Ever visited the Wellcome Collection in Euston?
If not, you are seriously missing a trick. Dubbed “The free destination for the incurably curious”, it is a treasure trove of wonderfully unusual and interesting exhibits, collections and events. I hesitate to call it a museum (although that’s what it is) with all the associations of library-quietness and musty, decrepit old acquisitions. This place is bustling and vibrant with galleries, library, a large cafe/restaurant and shop.
The Wellcome Collection is a Pandora’s Box of oddities and unusual subject matter; presented in various formats including standard exhibits, visual and audio installations, interactive displays and paintings and curios. It accommodates group visits, carries out workshops, lectures and holds evening events every first Friday of the month (‘First Fridays’ 18:00-22:00) with extended gallery opening hours, music, cocktails and tours of the exhibitions.
It is the kind of place you can visit comfortably on your own, whether to visit the exhibitions or just sit in the cafe and while away a few hours. Situated along the busy Euston Road – near Euston, Warren Street and Kings Cross tube stations – it’s easy to get to. Safe to say, it is definitely one of my favourite places to visit. I love it.
I visited the Wellcome Collection today with a view to visit ‘Bedlam – the asylum & beyond’ exhibition (running until 15 January 2017). It’s clearly a popular subject, evidenced through the long queue winding around the edge of the building.
I didn’t fancy queuing, prefering caffeine, cake and taking the weight off for a bit. Making my way to the busy cafe, I noticed there was a 3.30pm guided tour around another exhibition “States of Mind: Tracing the edges of consciousness”. Oooh what to do? Decision made, I decided I’d come back another day for the ‘Bedlam’ exhibition and take my time on the guided tour after which I could just amble around the exhibits without rushing. I had enough time to enjoy a good quality white Americano before making my way to the 1st floor space, where the tour was going to take place.
Our guide, Rob was friendly, intelligent and extremely knowledgeable around the wide ranging subject. It was fascinating although indepth, an extremely deep and complicated subject matter which I couldn’t begin to explain. Rob made valient efforts to discuss the theories of the soul and consciousness, making it relatable and easy (ish) to understand.
‘The Soul hovering over the body reluctantly parting with life’ Illustration to Blair’s “The Grave” (1808) – print by: Luigi Schiavonetti
Phenomena which a number of the tour group already had some knowedge of was also covered, including brain disorders (or is it?) of perception (Synaesthesia), sleep disorders (Sleep Paralysis) and Austistic thought patterns. Explanations and interesting anecdotes from Rob were accompanied by pictures, drawings and behaviour maps.
‘The Nightmare’ by Henry Fuseli (1781)
The tour was indicated to be of 30 minute duration, although it went on for much longer due to the overwhelming interest value. By the end of his ‘set’ Rob had collected half the room. His tour really made the exhibits come to life. Once he had finished, I continued to look at the other installations, screenings and exhibits including amongst others “Sleep & Awake” – crimes carried out using sleepwalking (Somnambulism) as a defence; “Human Consciousness” – The Legacy of Terri Schiavo – End of life wishes and directives and the measure of how society decides when life is worth living and “Being & Not Being” – Implications for ethical debate surround care of patients in coma, Locked-In, Minimally Conscious and Persistent Vegetative States.
I hope I’m not making this sound dry and boring. It really was the most fascinating and interesting subject and collection.