"Everyday Objects Belonging to a Voice Hearer / Everyday Objects Belonging to a Non Voice Hearer", 2016, on display in 'THIS IS A VOICE'.

Hearing Voices: On Curiosity

Seven young voice hearers, aged 14-19, collaborated with artist Hannah Hull to create a significant body of artwork that comments on a key theme in our current exhibition ‘THIS IS A VOICE’. This artwork aims to evoke and challenge the viewer’s expectations of a voice hearer. Hannah tells us more about it and considers the ethics of such an artwork.

The experience of working with seven young women who hear voices has been incredible. I couldn’t have asked for a more creative, smart and sensitive group to co-produce artwork with for the current Wellcome Collection exhibition. They challenged me and my practice to the fullest, and it has been one of the most rewarding art projects I have undertaken to date.

There is so much I want to communicate about this body of work, but I’m going to talk about the one thing that is conspicuously absent from our main artwork: details about the experience of hearing voices. Continue reading


Depressed in Dharavi

Our new book In the Bonesetter’s Waiting Room by Aarathi Prasad was inspired by Wellcome Collection’s 2016 Mumbai exhibition and broader programme of events exploring India’s rich plurality of cultures of medicine, healing and well-being. Using her own pictures from her travels, here’s a taste of Aarathi’s story of the Indian people, in sickness and in health, providing a unique perspective on one of the most diverse and fascinating country in the world.

On 60-feet Road, the main road into the Dharavi mega-slum, medical practitioners of various backgrounds offer a variety of services. This might include conventional medicine, but may also include Unani medicine, which can include the practice of bone-setting.

Houses in Dharavi consist of a downstairs room less than three metres squared which is used as a kitchen and sleeping area. If a family can afford it they will build an upstairs, accessed by a very steep metal ladder fixed to the outside of the property: a frequent cause of strains, sprains and breakages. As space is so tight in Dharavi, the upper floor can sometimes be used to generate a rental income. Continue reading


Inspired: Human evolution & obstetrics

Sometimes provocative and always interesting, this series of shorter stories can be inspired by pretty much anything in Wellcome Collection and offers a quick insight into some of the themes we explore. This one comes from Rock Webb.

As an archaeologist I am particularly interested in the notion of becoming and being human. The study of human evolution fascinates me, as well as how hominid development has had a profound effect on our modern biological makeup. Take obstetrical adaptation for example. The display of a whole array of forceps in our Medicine Man gallery reminds us how giving birth has become so medicalised. I would like to offer one view on this topic. Continue reading


Stop-frame animation at Wellcome Collection

Saturday Studio is our series of drop-in activities inspired by Wellcome Collection. They are for people aged 14–19 and led by experts from a variety of creative fields; participants can try out new skills and meet new people. Our latest session explored Wellcome Collection using stop-motion animation techniques. Dan Brown from Mash Cinema tells us what inspired this session, how he came up with the format and how it went.

When I was asked by Wellcome Collection’s Youth Programmes team to use stop-frame animation techniques to explore the themes of their current exhibitions, as well as using the collection itself, one exhibition jumped out at me.


I couldn’t help but draw inspiration from their current States of Mind exhibition; after visiting it my mind was buzzing with ideas. Goshka Macuga’s “Somnambulist”, lying peacefully in the gallery, was especially intriguing as, having seen the film that influenced the piece (“The Cabinet of Dr Calagari”), I knew the maniacal mind behind its eyes. Continue reading


Sleep Paralysis: A brief history of fear, treatment and artistic creativity

During sleep we enter a state of altered consciousness. While the brain remains active, our perception is largely reduced. Some sleep disorders disrupt this balance: sleepwalkers become physically active while remaining in a deep sleep and sleep paralysis can occur at the fringes of sleep. Sarah Jaffray takes us through the latter as she explores the stuff of nightmares. 

“…and slowly waking from it – half steeped in dreams – I opened my eyes and the before sunlit room was now wrapped in outer darkness. Instantly I felt a shock running through all my frame; nothing was to be seen and nothing was to be heard; but a supernatural hand seemed placed in mine.”

– Ishmael, Chapter 4, Moby Dick

Today we use the term ‘nightmare’ to explain a generally frightening dream or unpleasant experience, but until the late 19th century the term night-mare (hyphen included) was exclusively descriptive of sleep paralysis, a sleep disorder in which the body is temporarily immobilised at the moment of waking or the moment of falling asleep. It is a minor, yet common, body/mind malfunction that upwards of 50% of the population claims to have experienced at least once in their lifetime.

Regular bouts of sleep paralysis can be a symptom of conditions like narcolepsy or PTSD, but sometimes these conditions do not provoke sleep paralysis at all. Random occurrences of sleep paralysis typically stem from periods marked by lack of sleep, medical or anaesthetic error or high levels of stress. The unpredictability of this parasomnia makes it all the more frightening when it happens. Continue reading


Would like to meet: Nelly

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.

Anna Firbank introduces Nelly Ekström, one of our Visitor Experience Assistant (VEA) team members bringing the galleries and exhibitions to life. 

Hi to Nelly! Nelly is from Sweden and adding to the growing landscape of backgrounds working at Wellcome Collection, her field of interest is Museum Studies and Cultural Heritage Management. Nelly’s previous jobs include being a technician at Waldemarsudde art museum in Sweden and an Educator at Skansen, Stockholm’s open air museum of Swedish history. Her interests extend widely beyond museums as well: you will find she is strong on antique mythology, painting, textile handicrafts and “everything Swedish except sports.”

In the galleries, you are likely to find Nelly surrounded by boxes of spices: nutmeg, cinnamon and pepper. “I do a ‘busk’ [one of our interactive mini-tours] on the subject of spices and how they have been used in medicine and as protection against disease throughout history. The more times I do it the more I get into the subject. I research more and more things like folklore traditions, trading routes and old recipes; anything that relates to the history of spices.” Continue reading


The humours in Shakespeare

On 23 April 2016 we mark the 400th anniversary of the death of William Shakespeare. One way we’re celebrating this anniversary is by exploring the four bodily humours and their effect on some of Shakespeare’s most famous characters. Nelly Ekström tells us more about the humours and how they’ve been represented in the work of the Bard of Avon. 

“Everey man humour hath his adjuct pleasure,
Wherein it finds joy above the rest”.

– William Shakespeare, sonnet 91

One of the uncountable ways Shakespeare’s work is so wonderful and relevant for us today is because of the knowledge it gives us about the world he lived in. His writing is one of the most important sources for the knowledge we have about medicine in Elizabethan and Jacobean England. His works contains a lot of information on the contemporary medical practices of the time, but also show the social history of medicine: how medicine formed a part of people’s lives and thoughts.

In Shakespeare’s time, the understanding of medicine and the human body was based on the theory of the four bodily humours. This idea dates back to ancient Greece where the body was seen more or less as a shell containing four different humours, or fluids: blood, phlegm, black bile and yellow bile. The humours affect your whole being, from your health and feelings to your looks and actions. Continue reading