1/14/09

The Wellcome Collection

Sir Henry Wellcome (1835-1936) was a successful pharmaceutical entrepreneur. His trust is currently worth about 15 billion pounds, and has funded loads of biomedical research. He also personally collected hundreds of thousands of objects related to medical history. A small portion of it is on display at the Wellcome Collection in London. A few selections:

A real transparent woman. About 120 of these came out of Dresden, Germany starting in the 1920's and were sold around the world. From Time Magazine, 1936:

The skeleton of a young Dresden woman, killed in an accident, was treated with preservative, covered with paraffin. Brain, heart, stomach, lungs, thyroid, liver, spleen, pancreas, bladder and other organs were taken from corpses, made transparent by a secret process, dyed, photographed in color, enlarged, projected on a screen in three dimensions. From these projections artists made tracings which were used by sculptors to model the organs which actually went into the figure. The viscera as well as the glassy frame of the transparent woman are made of a material called cellhorn, which is tough, resilient, impervious to temperature and humidity.

Barely visible at the bottom of the photo are the interactive buttons which light up the organs. One used to reside in Chicago's Museum of Science and Industry, where I practically grew up. It's been an inspiration for more than one of my own sculptures.

Is there a transparent woman in your town? Find out here.

Wax insect models, built in 1914 for the museum's opening exhibition on disease.

A pair of sterling silver Memento Mori

A stunning and disturbing Vanitas waxwork.

Visit the Museum's Website.

2 comments:

eclosing said...

I am compelled to add an entomological note:
the display of arthropod vectors includes insects and two arachnids (a tick and a mite, which both belong to the Order Acari).

-pupating

stexe said...

Corrections are always wellcome (sic). The exhibit's wall label does actually say "wax insect models", though. It's a human biology museum, they don't know any better.