Freud's head, cat skeletons and Marilyn Manson in Florence Nightingale Museum's Bone

By Ben Miller | 06 August 2012
An image showing a black and white drawing of a human skull in forensic detail
Bone China at the Florence Nightingale Museum© Reproduced courtesy melodyrose
Exhibition: BONE, Florence Nightingale Museum, London, until August 31 2012

Spread across a shadowy, cabinet of curiosities-style build by collaborators Mobile Studio Architects, this edgy show at the Florence Nightingale features dozens of objects with a certain voodoo feel to them.

A photo of an intricate yellow sculpted piece carved out of bone against a wooden background
George Nuku made this carving in bone© Courtesy Florence Nightingale Museum
There’s an x-ray of Sigmund Freud’s head, a cat skeleton to ward off evil spirits, a skull-shaped candle which was commissioned for Marilyn Manson’s wedding and a contemporary apothecary jar testifying to the effects of syphilis on bone.

Last week, bone carver George Nuku added a piece of such intricacy that it’s hard not to be taken aback by his skill when it comes to ivory, joining scans made with the help of the latest technology in bone imagery. And then, naturally, there are the remains of Nightingale’s own pet tortoise, Jimmy.

“Bone is an astonishing material,” says curator Simon Gould, who has drawn exhibits from 12 London museums and collections.

“I am so excited to be bringing together some of these extraordinary objects, along with remarkable medical expertise and acclaimed contemporary artists. It will bring them to life for the visitor.”

The line-up is diverse and eclectic. Nuku, artist Jane Wildgoose and dancer Sujata Banerjee are among those who’ve appeared at the museum as part of the accompanying programme, as well as forensic archaeologists, nurses, historians and Karen Powell, an expert at trepanning, a technique involving a hole being drilled into the human skull to investigate intracranial disease.

The unusual set will be donated to Evelina Children’s Hospital after the exhibition ends, acting as an atrium display area for children’s’ artwork. Guy’s and St Thomas’ Charity have helped fund the project.

“BONE meets the charity’s objective to broaden people’s understanding of their health through the arts,” says Nikki Crane, of the group.

“It offers a fascinating insight into the human body.”

  • Open 10am-5pm. Admission £5.80/£4.80 (family ticket £16).

More pictures:

A photo of a man in a white shirt pointing at bone-related exhibits in an exhibition
The history and substance of bone is revealed through dozens of objects© Mobile Studio
A photo of various people crowding around brightly-lit see-through boxes in a museum
The participants combine science and art© Mobile Studio
A photo of various see-through cases containing exhibits inside a dimly-lit museum
Patients, medical staff and students have visited the show© Mobile Studio
A photo of three young children with their arms in made-up plaster casts in a museum
A programme of events has included plaster cast activities for children© Courtesy Florence Nightingale Museum
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