Wellcome Collection seeks to explore the connections between medicine, life and art in the past, present and future; at its heart lies the curiosity that drove Henry Wellcome to amass his diverse collection. The History of Medicine Collection reflects a broad understanding of the history of medicine and medical thought and practice from the earliest times, and in different societies and cultures around the world. It is primarily a print collection and contains materials published from 1850 to the present day. It also includes a growing number of electronic resources such as e-books, online journals and archived websites. The collection is international in terms of both subjects and origin of materials. It covers the history of all aspects of medical science and practice, as well as other related fields of science, social sciences, arts and humanities. Medical topics include: anatomy and physiology; healthcare; medical education and the medical professions; medical technologies and procedures; public health; services and organisations; specific diseases; surgery. Other related subjects include: alchemy; art; astrology; botany; food and cookery; history and philosophy of science; literature; religion; zoology.
The Medical Collection contains primary source material, including: medical monographs, textbooks and journals; national, local and colonial official reports, including the most complete set of Medical Officer of Health reports in the United Kingdom; patents; pharmacopoeias; publications from pressure groups and patient organisations. Rare books in the Medical Collection comprise works printed in Europe from the dawn of printing to 1850. The collection includes the great names in medical history, such as Galen, Vesalius and Harvey, early printed works by ordinary practitioners, and writings on popular and alternative remedies. There are many lavishly illustrated anatomical and surgical books, as well as herbals and 'coffee-table' volumes of natural history. The Library’s collection of European books printed before 1701 are in the process of being digitized.
Ephemera is an important part of the Medical Collection. Dating from 1626 to the present day, the ephemera collection comprises material that reflects the changing medical marketplace and cultures of medicine: campaign literature; early health proclamations; modern public health information leaflets; patient support advice; pharmaceutical and medical advertising; postage stamps; product labels, packaging and product literature; quacks' advertisements; sheet music; trade cards; and Victorian ‘freak show’ postcards.
The Archives and Manuscripts collection is the most important collection in Britain on the history of medicine. The collection contains approximately 9000 manuscripts and over 800 archive collections from the United Kingdom and Europe. The material (in some 25 different languages) dates from antiquity to the 21st century. There are internationally significant holdings in a range of subjects, including: birth control; genetics and heredity; psychiatry, psychoanalysis and psychology; public health; the colonial encounter/imperial medicine; war and medicine; women in the healthcare professions. Archives in the collection are concentrated on English-language material from the 20th century created in Britain and its former colonies. The archives include personal papers, correspondence, notebooks and diaries of scientists, GPs and others; records of charities, campaigning organizations, and pressure groups; records of professional bodies, businesses and research institutions; the Wellcome Archives, including Henry Wellcome’s personal papers, the Wellcome Foundation archives, and records of the Wellcome Historical Medical Museum. The archives and manuscripts collection also contains 250 medieval manuscripts; domestic recipe books dating from the 16th century onwards; laboratory notebooks, research and lecture notes; medical case books; and photographs and drawings. Seventy-five domestic recipe manuscripts have been digitized and are available online in PDF format. The easiest way to find the digital copies is to browse the complete list of digital manuscripts in the Archives and Manuscripts catalogue. The Archives and Manuscripts Collection also provides helpful research guides online covering a variety of topics.
The Art Collection contains more than 250,000 prints, drawings, paintings, photographs and works in other media dating from the 14th century to the present. The collection includes 1300 paintings, including altarpieces, portraits and votive works; Tibetan tankas; photographic glass negatives and photograph albums; posters on hygiene, exhibitions, and commercial products; prints from all periods and in various techniques, from woodcut to silk screen.
The Asian Collection contains approximately 12,000 manuscripts and printed items from Asia and North Africa, written in over forty separate languages and many different scripts. The collection covers various subjects including: astronomy and astrology; chronology; cookery; divinations and the interpretation of dreams; herbals; magic; medicine and the history of medicine; philosophy; and religion.
The Moving image and Sound Collection is one of the largest of its kind. It covers all aspects of medicine, health and welfare through the 20th century and beyond. The strength of the Moving Image and Sound Collection lies in its variety of public health information films, surgical training films, and broadcast radio and television programmes. Material in the collection originates from notable organisations and individuals such as: Association of Anaesthetists of Great Britain and Ireland; British Medical Association; Central Office of Information; Queen Mary’s Hospital, Roehampton; Scope, formerly the Spastics Society; Sir Edward and Lady My Mellanby; Thalidomide Society; University of London Audio-Visual Unit; and the Wellcome Foundation.
Biomedical Images comprises scientific images from research laboratories, clinical images from UK teaching hospitals, and illustrations and photographs by artists and photographers. The images are created using a variety of imaging techniques including scanning electron microscopy, magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) and photography. The biomedical and scientific areas covered include: disease; genetics; healthcare; molecular biology; neuroscience; and surgery. Biomedical Images forms part of the Wellcome Images picture library.
Thousands of items from the Library’s collections are freely available online as digital collections. The digitization process is ongoing. The Library’s digital collections cover a wide variety of topics, including asylums, food, sex and sexual health, genetics, public health and war. The current digital collections are: Aids posters; Arabic manuscripts; Art in the Library; Codebreakers: Makers of Modern Genetics; Film and sound; London’s Pulse: Medical Officer Health Reports, 1848-1972; Mental healthcare; Reading Room; Recipe books; The Royal Army Medical Corps; Sexology; John Thomson photographs; and UK Medical Heritage Library. The collection can be browsed by topic, genre, author, and by collection title.
Wellcome Images is one of the Wellcome Library's major visual collections. Wellcome Images is one of the world's richest and most unique collections, with themes ranging from medical and social history to contemporary healthcare and biomedical science. This unrivalled collection contains historical images from the Wellcome Library collections, Tibetan Buddhist paintings, ancient Sanskrit manuscripts written on palm leaves, beautifully illuminated Persian books and much more. The website is searchable.
The Wellcome Collection (the building that houses the Library) also offers exhibits from the collections. There are two permanent exhibitions: Medicine Now presents a range of ideas about science and medicine since Henry Wellcome’s death in 1936; and, Medicine Man, which reunites a cross-section of extraordinary objects from Henry Wellcome’s collection. There are also other visiting exhibitions and installations.