Exhibitions

Medicine Man

Now on
  • Free
  • Permanent exhibition
Photograph of a man and a woman wearing face coverings exploring a museum gallery. The woman is wearing a yellow knitted jumper and a pair of blue jeans. The man is wearing a blue shirt and dark trousers. It is a dark gallery with spot lit exhibits and wooden panelled walls. The couple are standing side by side to the right of the frame in mid discussion about objects in a display case. To the left of the frame is the large glass display case they are looking at, containing several objects, from vases to models of the human head to small cabinets.

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. 

Visit us

Free admission

Galleries open Tuesday–Sunday, Opening times

Medicine Man gallery, level 1

Step-free access is available to all floors of the building

Large-print guides, transcripts and magnifiers are available in the gallery

All our accessibility services