Wellcome Collection and Library
London, NW1 2BE
Free to all
Describing itself as a 'destination for the incurably curious', the Wellcome Collection explores medicine in the context of the wider world. The adjoining Wellcome Library, is one of the world's major resources for the study of medical history.
The Wellcome Trust's founder, Sir Henry Wellcome, collected more than a million curiosities from around the world, spanning hundreds of years. This formed the basis for the contemporary Wellcome Collection, a free museum about the human condition, exploring life, death and everything in between. It aims to 'make the familiar strange' and invites visitors to uncover what it means to be human.
In 2009 the Wellcome Library embarked on a five-year transformation strategy to create a digital library, allowing online open access to its collections.
The museum’s permanent exhibitions – Medicine Man and Medicine Now – include fascinating objects, from Napoleon’s toothbrush to Florence Nightingale’s moccasins to Darwin’s walking stick, and its changing exhibition programme covers a range of exciting topics.
The Collection includes more than 100,000 prints, drawings, paintings, and photographs, dating from the 14th century to the present.
In addition to the library's main Medical Collection, resources include the Asian collection, comprising some 12,000 manuscripts and 4,000 printed books in 43 different languages, and the rare books collection, holding around 60,000 pre-1851 volumes covering aspects of medical science and practice.
Art we’ve helped buy at Wellcome Collection and Library
In 2011 the Art Fund helped the Library to acquire a portrait drawing of the French surgeon Ange-Bernard Imbert-Delonnes (1747-1818) by Pierre Chasselat.
The drawing is unusual in that in addition to more conventional features of a portrait, the minutely detailed interior includes on the right a gruesome souvenir of Imbert Delonnes's proudest achievement: a gigantic testicular tumour (sarcocele) which, in a controversial operation, he removed from Charles-François Delacroix, the French foreign minister.
The drawing in black chalk is signed by the artist and dated 'L'an 8' ('year 8' in the French Revolutionary calendar, meaning 1799-1800).