London has many fine museums visited by millions every year, but there are quieter spaces bursting with eccentric curiosities. The Wellcome Collection and the Grant Museum of Zoology are two such museums.
Sir Henry Wellcome was a 19th century pharmaceutical magnate and zealous collector of all things medical and corporeal. From Napoleon’s toothbrush to shrunken heads of New Guinea, his collection housed over a million objects from the four corners of the earth.
Though parts of the collection have been exhibited in the London Science Museum since 1976, it was only four years ago that the Wellcome Trust opened to the public. Exhibits across three galleries explore the connection between medicine, life and art, covering anthropology, witchcraft, ethnology and alchemy. From Leonardo da Vinci to Andy Warhol, works hang between antique sex aids and Aztec sacrificial knives.
The Wellcome calendar is packed with events, guided tours and discussions, ranging from ‘Packed Lunch’ talks about meteors or formaldehyde (for those who have a free lunch hour), to ‘The Christmas Story; Told the Wellcome Way’. To find out more about the highly recommended collection, go to http://www.wellcomecollection.org/
Next on our journey down Euston Rd, we find The Grant Museum of Zoology. Though just one large room, from floor to ceiling, in jars, on mounts and behind glass cases, are 67 000 creatures, bones and pickled bits covering the entire animal kingdom; the natural history collection of your dreams.
Robert Grant was the first Professor of Zoology in England. Upon arrival at University College in 1827, he found no teaching materials with which to conduct his courses, and began to amass specimens and materials for dissection. Many exhibits are from Grant’s original collection.
Highlights include extinct Dodo, Quagga and Thyceline (Tasmanian Tiger) specimens, and an exquisite collection of Blaschka glass models of sea anemones and jellyfish. These are fantastic examples of the skilled Czech glassworks, popular at the turn of the century.
This museum is a wonderland of Darwinian proportions. To find out more go to http://www.ucl.ac.uk/museums/zoology
The Montague on the Gardens hotel is situated within walking distance from both museums and is a great place to enjoy afternoon tea or a cocktail after a day on your feet.