thanks for a recovery from a near-fatal accident or illness. During an illness a person may pray to a Saint, Christ or God to help them get better and in return they will commission a votive painting. The paintings are then put in churches; sometimes a few of them end up in the collections of famous pharmaceutical magnates.

Votive painting.
Votive painting.

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Contemplating the Contemporary: Mixed Media and Collage

Contemporary art is all around us, but we often still ask: “Is it art?” In this blog series exploring how and why we make art, Guillaume Vandame looks at mixed media and collage in our Medicine Now gallery and beyond for Contemplating the Contemporary.

One of the defining movements of modern and contemporary art is the use of mixed media and collage. Modernist artists such as Romare Bearden, Richard Hamilton, Joe Tilson, Peter Blake, Hannah Hoch, Kurt Schwitters, George Grosz, Jasper Johns and Robert Rauschenberg created these fantastic works of art that combined drawing, painting and printmaking with popular culture and everyday life.

Jasper Johns' Target with Four Faces, 1955. (© 2015 Jasper Johns / Licensed by VAGA, New York, NY)
Jasper Johns, Target with Four Faces, 1955. (© 2015 Jasper Johns / Licensed by VAGA, New York, NY)

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Caught on camera

Forensics: The anatomy of crime opens at Wellcome Collection next month. To whet your appetite for this exploration of the history, science and art of forensic medicine, Holly Story introduces us to an early technique for identifying criminals. Read it carefully to win the chance to have your face featured in a new game, Criminel, inspired by the exhibition. See below for details.

Forensics: The anatomy of crime
Forensics: The anatomy of crime, at Wellcome Collection 26 February until 21 June.

In an age when 360 degree surveillance is an unremarkable reality of our day to day lives, it is hard to imagine a time when to make a record of someone’s face you needed an artistic hand or a vivid imagination. But before the advent of photography, the faces of ordinary citizens were not often preserved on paper. Although there were skilful portrait artists, portraits were costly, the prerogative of the wealthy and the ruling classes and accuracy was not always the artist’s top priority. If you had not seen a person with your own eyes, then you had to rely on someone else’s unreliable reports of their appearance, their distinctive features or remarkable complexion to tell you what they looked like.

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Chromosomes carry the genetic code that determines the characteristics of a living thing. They are fascinating due to the varied factors they determine, the sometimes negative effects they can have and their complexity. Equally interesting are the stories of their discoveries. This series will explore the history of specific chromosomes and their impact on science.

In humans, mitochondrial DNA (mDNA) is regarded as the smallest chromosome, coding for 37 genes and containing approximately 16,600 base pairs. Taryn Cain continues this series by looking at mitochondria.

Let me take you back a bit. 1.4 million years back, in fact. A small bacterium was ingested by a large single-celled organism and, rather than being digested, the smaller body was instead left to its own devices. As time went on, the bacterium began transferring some of its genetic material over to the larger cell, until eventually it was as if the two had never been independent. The small bacterium involved itself with the inner workings of the cell, while the larger organism took over the world. That small bacterium was a mitochondrion, while the larger body became all multi-cellular life on earth. This evolutionary theory is known as symbiogenesis.

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