Stories inspired by the objects, manuscripts and more in our archives.
Inside Our Collections
Is childbirth an athletic feat? Kathleen Vaughan certainly thought so, developing the first modern exercise class for women in pregnancy.
Some games carry a weighty message, from the earliest form of snakes and ladders that led to either heaven or hell, to chess pieces representing the dangerous manoeuvres of unsafe sex in the 80s.
How our understanding of electricity has grown, from novelty to the pulse of modern life – and the inner fire that powers the human machine.
Explore how ideas about masculinity have influenced the way men talk about and experience their mental health, from the 1800s to today.
Early-20th-century folklorist Edward Lovett made it his mission to discover the nation’s beliefs and superstitions, collecting amulets from cottage cupboards up and down the country.
Fish, lute players and defaced demons: marginal doodles in some of Europe’s first printed books provide a tantalising glimpse into the late-medieval mind.
Academics on hallucinogenics, kids sniffing glue, and Scientologists recruiting drug users keen to kick the habit. Delve into Wellcome’s recently acquired DrugScope archive.
Before antibiotics, syphilis unleashed centuries of misery, countered by desperate but largely useless remedies. With the spread of syphilis on the rise, it’s worth remembering what our forebears suffered.
Sickness from nervous exhaustion is not a new thing. Over a hundred years ago, neurasthenia afflicted society’s ‘brain-workers’.
From ancient sun gods to artificial light, our relationship to our star has morphed over the centuries, but the sun's power to affect our health is more noticeable than ever.
Find out how a 17th-century compendium of the natural world came to present fantastical beasts –like dragons – as real, living creatures.
Many cultures associate physical cleanliness with spiritual purity, while disease and dirt are signs of moral pollution.
Today smoking is seen publicly as a deadly vice, privately perhaps as more of a guilty pleasure. Follow tobacco’s journey over the centuries from medical remedy to killer carcinogen.
Chubby little winged boys known as putti frequently adorn scientific illustrations. Sometimes portrayed as reverent and sometimes cheeky, they guide our pursuit of knowledge.
Now one of the most popular forms of exercise, the health-giving properties of swimming have not always been recognised. Dive into a gallery that charts the course from water as site of danger to a space of health.
How accurately can we imagine the future? These past prognostications suggest that we cannot escape the pull of our own time and its biases.
Scientists, artists, and philosophers have long studied our anatomy to try to discover what it means to be human.
An uncanny resemblance to today’s Twitter tiffs characterises a 17th-century argument about demons. Read what happened when the printing presses went into overdrive.
From the elixir of life to radium, humans have always searched for a panacea: something to cure every ill. But instead it’s only highlighted our anxieties and preoccupations throughout history.
Death is many things to many cultures: violent, holy, frightening, calm, disgusting... or just a gateway to another life.
In pre-internet days, phone boxes became a patchwork of ‘tart cards’ offering sexual services. Find out about the clandestine world they hint at.
Focusing on three 19th-century women’s case notes, Millie van der Byl Williams explores how our definition of dementia has changed.
There’s something unexpectedly flirtatious and flamboyant about the smart young people featured in these French postcards.
In the second part of Native Americans through the 19th-century lens, we delve deeper into the ambivalent messages within the images.
Artist Beth Hopkins explains how she used her experience of researching the Adamson Collection to create an embroidered wall hanging.
Odd diets aren’t just for January. Here are some examples that go back way further than New Year’s Day.
From an erotic hanky to a tree of life, there are some curious examples of information design in our collection.
From safe-use guides to needle exchange schemes, Harry Shapiro reflects on 40 years of drug harm reduction in the UK.
Whose responsibility is it to prevent accidental burns and scalds in the home? Shane Ewen’s research shows that it’s everyone’s concern.
The AIDS public health poster campaign chose print even in the internet age and dealt with issues of identity and behaviour like never before.
Go behind the scenes with the co-curator of the Reading Room to see how she CT scanned a mummy from our collections.