A Day at the Wellcome Collection, London

Last week I was in London for an interview (hopefully more on that later, but until I find out the results of said interview let’s skip over that..). The flight down from Aberdeen was super early and I didn’t fly back until 7.30pm, so I spent the majority of the day at the Wellcome Collection.

Every time I’m in London I mean to come to the Wellcome Collection, but I’m usually so pushed for time that it ends up falling off my itinerary in favour of the stuff that I’m actually in London for. Anyway, with a decent amount of spare time I was delighted to be able to have lunch in the Wellcome Cafe (super busy, but really friendly staff and the best sweet potato salad I’ve ever eaten), spend money I shouldn’t be spending in the Wellcome Shop (everything is gorgeous and I need all of the books and science stuff that they sell), catch up on emails and have a mooch around the Wellcome Library, and have a look around the exhibits before heading back to the airport.

The Wellcome Library

I got a free day pass to use the library and wifi, and honestly, I wish this library was closer to home for me. You can’t take in coats/bags etc, you leave your belongings in a locker outside the library, and take what you need in (laptop, charger etc) in a clear plastic bag. This is the best thing ever. At first I was a bit weirded out by this, but when I got into the library it made more sense. There’s no clutter anywhere, people are working away without ‘stuff’ everywhere, and all of the stuff you do in an effort to procrastinate and avoid work is locked up. I found the library a really good place to do work in; I hate working in cluttered environments because I find it hard to concentrate, so this was perfect. I got through a tonne of emails, a few bits of my to do list, and then went for a wander around.

Exhibits at the Wellcome Collection

I missed the ‘Can Graphic Design Change Your Life?’ exhibition, it finished on the 14th of this month and I’m still not over it – if you’re interested in that I’d recommend Chloe Turner’s blog post here which gives a good summary (and some sneaky photos) of the exhibit. Anyway, what I did see were the Medicine Man, Medicine Now, and Ayurvedic Man: Encounters with Indian medicine exhibitions.

Medicine Now was my favourite of the exhibits, and the one I was most impressed with. It offered something for everyone, there was an activity station at the back where children (and adults!) were playing and making postcards to communicate their feedback (left).

The Medicine Now exhibit also had some ridiculously cool exhibits aimed at increasing understanding of the human body. First – this slice of human, yes, it’s a slice of an actual human being. When the person died they donated their body to science, and the fluids in their body were replaced with plastics to allowed a clean cut to be made. This is a controversial technique, but if it’s your thing I’d also recommend trying to get to a Body Worlds exhibition. I went to one at the Centre for Life in Newcastle a few years ago and it was fantastic.

Behind the slice of body (wow, that does sound gross) above, you can see a transparent model of a body, complete with organs, blood vessels and bones. In my opinion this was the best bit of the entire exhibit. By the body’s feet was a panel of buttons, no instructions, just buttons. Clearly my curiosity got the better of me and I went on to press each and every one of the buttons in front of me – thankfully, that was the idea. When I pressed the buttons, the corresponding organ lit up. I took a little video clip for Instagram so you can see what I mean:

As well as the super cool bodies, Dolly the sheep made an appearance (well, her front-page Time magazine, some droppings and a handful of wool, as did a wall of chromosomes made out of socks.

If you’re in London and have a few hours to spare, I’d definitely recommend heading to the Wellcome Collection! The Medicine Now exhibit is permanent and free.

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