Welcome at the Wellcome

I have returned again to the Wellcome Library, London. It is the home of all that is weird and wonderful, a brilliant fusion of art and history, science and spectacle–and it has, in my opinion, the world’s most brilliant librarians and research fellows.

This brief visit has been made in advance of my class, Cultural (Re)productions. I shall return with 13 nursing and English students, but for the past two days I have been connecting with new and old colleagues: Ross Macfarlane, Lindsey Fitzharris, Bill MacLehose–and Richard Barnett, who runs the Sick City Project. Sick City includes walks, talks and podcasts about life and death in London, and Dr. Barnett was kind enough to interview me for the project on May 8th. We chatted about my recent research on Dracula (and syphilis, oddly enough). Gothic Lit is fitting, I think, especially as the count’s famous eulogy to London actually sounds rather like the project’s goals: “I long to go through the crowded streets of your mighty London, to be in the midst of the whirl and rush of humanity, to share its life, its change, its death, and all that makes it what it is.”  Check out the link above for more details on Sick City [Drac Podcast Coming Soon!]

It has been a wonderful visit as always, and I leave this post with several recommendations; do have a peek.

The Chirurgeons Apprentice

Devices and Designs

Center for the History of Emotions

Medical London / Floating Hospital

London: the Wellcome Collection

I am presently sitting in Peyton and Byrne, the cafe inside the Wellcome. I shall define the Wellcome with its tag-line: “a free destination for the incurably curious.” While there are Wellcome centers in many cities (including Oxford), this is the two-building matrix including the Wellcome Library and the Wellcome Trust. The library contains 750,000 books, and on the first floor are a number of galleries. Through August of this year, the main exhibit is DIRT: The Filthy Reality of Everyday Life. There are image galleries and permanent galleries that include the birthing devices, etc. Here is a link to exquisite bodies. My favorite, naturally.

I am here for two reasons. Perhaps three, if you count incurable curiosity. Partly, I wished to get a reader’s card. The Wellcome Collection is a valuable research tool, and there are so many texts, images, and objects to explore. Given my interest in intersections of medicine, literature and anthropology, it is a kind of Mecca. I was shown about by Ross MacFarlane, a research officer and quite brilliant. He is a colleague of James Edmonson, whose name keeps appearing in my work and writing… Dr. Edmonson is the curator of the Dittrick Museum in Cleveland, a truly exceptional museum. The exhibit on birth is one of the best I have seen, and it was there that I had the privilege of beginning this work.

But the final reason for this trip is an upcoming class proposal. It is my hope to bring a group of students to the Wellcome in the future–I know plenty of them who are as incurably curious as I.

[And yes, there is a man standing on the ceiling in the atrium]