Medicine Man exhibit: London’s Wellcome Collection museum closes ‘racist and sexist’ medical history exhibit | Ents & Arts News

A London museum says it is closing one of its key exhibitions for good after admitting the exhibition “perpetuates a version of medical history based on racist, sexist and ableist theories and language”.

The Wellcome Collection’s Medicine Man gallery includes objects relating to sex, birth and death, and anatomical models in wood, ivory and wax dating back to the 17th century.

The museum said colonial rule shaped how the exhibition was put together.

The free exhibition is part of a vast selection of more than a million books, paintings and artefacts collected by the museum’s founder Sir Henry Wellcome who began collecting in the 19th century.

The Wellcome Collection said on Twitter: “The very fact that they have ended up in one place – the story we were telling was that of a man of enormous wealth, power and privilege.

“And the stories we failed to tell were the ones that we have historically marginalized or excluded.”

The global story the exhibition told was one of “health and medicine where disabled people, black people, indigenous people and people of color were exoticised, marginalized and exploited – or even missed out”, the museum said.

It continued: “We cannot change our past. But we can work towards a future where we give voice to the narratives and lived experiences of those who have been silenced, erased and ignored.

“We tried to do this with some of the pieces in Medicine Man through artist interventions. But the display still perpetuates a version of medical history that is based on racist, sexist and ableist theories and language.

“This is why this Sunday, November 27, we are closing Medicine Man for good.”

Image: Welcome collection

“Significant Turning Point”

It calls the decision a “significant turning point” and it is preparing to transform how the collections are displayed.

The Wellcome Collection has pledged to establish a new project in the coming years that will “amplify the voices of those who have previously been erased or marginalized from museums”.

And it will bring “their stories of health and humanity to the heart of our galleries”.

In 2019, Melanie Keen was appointed director of the Wellcome Collection and reportedly promised to be brave in handling the most controversial objects displayed there.

She highlighted a 1916 painting by Harold Copping of a black African kneeling before a white missionary.

The piece, called A Medical Missionary Attending to a Sick African, is now in stock.

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