Eyeballs, snow goggles, Maori masks and Antarctic chests: Five from the Wellcome

By Culture24 Reporter | 23 June 2014

Live busking on neuroscience and phantom limb syndrome and lessons in foot binding: it's the Wellcome Collection’s new show. Here are five star exhibits from An Idiosyncratic A to Z of the Human Condition

A photo of a wooden case open to show a pair of goggles next to it
© Science Museum, London, Wellcome Images
Inuit snow goggles (1801-1900)

Snow blindness - a painful condition inducing temporary loss of vision - is caused by sunlight reflecting off white snow and ice.

The Inuit people in North America wore goggles to shield their eyes from such glare. These goggles are made from pine and rawhide, with slits in the rawhide eye pieces allowing the wearer see, kept in a wooden case decorated with hunting scenes.

A photo of a large Indian horoscope tapestry
© Wellcome Library, London
Horoscope of Prince Iskandar, grandson of Tamerlane, the Turkman Mongol conqueror (1411)

This horoscope shows the positions of the heavens at the moment of Iskandar's birth on April 25 1384.

It is a fly leaf from the personal horoscope of Iskandar Sultan (died 1415), the grandson of Timur, who ruled the province of Farsin, Iran.

Sultan is best known for his early military career and his patronage of the arts and sciences. Apart from being a horoscope, this manuscript is an exquisite work of art and an exemplary production of the royal kitabkhana 'publishing house' or 'workshop'.

The manuscript is lavishly illustrated and reflects the efforts of a whole range of specialists: astronomers, illuminators, gilders, calligraphers, craftsmen and specialists in paper-making.

The manuscript was bought in Iran in 1794 by John H Harrington, who had started his career as a clerk in the East India Company.

It was auctioned at Sotheby's in 1932, and bought for £6/15d by Sir Henry Wellcome, who added it to his collection of Oriental books and manuscripts.

A photo of a large ancient wooden maori mask
© Wellcome Library, London
Plaster cast of the face of Tauque Te Whanoa (1851)

Whanoa was a Rotorua native of the Arawa tribe. This shows the Maori tattooing, Moko, performed with a serrated chisel and a mallet with soot rubbed into the open wound to provide colouring.

The plaster cast was taken by Sir G Guy.

A photo of a box labelled british antarctic expedition
© Science Museum, London, Wellcome Images
Medicine chest used on British Antarctic Expedition of 1910-1913

This sledge case medicine chest was used on the 1910 British Antarctic expedition, also known as the Terra Nova expedition – Terra Nova being the name of the supply ship.

Robert Falcon Scott led four companions with the aim of being the first team to reach the South Pole. Famously, having been beaten to the pole by a rival Norwegian team led by Roald Amundsen, Scott and his men died during their return journey in 1912.

This medicine chest was made by Burroughs Wellcome & Co. Packed with the company’s products, it was one of a series that were presented to high profile expeditions in a shrewd attempt to advertise the product.

A photo of a box with four eyeballs in it
© Wellcome Library, London
A small case of false eyes (circa 1890)

White glass, with blood vessels in red, and vari-coloured lenses. Made by W Halford of London

  • An Idiosyncratic A to Z of the Human Condition is at the Wellcome Collection from June 24 until October 12 2014.

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Kia ora,
Regarding thei plaster cast of a Maori man - I'm pretty sure that should be Sir George Grey (NZ Governor). There are similar egs at the Pitt Rivers Museum & British Museum and the name of the person is more likely to be Tapua Te Whanoa http://bit.ly/1r1hZ5S
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