Creating the creative: Tibet’s Secret Temple

You may have seen the campaign for our recently opened Tibet’s Secret Temple exhibition: lush foliage and dramatic clouds, all cut out of paper and set against a crisp teal colour. If you’ve ever wondered how the identity of an exhibition comes together, Jo Finn explains with a bit of help from the creative talent behind it.

The brief


Instead of simply selecting a ‘hero object’ to showcase the exhibition, the creative brief for Tibet’s Secret Temple asked designers Malcolm Chivers and Liam Relph to reflect on the themes of journeying and secret, as well as the sky which is continuously referenced in Tibetan Buddhism, and clouds, often used to symbolise the breath, a key element of yoga.

The design process led to the commission of artist/illustrator Petra Börner and the construction of an innovative structure made by photographer Ben Gilbert in order to shoot the final artwork. Here the creative team share their roles in the process.

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Robert Mapplethorpe, Ken and Tyler, 1985. Courtesy of the Guggenheim Museum, NY and the artist.

Contemplating the Contemporary: Photography

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 photography in our Medicine Now gallery and beyond for Contemplating the Contemporary.

Our Medicine Now gallery features a diverse range of photography, ranging from documentary photography to more conceptual photographic projects. From full-colour to black-and-white, abstraction and figuration, the selection of photographs highlight some of the trends in contemporary photography today. In addition, one of the unique characteristics defining the photographs in the gallery is the fact that many of these projects come from collaborations between artists and medical practitioners. Continue reading

Composite image of Wellcome Collection taken by the London Transport Museum

#MuseumInstaSwap: Through a different lens

At the end of August we teamed up with nine other London museums to swap our collections and themes on Instagram for #MuseumInstaSwapRussell Dornan writes about the project’s inception, how it went and what it was like photographing one museum through the lens of another.

You can see all the photos posted by the ten museums here.

I had the idea for #MuseumInstaSwap after Londonist listed their ten best London museums on Instagram. Seeing museums with such a wide range of collections, subjects and sizes represented made me think we should try some kind of cultural exchange: an exciting way to collaborate and share our content in a new way, especially on a platform as dynamic and engaging as Instagram.

I suggested the idea of pairing up with each other and sharing each other’s content to the other nine museums on the list and everyone was up for it. We met and discussed the finer details of how it would work.

The idea of #MuseumInstaSwap was to show our audiences a different museum’s material and vice versa. It was a way for our combined audiences to discover new museums, or see their favourites through a different lens. Continue reading



Last month we invited a small group of high profile London Instagramers to Wellcome Collection before we opened to the public. The idea was to celebrate our new and reopened spaces after our major development project. Russell Dornan tells us how it went and shows off some of the photos below.

Now that we’re Bigger, Bolder and Braver than ever before, we wanted to see ourselves through the eyes of these talented photographers; a new perspective enhanced by the galleries being empty.

We had enjoyed similar projects, such as #EmptyMet and #InsideAMNH, and looked forward to seeing how people would respond to our building. The dozen participating photographers refuelled with some refreshments on arrival to set them up for the day (it was 8am on a Saturday morning so it was the least we could do!), before we introduced them to Wellcome Collection and showed them around. Continue reading

Finding the Truth in a Nutshell

We wrote about Frances Glessner Lee and her “Nutshell Studies of Unexplained Death” in a previous postErin N. Bush got the chance to visit the eighteen original Nutshells and has turned her photos of some of them into fascinating resource exploring these “dolls’ houses of death”. Erin tells us more.

You do not need forensic training to find an outlier amidst the register of pioneers in forensic science. The usual suspects – Cesare Lombroso, Alphonse Bertillon, Francis Galton, Mathieu Orfila, Charles Norris and Alexander Gettler – were all men of scientific training or veterans of police work. Then there was Frances Glessner Lee.

A woman. Not just any woman, but the daughter of industrial fortune. Forbidden from attending medical school, she contributed to the art and science of detailed forensics-based detection by appropriating a pastime “proper” for a woman of her class and remaking it into a tool of great power. She repurposed a child’s plaything to give new insight into the darkest adult mysteries.

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Photographs as evidence

How did sexologists use and interpret photographic evidence? What role did such photographs play in allowing individuals to explore their own gender identity and sexuality? In this blog, literary scholar and historian of sexuality Dr Jana Funke reflects on her experiences discussing sexology and photography with visitors of the Institute of Sexology exhibition.

In 1919, German-Jewish sexologist Magnus Hirschfeld (1869-1935) opened his Institute of Sexual Research in Berlin. In addition to operating as a clinic, the Institute housed an archive and library and offered educational services to members of the public. Among Hirschfeld’s vast collection were hundreds of photographs, some of which were exhibited at the Institute.

To me, Wellcome Collection’s The Institute of Sexology exhibition is a bit of an homage to Hirschfeld’s Institute and so I was keen to see how visitors today might respond to such photographs. In January, I had the opportunity to find out, as I spent three afternoons in the exhibition talking to visitors about sexology and photography.

Dr Jana Funke discusses sexology and photography at the Institute of Sexology exhibition.

Dr Jana Funke discusses sexology and photography at the Institute of Sexology exhibition.

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Welcome back, Medicine Man!

It’s been a while since visitors were last able to wander around Medicine Man, one of our two permanent galleries. Now that it’s back open, help us welcome Medicine Man back!

Our development project is now coming to an end and a number of months, some new spaces and a new staircase later, the extraordinary objects from Henry Wellcome’s collection (ranging from diagnostic dolls to Japanese sex aids to Napoleon’s toothbrush) are back on display.

To celebrate, we would love to give the Medicine Man gallery a warm welcome by sharing your photographs, past and present. Do you have a favourite object? Or one you’re really curious about? How about a particularly fond memory of visiting?

Share your photos (old and new) with us on Twitter and Instagram using #WelcomeBackMedMan and add to an online gallery celebrating the return of this wonderful collection.

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