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Wellcome Collection presents The treasures of Henry Wellcome

The Wellcome Collection presents The treasures of Henry Wellcome, an exhibition on view through 20 May 2012.

From a pair of wax hands to a shrunken head and from ivory anatomical figures to an executioner’s mask, a new display of photographs by Thom Atkinson in the windows of the Wellcome Trust celebrates the remarkable collection of treasures amassed by Sir Henry Wellcome.

A dried ‘merman’ chimera sits beside a medicine chest taken to Mount Everest; a 19th-century X-ray tube next to a cat o’ nine tails; a scroll of Islamic invocations is placed by a pharmacist’s leech jar. In these unlikely alignments, the staggering range of Wellcome’s interests is laid bare.

A pharmacist by trade, a philanthropist and a collector, Wellcome gathered more than a million artefacts relating to health, medicine and the body. Atkinson’s haunting photographs give a public life to the featured objects, many of which have been kept in archives for decades.

Stories, both known and unknown, are released by his work, which treats each artefact as a repository of curiosity and a source of inspiration. These strange and beautiful images of the objects Wellcome collected are a fitting tribute to his prodigious appetite for knowledge.

The photographs were originally commissioned by the ‘Financial Times Weekend Magazine’ for a feature marking the Wellcome Trust’s 75th anniversary. The objects are drawn from the Medicine Man gallery at Wellcome Collection, the holdings of the Wellcome Library and the vast stores of Henry Wellcome’s collection kept in archives at Blythe House in Olympia, cared for by the Science Museum. The window display was designed by Shaz Madani.

Clare Matterson, Director of Medical Humanities and Engagement at the Wellcome Trust, said: “The objects in Tom Atkinson’s photographs, both peculiar and diverse, capture the spirit of curiosity that fuelled Sir Henry Wellcome in his restless exploration of the history of medicine. The Wellcome Trust is delighted to display these works, which give a unique glimpse into the expansive mind of its founder.”

The Treasures of Henry Wellcome runs from 9 March to 20 May at the Wellcome Trust, 215 Euston Road, London NW1 2BE, UK.

About the Wellcome Trust
Established under Sir Henry’s Wellcome’s will in 1936, the Wellcome Trust is a global charitable foundation dedicated to achieving extraordinary improvements in human and animal health. It supports the brightest minds in biomedical research and the medical humanities. The Trust’s breadth of support includes public engagement, education and the application of research to improve health. It is independent of both political and commercial interests.

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