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From Controversy to Collaboration: The Evolving Wellcome Collection Experience

Title: Unveiling the Wellcome Collection: Exploring Its Legacy and Recent ControversiesIn the world of museums and collections, the Wellcome Collection has served as a unique platform for exploring the intersection of art, science, and medicine. However, recent events have led to the closure of one of its exhibits, sparking both debate and introspection.

This article delves into the reasons behind the exhibit’s closure, examines the criticism and accusations leveled against the institution, and sheds light on the founder and purpose of the Wellcome Collection.

Closure of exhibit at Wellcome Collection

Reasons for closure

At the heart of the exhibit’s closure were concerns surrounding perpetuating racist, sexist, and ableist theories. The Wellcome Collection, which has always strived to be inclusive, acknowledged the impact these theories had on marginalized communities and sought to rectify the situation.

By addressing these issues head-on, the Wellcome Collection aimed to create a more balanced and ethical platform for education and engagement.

Criticism and accusations

The closure of the exhibit invited criticism from various quarters, with some labeling it as cultural vandalism. However, it is crucial to understand that museums have a responsibility to stay attuned to society’s evolving values.

Neglecting marginalized and excluded narratives runs counter to the very essence of museums, which should serve as a point of reflection and growth. The Wellcome Collection recognized this responsibility and opted for a more inclusive approach that better aligned with its values.

Wellcome Collection and its founder Henry Wellcome

Background of Wellcome Collection

The Wellcome Collection owes its existence to Sir Henry Wellcome, a US-born pharmaceutical tycoon whose fascination with healthcare and healing led him to amass an extensive collection of medical artifacts. Established in 1932, the collection has since grown to encompass a vast range of objects and art pieces, offering visitors a glimpse into the history and wonders of medicine.

Purpose and acquisition of artifacts

The collection aims to foster understanding of the art and science of healing, serving as a valuable resource for the medical and art communities alike. The artifacts once belonging to Wellcome himself, as well as those acquired subsequently, give voice to diverse perspectives and experiences across cultures and time periods.

By telling the stories of these objects, the Wellcome Collection allows visitors to engage with the multifaceted nature of medicine and promotes greater empathy and knowledge. Whether it be the instruments used in ancient healing rituals or the groundbreaking discoveries of modern medicine, the Wellcome Collection seeks to bridge the gap between academic research and public engagement.

Through careful curation and interpretation, the institution strives to ignite curiosity and foster dialogue. Conclusion:

By examining the closure of an exhibit at the Wellcome Collection in light of its overall mission and founder’s vision, a nuanced understanding emerges.

Museums, like any institution, must continually assess their practices to ensure they faithfully represent the diversity of human experiences while upholding values that promote inclusivity and ethical engagement. The closure of this particular exhibit reflects the Wellcome Collection’s commitment to remaining relevant, responsible, and respectful in a rapidly evolving world.

Title: Wellcome Collection: Unveiling Artifacts, Fostering Inclusion, and Addressing Challenging HistoriesAs we continue to explore the multifaceted world of the Wellcome Collection, we delve deeper into the significance of its diverse artifacts, which encompass an impressive variety of objects spanning centuries. Additionally, we discuss a particular painting that raised questions about racial representation and the steps taken by the institution to promote marginalized voices.

The Wellcome Collection’s commitment to inclusivity and education shines through as we navigate the rich tapestry of its collection.

Artifacts and collection at Wellcome Collection

Variety and age of objects

The Wellcome Collection’s collection boasts a remarkable range of artifacts that serve as conduits to the past. From intricately carved wood and delicate ivory to meticulously crafted wax models, each item holds a story waiting to be told.

Furthermore, the collection houses objects that have a direct link to influential figures, such as Charles Darwin’s walking sticks, adding an extra layer of depth to the narrative showcased within the walls of the museum. Beyond the allure of individual objects, the diverse range of items spanning the 17th-century and beyond provides visitors with a captivating journey through the evolution of medicine and healing practices.

Wellcome’s collection and Wellcome Trust

The vastness of the Wellcome Collection can be seen through its comprehensive acquisition of over a million objects connected to the history of medicine. Sir Henry Wellcome’s vision extended beyond the mere preservation of artifacts; it sought to contribute to humanity’s understanding of the medical field.

This noble endeavor is perpetuated through the Wellcome Trust, a biomedical research charity that channels its funding towards improving global health. Therefore, the Wellcome Collection stands as a testament to the intersection of artistic expression, scientific discovery, and the pursuit of knowledge.

Racist depiction in a painting and marginalized voices

Racism in Harold Copping painting

The Wellcome Collection, like many institutions grappling with deeply rooted historical prejudices, has faced instances where artworks exhibited perpetuated harmful racial stereotypes. One such painting, titled “A Medical Missionary Attending to a Sick African” by Harold Copping, depicted a white missionary standing above a black individual in a position of subservience.

Recognizing the problematic nature of the painting, the Wellcome Collection took decisive action by closing its display. This bold step marked a significant turning point in the institution’s commitment to confronting and rectifying oppressive narratives within its collections.

Closing the display and future focus

By closing the display, the Wellcome Collection proactively addressed the harm caused by the painting’s racist depiction. This move represented a broader commitment to amplifying marginalized voices and fostering inclusivity.

The closure prompted critical discussions about the responsibility of museums to curate exhibitions that challenge oppressive narratives and create safe spaces for visitors from diverse backgrounds. Looking forward, the Wellcome Collection has expressed its dedication to promoting personal and health stories that highlight the experiences of marginalized communities.

By centering these narratives, the institution aims to create a more equitable and inclusive museum environment. The Wellcome Collection’s journey toward greater inclusivity involves continually reassessing its practices, listening to diverse perspectives, and engaging in constructive dialogue.

It recognizes the importance of acknowledging past missteps to pave the way for a more just and equitable future. This commitment extends beyond individual displays, permeating the very essence of the institution, ensuring that visitors can engage with exhibits that foster understanding, empathy, and critical thinking.


As we delve into the depths of the Wellcome Collection, we uncover a collection that resonates with the dynamic relationship between medicine, art, and society. The artifacts showcased within its walls offer insights into the evolution of healing practices and enable visitors to draw connections between the past and present.

Additionally, the Wellcome Collection’s response to the Harold Copping painting demonstrates its dedication to addressing challenging histories and amplifying marginalized voices. By confronting problematic narratives head-on, the institution paves the way for a more inclusive and empathetic future, where diverse experiences are celebrated, and oppressive legacies are dismantled.

Title: Embracing Change: The New Direction of Wellcome Collection and a Critical Reflection on ArtifactsAs the Wellcome Collection continues to evolve, embracing new perspectives and approaches, the appointment of Melanie Keen as the new director ushers in a fresh phase for this renowned institution. With this transition comes an opportunity to critically reassess the artifacts and collections housed within its walls.

This article delves into the significance of Melanie Keen’s appointment, highlighting her vision for the future. It also explores the need to question artifacts, encouraging a deeper understanding of their narratives and the ways in which they have become integral to the collection.

New director and questioning artifacts

Appointment of Melanie Keen as director

Melanie Keen’s appointment as the new director of the Wellcome Collection marks an exciting chapter for the institution. With her extensive background in arts and culture, Keen brings a wealth of experience and fresh perspectives to the table.

Her previous role at the Association of Art Historians equipped her with a deep understanding of the power of art in fostering critical dialogue and creating inclusive spaces. Keen’s vision centers around furthering the Wellcome Collection’s commitment to engaging with the public, collaborating with communities, and amplifying diverse voices.

Her leadership aims to position the Wellcome Collection as an institution that transcends traditional boundaries and embraces the intersectionality of art, science, and medicine.

Reflection on artifacts and collection

The changing landscape of museums calls for a critical reflection on the artifacts housed within them. Acknowledging the evolving values and narratives of society, the Wellcome Collection recognizes the need to interrogate the artifacts it curates.

This process entails asking essential questions about their origin, contextualizing their historical significance, and understanding the complexities of their representation. By approaching artifacts with a critical lens, the Wellcome Collection creates a space for dialogue, encouraging visitors to question the meaning and implications of the objects they encounter.

As the Wellcome Collection examines its artifacts, it embraces an inclusive approach that showcases the diversity of experiences and narratives surrounding health and medicine. Recognizing the multiplicity of voices, the collection strives to incorporate perspectives that were previously marginalized or ignored.

By doing so, the Wellcome Collection ensures that its exhibits are representative, accessible, and educational for all visitors, regardless of their background or identity. The process of questioning artifacts transcends mere criticism; it is an opportunity for the Wellcome Collection to deepen public understanding and engagement.

It allows visitors to explore the layers of meaning and interpretation that accompany each object. This reflective practice fosters dialogue, encourages multiple perspectives, and challenges preconceived notions, ultimately enriching the visitor’s experience and expanding their knowledge of the interconnectedness of history, art, science, and medicine.

Furthermore, by critically assessing each artifact, the Wellcome Collection actively confronts its own historical biases and places them within their proper context. This reflective process recognizes that a collection is not static; it evolves alongside societal progress and changing paradigms.

It acknowledges that artifacts themselves are not neutral entities but bear the imprints of the systems and structures from which they emerged. By interrogating these artifacts, the Wellcome Collection emphasizes the importance of continuous learning, growth, and accountability as it navigates the complex relationship between heritage, knowledge, and social responsibility.


With Melanie Keen at the helm, the Wellcome Collection embarks on an exciting new chapter, embracing change, and deepening its commitment to inclusivity and critical engagement. The questioning of artifacts invites visitors to approach the collection with a discerning eye, fostering dialogue and expanding understanding.

By reflecting on the artifacts within its walls, the Wellcome Collection takes an essential step towards confronting historical biases and amplifying marginalized voices. As the institution moves forward, it does so with the understanding that true growth comes from embracing challenging conversations, dismantling oppressive legacies, and centering the diverse narratives that enrich our shared understanding of art, science, and medicine.

In this article, we have explored the diverse facets of the Wellcome Collection, from its closure of a problematic exhibit to the expansive variety and historical significance of its artifacts. We have examined the critical role of the new director, Melanie Keen, in shaping the future of the institution and fostering inclusive engagement.

Additionally, we emphasized the importance of questioning artifacts, urging a deeper understanding of their narratives and the imperative to confront historical biases. Through these discussions, it becomes evident that museums, like the Wellcome Collection, have a responsibility to adapt, evolve, and prioritize inclusivity and dialogue.

The Wellcome Collection’s commitment to this process serves as a powerful reminder that by critically examining our cultural heritage, we can create spaces that empower marginalized voices and encourage a more equitable and informed society.

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