Anatomical model exhibition at the Wellcome

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The incredible London museum The Wellcome Collection is staging a new exhibition, titled "Exquisite Bodies: or the Curious and Grotesque History of the Anatomical Model," running from July 30 to October 18. The talented Joanna Ebenstein of Morbid Anatomy was a curatorial adviser and graphic designer for the exhibition. I'm sure it will be an incredible, er, body of artifacts. From Morbid Anatomy:
Popular anatomical displays were a kind of popular, spectacular, democratized version of scholarly or professional medical museums. Often exhibiting objects intended for (or perhaps even once presented in) an academic context, these displays--which were extremely popular in the 19th Century and could be widely found at fairgrounds and in "popular anatomical museums" until the beginning of the 20th Century-blended education and entertainment, public health and spectacle, scholarship and prurience for a mass audience.

The centerpiece of these displays was usually the Anatomical Venus--a beautiful, life-like woman, generally made of wax, often life-sized, and demonstrating--upon the delicate removal of her breastplate--the mysteries of the inner female body. This central Venus was generally supplemented by waxes and other sorts of models, wet preparations, and illustrations parsing topics such as the ideal and compromised female body, the ravages of sexually transmitted diseases, the aberrant body, the mysteries of generation, and the ill effects of spermatorhea (aka "abnormally frequent emission of the semen without copulation", seen as a real public health issue at the time).
"Exquisite Bodies" (Morbid Anatomy)


  1. Way too young to be McCain. I was going to say that the guy in the jar looks like actor Greg Kinnear with a migraine.

  2. I logged in today solely to say how much that looked like McCain. Beat me to it, BoingBoingers!

  3. My school chemistry teacher, Alan Clarke (who very sadly died a few years ago) worked at the Wellcome Collection as a young man after leaving university. He became a friend of my family, and took my brother and me to visit the two floors of the Science Museum in London where the collection was displayed in 1987 or thereabouts – we had a fantastic time romping among the exhibits, and he gave us both little badges with liquid crystal reservoirs in them at the end of the day, thereby buying my eternal devotion to all things science.

    He told me years later that he’d been very careful to take us in cool weather – his experience with the Wellcome collection was that the bits of body, the mummies and the pseudo-mermaids would start to smell as soon as the mercury started to nudge past the mid-twenties. I miss him, and it’s a long time since I’ve been to the Science Museum – something that I plan to rectify this weekend.

  4. Reluctantly took the kids to the Wellcome Institute maybe 10 years ago (Wellcome ~is~ Big Pharma)…

    …it was brilliant…

  5. Where’s the Head-of-Nixon-in-a-jar? Do we have to wait a thousand years for it to surface?

    And isn’t Wolfie a little old for playing with felt cut-outs?

  6. #12 the Wellcome Trust is *not* Big Pharma, purely a charity. It sold of all it’s interests in this regard in about 1995. (I work for the Trust and Collection.)

    Anyway, great to be featured on Boing Boing. If interested in finding out more about the items in the exhibition, have a look at the videos we’ve just added to the site, including how wax models are made:

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