Art Fund Prize 2008 - The Wellcome Collection

By Georgi Gyton | 15 April 2008
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A photo of pictures hanging in a gallery.

A wall shows an impressive collection of medical-related paintings. © Richard Moss/24 Hour Museum.

The Art Fund Prize judges have already started their deliberations over the ten longlisted museums for the Art Fund Prize 2008 and their shortlist will be announced any day now, but who do you think should win the coveted prize?

We're running our own poll - the 24 Hour Museum Art Fund Prize People's Vote. Read this story about The Wellcome Collection and then cast your vote - see the link at the end of the page.

To help you decide, the 24 Hour Museum continues its alphabetical round-up of the museums on this year’s longlist by looking at The Wellcome Collection.

The £100,000 Art Fund Prize will be awarded to the museum or gallery whose project demonstrates the most originality, imagination and excellence, and London’s Wellcome Collection is certainly in the running, with its extensive collection of artefacts and imaginative insight into medicine, life and art.

The £30 million museum opened in London in June 2007, offering visitors the chance to explore and understand what it is to be human.

photo of the metal blade of a guillotine

A French guillotine blade is just one of the items on display in the Medicine Man Gallery. © Richard Moss/24 Hour Museum.

Housing two permanent exhibitions, ‘Medicine Man’ and ‘Medicine Now’, the collection includes items such as a French guillotine blade, Napoleon’s toothbrush and Japanese sex aids.

Over 500 items from the personal collection of the pharmacist, entrepreneur, philanthropist and collector Sir Henry Wellcome (1853-1936) can be viewed in the Medicine Man gallery.

"We are obviously delighted to be nominated, being a new organisation and only in existence since last year," explained James Peto, Curator at The Wellcome Collection. "We are now well into our programme of changing exhibitions, and it's a great way of publicising smaller organisations."

Sir Henry set up a pharmaceutical company, Burroughs Wellcome & Co. in 1880 with a college friend Silas Burroughs, and was among the first to introduce medicine in tablet form.

He later went on to establish world-class medical research laboratories, and amassed an enormous collection of items relating to medicine over the ages.

The Wellcome Collection is the physical embodiment of Sir Henry’s vision of a place where people can learn more about the development of medicine through the ages and across cultures.

photo of a model of a grotesque human form totally enveloped in its owns rolls and buboes of flesh

John Isaacs, I Can’t Help The Way I Feel. © Richard Moss/24 Hour Museum.

"The museum is a combination of different elements, inlcuding the largest medical library in the world," explained James. "The aim of it is to get people to think about medicine as part of everyday life, and something that affects us and our culture."

"Medicine Man is based on the collection from Sir Henry Wellcome of over a million items related in some way to medicine. Medicine Now looks at the relationship between medicine, culture and our society in the present day."

As well as the permanent exhibitions, there is a temporary exhibition space available for five exhibitions a year. Currently showing is a photographic exhibition, ‘Life Before Death.’ The show is on display until May 18 2008, and is made up of a series of 24 sets of photo, one of life and one of death.

Cited as a favourite exhibition of James Peto, he explains: "It is a very challenging exhibition about death, it's very very strong but we've had almost exlusively positive reactions to it."

The collection encompasses three exhibitions, the Wellcome Library, café, bookshop, conference centre and member’s club. With over 1,500 exhibits that span over six centuries, the museum certainly has a lot to offer as is a worthy contender for the Art Fund Prize title.

Following the judges’ visits, four museums and galleries will be shortlisted and announced in early April. The winner of the Art Fund Prize will be announced on Thursday May 22 at the Royal Institute of British Architects in London during Museum and Galleries Month 2008.

Before then we would like to know what you think. Do you think The Wellcome Collection should win the 2008 Art Fund Prize? Vote for the Collection or any others in our People's Vote

More on the venues and organisations we've mentioned:
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