Collections

Accessing our collections

Photograph of a windowless library store containing rolling shelving. The right hand side of the image contains a close up view of a book shelf showing the spines of several fragile books. The left of the image show the corridor between the shelves receding into the distance, an orange kick stool and the utility piping suspended from the ceiling.
Wellcome Collection, library stacks, Photo: Thomas SG Farnetti. Source: Wellcome Collection. Attribution 4.0 International (CC BY 4.0).

Our collections are located in the library at Wellcome Collection and are on display at the Science Museum in London. You’ll also find thousands of digitised items from our collections online. 

Library collections

The library at Wellcome Collection houses many of our collections, including:

  • books and journals 
  • ephemera 
  • pictures (paintings, prints and photographs) 
  • audiovisual material 
  • archives and manuscripts.

You can find information about all the items in these collections by searching our catalogue. Some of them are available to browse on the shelves in the library, but most of our library collections are in stores and have to be requested in advance.

Requesting an item to view in the library

You can request stores items to view in the library through our catalogue, but you’ll need to get library membership first. To ensure that items are available to view when you visit, you’ll need to request them at least 24 hours in advance. If you need to see more closed-store items while you are at the library, please speak to us about your options.

Online collections

Thousands of items from our collections have been digitised, and copies are freely accessible online. Our digital collections cover a wide variety of topics, and are particularly strong in the areas of mental health, sex and sexual health, genetics, public health, and 19th-century books.  

If you’re a member of the library, you also have access to many of our our subscription databases and resources with your library card.

Digitised materials from our collections can be accessed and downloaded for use under a variety of Creative Commons non-commercial, attribution and Public Domain licences, depending on the material. 

You can find all our digital items in the catalogue. An option to limit your search to online material appears once you have entered a search term. You can also search for digital images in the ‘Images’ tab on the catalogue. 

Developers and digital researchers

You can access both our catalogue data and digitised items through our open APIs. Find out more on our developers’ site.

Museum objects

Objects from our collections are on display throughout the Wellcome Collection building and in our exhibitions. But many of the thousands of historical objects collected by Henry Wellcome and his staff are on permanent loan to the Science Museum in London. Several hundred of these are on display in Medicine: The Wellcome Galleries, a permanent exhibition at the museum.  

You can find out more about the objects held by the Science Museum by searching the Science Museum catalogue.