Seeing Science for Free in London: The Wellcome Collection

MSc Medical Parasitology student Brittany is blogging about her experiences in London, and why it’s such a great city to study science:

The Science of forensics, medicine made into art, and a massive collection of historical medical equipment. Those are some of the many things happening at my most recent stop of seeing science for free in London: The Wellcome Collection. Conveniently located in West Central London right near many of the University of London buildings, The Wellcome Collection has enough available that I would have easily been able to make a day trip out of this one amazing building.

The first exhibit when you walk in the door is one I absolutely recommend, Forensics: The Anatomy of Crime. Now, we weren’t allowed to take pictures in the exhibit, but that’s okay, because I wouldn’t want to ruin the joy of it for anyone who may plan to go, because what they have there is truly amazing.

Wellcome 1

Based around the novel by Val McDermid, the exhibit takes you through the journey of a murder turned forensic case, and you get a full behind the scenes look about everything that happens in these real life cases, as shown in the map below:

Wellcome 2

In the Crime Scene room, my absolute favorite part of it had to be the forensic entomology cases (Naturally, being a parasitologist). The concept is basically, using blowfly maggots in corpses (or around the crime scene) to get an estimate as to how, when, or where the person died, as well as detection of drugs, DNA, and even presence of gunshot residue.  Now after I went through the exhibit and learned about it, I just happened to get the opportunity a week later to attend a lecture given by the forensic entomologist featured in the exhibit, Dr. Martin Hall. He was able to go into so much detail (which is where most of this information here came from) about how they go about collecting the maggots from not only a body, but the whole crime scene, and how things like their species, normal location, seasonality, and the external temperature play a role in calculating how long ago the blowflies laid their eggs there, which gives an estimate as to the time of death. The whole concept of it is just amazing to me, and I never realized before how huge of a role it can play in cases like this, and I’m so glad I got the chance to delve a little deeper into it. Throughout the rest of the exhibit, you get the chance to learn all about autopsies, look at the evolution of how we’ve gone from using plain old fingerprints to catch criminals to how we are now able to use DNA fingerprinting,  all about how this evidence is used in court, and so, so much more that I can’t even list here. Because I totally recommend checking it out, and I don’t wanna ruin all of it. 🙂

This exhibit is open until 21 June 2015, it’s completely free, and if you wanna learn more about it you can check it out here.

The rest of the building is just as amazing. We also checked out the ‘Medicine Now’ Room upstairs, where a lot of it was medicine displayed as an art form, which you can add to by drawing your own pretty picture to put up on the wall,and the whole room was just a lot of fun to explore.

Cross section of the human body. And you can see everyone’s drawings on the wall in the background.

Cross section of the human body. And you can see everyone’s drawings on the wall in the background.


This room also included something that I thought was mind-blowningly impressive, and that was the entire human genome confined to one bookshelf:

The human genome, organized by chromosome numbers.

The human genome, organized by chromosome numbers.


and just in case you don’t believe me, here’s part of chromosome 13.

and just in case you don’t believe me, here’s part of chromosome 13.


The last exhibit we got to check out before the place closed was that of Henry Wellcome himself:

Wellcome 6

In this permanent exhibit is a huge room filled with all kinds of artifacts from all over the world, from across all centuries. There is so much stuff, we couldn’t even take it all in. Some of the old medical artifacts were really cool to see though, one example like these old time prosthetics.

Wellcome 7

It so amazing to see old prosthetics like this, and comparing to today, when we’re in the age of being able to 3D print our own for about $300.


The Wellcome Collection also has other exhibits, such as the Institute of Sexology, which goes on until September 2015, and also an awesome Reading Room that (since we went on Sunday) we didn’t get the chance to see. But the pictures are quite impressive. And they also have a super cool gift shop where I bought the coolest bookmarks ever:

Wellcome 8

So yeah there’s that too.

To learn more about the Wellcome Collection, all their exhibits, and all their events,you can visit their website here: Wellcome Collection.
And to learn more about Val McDermid’s book, you can check it out on Google Books here:Val McDermid’s Forensics The Anatomy of Crime.

Follow Brittany’s Science in London blog at

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