The Medicine Man gallery has been part of Wellcome Collection since we opened in 2007. It was one of five spaces where visitors can see items from the collections for free, alongside the Reading Room, library and our changing exhibition programme. The space closed on 27 November 2022.
As all museums do, we regularly review our spaces and exhibitions. The closure of Medicine Man is the result of several years’ research and reflection, and is the next step in updating how we display items from the collections. As part of this ongoing programme, we updated the Reading Room in 2015 and in 2019, we replaced the Medicine Now gallery originally installed in 2007 with a new display called Being Human.
Medicine Man is 15 years old, and the world is very different now to when it opened. If we were curating the space for the first time today, we would not choose to display these items through the lens of a single person, Henry Wellcome. This approach focused attention on the person who collected the objects, rather than on where they came from, who created them and why, and therefore their full context was obscured.
Wellcome Collection is taking some time to consider how we will use this space in future. We will draw on the museum’s research as well as input from the public to tell more and different stories about human life and health in the gallery.
Free access to our collections is fundamental to Wellcome Collection, and the museum and library remain open and free to all. Visitors can see items from our collections in our exhibitions, online catalogue, by request via our library and on display at London’s Science Museum. We also frequently loan items to other museums and institutions across the UK and internationally.
The items previously on display in the Medicine Man gallery represent a very small proportion of the 1.2 million objects cared for by Wellcome Collection, and they will remain available for audiences on the same basis as the rest of the collections. We will continue to display potentially sensitive or contentious items, including those from Medicine Man, in ways that provide greater context for visitors and facilitate further research.