The recent meeting of London’s Museums of Health and Medicine gave some of our staff a fascinating opportunity to explore the Science Museum’s stores in a pre-meeting tour. Housed in the former headquarters of the Post Office Savings Bank, Blythe House is a huge warren of beautifully tiled corridors, of which the basement and most of the ground floor house the history of medicine collection. Most of this enormous and fascinating assortment of objects was collected by Henry Wellcome, whose life and work is the subject of the ‘Medicine Man’ exhibition at the Wellcome Collection.
The history of medicine collection includes a remarkable array of exhibits, including two whole rooms dedicated to prosthetic limbs! The museum uses the former purpose of the building well; a secure bank vault, for example, houses the historical surgery equipment. “Everything in this room can kill you!” warned our guide, as he turned the massive wheel on the solid vault door.
Scattered throughout this vast collection are a large number of items relating to the history of psychiatry and psychology, and the Museum employs a specialist Curator of Psychology, supported by the British Psychological Society. You might remember our post earlier this year about the Psychoanalysis exhibition, which included some of these exhibits. As well as antique asylum equipment, the collection contains items relating to early psychological testing, such as IQ test puzzles, and there is a ‘Psychology Trail’ around the Museum galleries. To explore the Science Museum’s History of Psychology and Medicine collections further, click here.
Birdcage from the Sussex Lunatic Asylum: Science Museum, London