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Christmas: Part the first

Wellcome Collection might not be the first place to pop into your head when you think of Christmas. But it turns out that a holiday full of indulgence, excess and merriment is very revealing about the human condition. Elissavet Ntoulia explores how our objects can tell some unexpected Christmas stories in this two part series leading up to the big day.

Pagan beginnings

A painting in our Medicine Man gallery shows a man in a field with a long white beard, dressed flamboyantly in a green tunic and trousers and a ‘shaman’ style fox-skin headdress. He was William Price, an eccentric Welsh doctor attracted to the cult of Druidism, something that was very popular in Wales in the Victorian era. Fleeing to Paris to escape capture for his activity in the Chartist movement, he claimed that the engravings of a 2,000 year old stone in the Louvre had ‘spoken’ to him revealing that his first born son would become a Druid Messiah. Continue reading

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The Creative Power of Collections

Following up her earlier post about collectors as “facilitators of curiosity”, author Anna Faherty explores the creative power of collections beyond the objects themselves.

I’ve written previously about the role of collections in creating wonder, knowledge and understanding. But collections – and the actions of gathering, organising and displaying them – also have the power to produce tangible things. From Renaissance apothecaries to contemporary artists and curators, collections may provide information, inspiration and the raw ingredients to create something new.

You don’t have to look far to find people citing their collections as sources of inspiration: American actor Tom Hanks is working on an anthology of short stories inspired by his collection of typewriters; fashion designer Ralph Lauren produced an eyewear range inspired by his collection of vintage cars; and supermodel Helena Christensen has developed a Kipling handbag line inspired by her collection of photographs.

At a more detailed level, potter Edmund de Waal’s bestselling book The Hare with Amber Eyes tells the story of a quest to investigate the history of a collection. When his uncle left him 264 pocket-sized wood and ivory carvings, De Waal was driven to explore the relationship between these Japanese netsuke and the places they had been. Continue reading