Wellcome Collection is 10 years old this summer. We’re celebrating by sharing some of our favourite things from the collections.
We didn’t set out to collect photos of people wearing sunglasses but turns out we have some great examples in the collections, from fashionable scientists to cultural icons sunglasses can reveal (or conceal) more than a sense of style.
1. Something to hide
This German AIDS poster implies that there may be more than a pair of pretty eyes lurking behind those sunglasses. In the 19th century smoked or coloured lenses were often worn by people with photosensitivity – a symptom of syphilis. Today celebrities and private detectives use dark glasses as a form of disguise, but the early movie stars wore dark glasses to hide tired eyes strained by the constant glare of arc lights.
2. Military models
Colonising armies realised the need for eye protection in hot climates early on, but how do you keep your sunglasses on when your trying to quell a native uprising? The military pioneered active wear sunglasses and continued to set trends with the aviator sunglasses first worn by pilots.
3. Making a statement
Seen here in drag is Harry Hawksbee, a music-hall entertainer, rehearsing for a show in a park in Yalding, Kent. Maybe his companion hoped wearing sunglasses would help him stand out next to Hawksbee’s more flamboyant dress?
4. A touch of glamour
There’s no doubt that Professor Fisher’s companion brings a touch of 1940s film star glamour to this photo of scientists playing shuffleboard on deck.
5. Perennial style
Fashions may change but sunglasses are eternally stylish, as geneticist, mother, lab manager and all round superwoman Harriet Ephrussi-Taylor demonstrates. The fact that she’s French may also have something to do with her sense of style!
6. Staying cool
Dr Singer proves that Sixties sunglasses were smart enough to wear to work but still looked cool in the Indian sun.
7. The perfect accessory
What a difference a decade makes! Even in the laid back Seventies, sunglasses were groovy!
8. Holiday essential
Nothing says holidays like a pair of sunglasses! This Swedish AIDS prevention poster reminds expat Swedes not to get too relaxed while abroad.
9. Rock star chic
Another AIDS poster using an iconic rock star image to represent the risks of the ‘sex-and-drugs-and-rock’n’roll’ lifestyle.
10. Eye protection
OK so not technically sunglasses, but the photo of this man wearing protective goggles for phototherapy was irresistible!
[Thanks to Wellcome Collection User Experience team manager Jennifer Phillips Bacher for sharing some of her favourites.]
Would you like a playful path, a relaxed ramble or a deep dive into Wellcome Collection? Visit us this July and August, and choose your own summer.
Stay connected with email updates from Wellcome Collection
Be the first to know about our upcoming exhibitions, events and other activities, with extra options for youth, schools and access events.