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Curator of Community Health, he has worked in the museum for many years on a wide range of medically themed exhibitions and web resources as well as curating a number of medical collections. Main research interests are Limb prostheses, military medicine and urban public health. Recently the lead curator on our First World War centenary exhibition, Wounded: Casualty, Conflict and Care, and now one of the team developing the extensive new Medical Galleries.

Here’s the second installment of our festive 4-parter – the 12 days of Christmas re-worked with items from our collections. Beware it gets a little dark in part 2… Four Calling Birds ‘Calling’ is actually a variation on ‘colly’ or ‘collie’, which are derived from colliery. These words are associated with soot or coal dust, so we’re really looking at four blackbirds. Not that they would be of much use in a colliery. The most valuable bird for miners was the canary.  Ultra-sensitive to dangerous gases […]

The Science Museum’s medical collections are amongst the world’s best. From ancient cultures to the contemporary cutting edge, they continue to be built on the magnificent legacy of the collections assembled by the wealthy entrepreneur Henry Wellcome (1853-1936).  Over several decades, Wellcome spent a considerable chunk of his fortune establishing what was once the world’s largest private collection. He bought extravagantly, at auctions or via agents sent out to all corners of the globe. So what’s with the lichen in […]

The cholera outbreak in Haiti is spreading rapidly and seems certain to result in many tens of thousands of cases. So far, more than 1,400 people have died since the first cases were confirmed in October. This ongoing situation is a tragic modern-day reminder of the deadly power of this disease – a disease which in Britain is historically associated with the overcrowded slums and poor sanitation of Victorian towns and cities. Cholera provided a deadly backdrop to life in Victorian Britain and it […]

Today is Armistice Day, more recently known as Remembrance Day. An event that always brings focus to the simple and terrible reality of the First World War – and of all subsequent wars – the overwhelming loss of human life.  I recently posted about the remains of a frontline medical unit I saw on a trip to Belgium. While such wartime remnants can be found, the most prominent features across that scarred landscape today are the numerous memorials and cemeteries. In the First World War, soldiers were […]

In the last few days, an awful lot of web space has been devoted to the lady ‘time traveller’ filmed in 1928, who appears to be chatting away on a mobile. Of course back then, the film crew were focusing on a Charlie Chaplin premiere, rather than splits in the space-time continuum. But through the eyes of those living in 2010, where mobile phones are omnipresent, the first reaction of many is to reach a fantastical conclusion. Alternative readings of this […]

My colleague Ali’s recent post focussed on the often gruesome relics of some of the great men of science. In between Galileo’s finger and Einstein’s brain, I was struck by the ghostly serenity of Newton’s death mask. Creating such portraits of eminent people – either in life or death – was not uncommon in the days before photography. But these masks found a new purpose during the 19th century in the pseudoscience of phrenology. What better tools to back up its claims and […]

I recently wrote about how even the most mundane of objects can be transformed by the associations they have with people or events.  But I’m also intrigued by how the unremarkable can be transformed in other ways. For example, through the powers they are said to possess or by physical transformation into something new.  These are nodules of flint, a common mineral found across Britain. They look a bit like feet or legs and it’s this resemblance that makes them special. All three are […]

Reading Trilce’s recent post, I was reminded of objects from Sir John Franklin’s Arctic expedition within our vast medical collections. Simple items and anonymous fragments, easily overlooked on their storeroom shelves. But they are reminders of one of the most obvious, yet magical things about museum collections – even the most mundane looking objects can be transformed through association. This razor belonged to a member of Franklin’s team. Physically, it’s virtually indistinguishable from others in our collections. But by association, this simple and very […]

Seventy years ago, the bombing Blitz on Britain was into its second week. London remained the main target and amongst landmarks damaged on the night of September 18th 1940 were the world famous Lambeth Walk and the John Lewis department store on Oxford Street. While across the city, around 200 civilians were killed and 550 injured. Such daily figures were typical in a month that left nearly 6,000 Londoners dead. But although the numbers were horrific, they were a fraction of those […]

In Britain, closure of public toilets has become a cause célèbre in recent years. Such facilities first appeared in numbers following the Public Health Act of 1848. But many of these older sites and their modern counterparts – regularly vandalised and expensive to maintain – have closed their doors. Yet while these often substantial buildings still survive, albeit boarded up or changed in use, most of the old simple public urinals have long gone.  This is less true in other parts of […]

I’ve recently returned from a fortnight’s holiday in Belgium (….a terribly underrated destination – no, really). While there, I persuaded my family to spend time exploring the World War One battlefields around Ypres.  I was particularly interested in surviving evidence of frontline medical services. This was once an Advanced Dressing Station (ADS), at a site known as Essex Farm. One of the largest surviving groups of military buildings in the area, these damp, claustrophobic structures were comparatively comfortable. Built in 1916, […]

Increasing public access to our collections is one of our main priorities. But what do you do when so many of your objects are in storage? Our medical collections are built on the legacy of Victorian entrepreneur Henry Wellcome. He was a millionaire who collected far, wide and en masse. Even our main, highly object-rich medical gallery can only contain a small fraction of the vast number of objects we look after. At our London store, over 40 rooms are devoted […]