Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Medicine Cabinet of Curiosities


Earlier this month, I posted about the Science Museum of London's fantastic online exhibition "Brought To Life: Exploring the History of Medicine." In Fortean Times this month, Jen Ogilvie visits Blythe House, the physical home to many more of the strange artifacts not on public display. From Fortean Times:
Most of the medical history objects crammed into Blythe House’s cupboards and jostling for space on its shelves come from the collection of the pharmacist and philanthropist Henry Wellcome (1853-1936), and the air of barely contained chaos seems somehow to bear the echo of his exuberant, omnivorous delight in things. In the surgery room, lines of near-identical scalpels and tonsil guillotines are marshalled in drawerfuls of menace; nestling nearby are materials and skull fragments used in experiments by an English doctor interested in Neolithic trepenation; German WWI cotton wool is bundled in corners; surgeons’ ornate walking sticks hang over high shelves, lasting testimony to the status anxiety of their owners. Locked up in the drugs room are the antidote cases and medicine chests sent by the publicity-savvy and lionizing Wellcome on famous adventurers’ expeditions to Everest or Brazil or the Antarctic, and thousands of jars of exotically strange natural medicines collected from around the world and inscribed with apothecary-evoking legends like ‘East Indian Blistering Fly’ or ‘Dragon’s Blood’. The room of x-ray machines crosses an eccentric inventor’s workshop with a torture chamber, and contains oddities like the Pedoscope, left-over from the days when irradiation seemed a fun way to fit shoes...
Medicine Cabinet of Curiosities

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