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’ was our free permanent display of a small part of that huge collection. The exhibition showed extraordinary examples of the many ways in which people, through time and across cultures, sought to understand the workings of the human body, to protect themselves, and care for one another.
It included 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. In 2021 we installed a series of interventions in the exhibition in which artists and writers responded to an exhibit of their choice. Addressing the collection’s colonial legacies, their responses highlighted human stories that previous histories of health and medicine had hidden or ignored.