The Wellcome Collection is the Best Museum You Don’t Know About
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Hello from London. It’s my third day here, and despite having been here many years ago, I’ve been able to see a lot of new things I didn’t get to check out on my first trip. Yesterday I came across a building that said The Wellcome Collection. I wonder “is this some kind of art gallery, or a misspelled centre for visitors?” I decided to check it out.
London can be pricey (especially when going from the Canadian $ to the British £ …ouch), but a lot of museums and galleries here are free. That includes The Wellcome Collection. In the lobby, I hear an announcement about a free 20-minute tour starting in a couple of minutes. Great luck; I joined the tour to see what this place is about.
What is The Wellcome Collection?
The Wellcome Collection isn’t an art gallery (although it has some art). It is a quirky museum that contains the collection of Henry Wellcome who was a British pharmaceutical entrepreneur. He was the first person to bring the medicine tablet (pill) to Britain instead of the old-timey way of having people mix powders and tonics in their home when they were sick. Wellcome was born in the 1850s and was a pretty eccentric character, as I learned on this tour.
Like the stereotypical picture of a wealthy and eccentric British man in the 19th century, Wellcome collected all sorts of stuff from auctions. He had an interest in medicine and healthcare, so there were a lot of items relating to those topics. After he died in the 1930s much of his collection was auctioned off, but some remained here, and so the Wellcome Collection was started. A trust was also formed that funds medical research.
Tour of The Medicine Man Gallery
When I got to The Wellcome Collection I learned there would be a tour starting of The Medicine Man Gallery. This has information about Henry Wellcome and his collection. Be sure to check at the front desk when you arrive to see when the next tour takes place as they’re held throughout the day. If you miss a tour, you can pick up a free audio guide for the Medicine Man Gallery that will tell you about some of the items in the gallery.
Wellcome collected all sorts of items include a horsehair toothbrush belonging to Napoleon. Apparently, Napoleon was fond of licorice, and his teeth rotted out. So Napoleon tried this new dental practice (at the time) of brushing his teeth instead of getting all his teeth ripped out of his mouth. Napoleon’s toothpaste was apparently opium-based, so he probably never had a toothache. Here are some more of the items in The Wellcome Collection.
Outside the Medicine Man gallery are two more galleries. One is the Modern Medicine Gallery, which (like its name implies) talks about our current knowledge in healthcare and medicine. There is also a temporary exhibit gallery. While I was there this gallery featured the States of Mind, which explores (through art) the relationship between our mind and science, and how it has evolved. Plus they have a library and reading room with books about different topics about medicine and healthcare. These two galleries you explore at your own pace.
Having had no previous idea this place even existed The Wellcome Collection was undoubtedly a welcomed (haha) while I was in London. I don’t know much about healthcare or medicine, but I found this museum a lot of fun to explore. As an added bonus while there were some people it wasn’t as busy than some of the other more prominent museums and galleries I’ve visited in London.
Things To Know
The Wellcome Collection is open from Tuesday to Sunday from 10 am to 6 pm (open until 10 pm on Thursdays). Admission is free, but donations are accepted. The Wellcome Collection is located at 183 Euston Road. If you are taking the Tube get off at Euston Square and exit on Euston Street.
While in London I stayed at the YHA St. Pancras Hostel. Located within a two-minute walk of the St. Pancras/Kings Cross station this was an affordable accommodation option for budget travellers. Of course, if you aren’t on a budget there are plenty of great hotels in London you can book here.
Have you ever heard of the Wellcome Collection? What’s your favourite museum in London?