Medicine Man

Opens again 18 May 2021
  • Permanent exhibition
Photograph of the Medicine Man exhibition at Wellcome Collection showing a wall of oil paintings with two visitors standing in front.
Medicine Man exhibition, Benjamin Gilbert. Source: Wellcome Collection. Attribution 4.0 International (CC BY 4.0).

Sir Henry Wellcome was a collector who, through his agents, amassed well over a million books, paintings and objects from around the world, aiming to tell a global story of health and medicine.  

‘Medicine Man’ is our free permanent display of a small part of that huge collection. The exhibition shows extraordinary examples of the many ways in which people, through time and across cultures, have sought to understand the workings of the human body, to protect themselves, and care for one another.

It includes a wide range of objects relating to sex, birth and death, a unique collection of votive offerings, and a range of extraordinary anatomical models in wood, ivory and wax dating back to the 17th century. 

Colonial power shaped how the collection was put together and understood. You can experience a series of interventions in the exhibition in which artists and writers respond to an exhibit of their choice. Addressing the collection’s colonial legacies, their responses will highlight human stories that previous histories of health and medicine have hidden or ignored. 

While you're here, pick up a free digital guide, available in English, French and British Sign Language.