This blog series gives you a chance to find out a little more about the people behind the desk at Wellcome Collection, the team of artists, academics, musicians, researchers, comedians and more. Among many other things, they invigilate galleries; write and provide tours and “busking” sessions; they work on exhibitions, events and special projects; and they offer information and guidance to our visitors every day. It’s all in a day’s work for our VEAs, so come and meet the team.
Nelly Ekström introduces Rob Bidder, one of our Visitor Experience Assistant (VEA) team members bringing the galleries and exhibitions to life.
It’s time for Rob to take the stage. Rob is one of the most experienced members of the team: he’s been at Wellcome Collection about four and a half years. He calls himself a Jack of all trades and master of none; those fortunate enough to work with him know that he is in fact the master of a great many things.
One of Rob’s fields of expertise is the human head. He has developed a special themed tour of the Medicine Man gallery all about heads. One of the highlights of the tour is the trepanned skull: this 4000 year old human skull is one of the oldest objects we have in the collection. On top of the skull there are three holes, a result of trepanation procedure performed on a living patient to free him from a headache or perhaps a bad spirit living inside his head. This is Rob’s favourite object in the collection and he loves watching people react as he describes the trepanning procedure.
He says “Seeing people’s faces as we discuss the pitfalls of pre-anaesthetic head drilling is a treat. Treading the line between elaborating on the gory details and stopping just before everyone faints is a delicate art.”
Rob is originally from Maidstone, but has lived in London for the last 12 years. He previously studied fine arts at Goldsmiths and worked at the Maritime Museum and the Royal Observatory in Greenwich before coming to work with us. During his time at Wellcome Collection Rob has been involved in many projects where he’s had the chance to use his artistic talent.
“The most involved one was Curious Conversations, a project we ran during the redevelopment project. Every week we asked the visitors to the gallery and our twitter followers a question (for example “what is your favourite animal fact?”) and I would make a drawing on the gallery wall responding to their answers. The drawing in turn was left on the wall for a week and posted on social media. The project continued for around a year and a half and was probably among the most fulfilling and fun drawing I’ve ever done. A small thrill for me was to watch people laugh or walk away confused from the drawing as I patrolled the galleries as a VEA. It was interesting to me to see people’s true reactions to the drawings without them knowing that I was the artist.”
We have quite a few works of art scattered around the Wellcome Collection and Rob knows more about our collection than anyone. So if you want to know more about our sculptures and pictures, look for him in the galleries!
Despite all his talent and knowledge there is one thing that Rob cannot quite understand: Star Wars. He has picked team member Jordan to be interviewed next, because no one can explain the greatness of this cinema classic better than him!
Nelly is a Visitor Experience Assistant at Wellcome Collection.