I had the good fortune of hearing Ken Arnold, head of public programs at the wonderful Wellcome Collection in London, speak when we were co-panelists on the topic of medical museums in the 21st century at the European Association of Museums of the History of Medical Sciences conference in Edinburgh last year. Tonight, Dr. Arnold is giving a lecture on American shores, at the incomparable Mütter Museum in Philadelphia.
If you live within commuting distance of Philadelphia, I highly recommend you take whatever trip necessary to hear what he has to say; he is a thoroughly engaging speaker with innumerable thought-provoking things to say about collections, medical museums, and restoring the primacy of wonder to museums. The topic of tonight's lecture will be the ways in which wonder is inextricably entwined with medicine on show, and how the Wellcome's innovative approach to curation and display draws inspiration from the Wunderkammer (a topic on which Dr. Arnold has, in fact, written a book). The lecture is tonight--Monday, May 18th--at 6:00, with a reception with Hors d’oeuvres to follow. Here is more about the lecture, from the Mütter Museum website:
Medicine Show: Putting Science and Health on DisplayI will definitely be making a pilgrimage of my own from Brooklyn to see the lecture; hope to see you there!
Wellcome Collection opened its doors to the public just over 18 months ago. Since then it has welcomed close to 500,000 visits and has received lavish plaudits from all corners of the UK’s press and media, as well as internationally. It presents an uncompromisingly brainy approach to putting medicine on public display, but within a broad cultural context that seems to appeal to a wide grown-up audience.
In this talk, Dr Ken Arnold outlines the Wellcome’s inquisitive curatorial approach to exploring medical science (past and present) within the broad context of the whole human condition. He discusses the permanent display of Henry Wellcome’s museum collection Medicine Man, and a recent temporary exhibition Skeletons: London’s Buried Bones, one of seven shows to have been mounted since June 2007. Dr Arnold will argue that while the work of the Wellcome represents a refreshing and innovative approach to engaging the public with medicine and its history, the approach owes much to the incurably curious instincts that led to the setting up of Europe’s first museums in the Renaissance. His conclusion is that there is something timelessly full of wonder about putting medicine on show.
Click here for more information about tonight's lecture. For more on the Wellcome Collection, click here. To find out more about Philadelphia's Mütter Museum, click here.
Photo: Medicine Man Exhibiton, Wellcome Collection; More here.