The Wellcome Collection in London appears to be having an identity crisis, announcing the closure of one of its key exhibitions, branding it “racist, sexist and ableist” on Twitter, and asking “What’s the point of museums?”
The free museum, part of the Wellcome Trust, holds more than a million objects amassed by its founder, Sir Henry Wellcome, a 19th-century pharmaceutical entrepreneur, who sought to “enable a better understanding of the art and science of healing throughout the ages”.
The announcement will affect the permanent display Medicine Man, which will close for good on Sunday.
The exhibition showcased objects relating to sex, birth and death and includes anatomical models of the human body in wood, ivory and wax dating back to the 17th century.
On Twitter, the museum explained that its exhibition of this collection was “problematic” as told a story “in which disabled people, black people, indigenous peoples and people of colour were exoticised, marginalised and exploited – or even missed out altogether”.
This is not the first time that the institution has tried to undo the self-identified wrongs of its founder. The Wellcome Collection previously introduced “artist interventions” in Medicine Man to “give voice” to those who “have been silenced, erased and ignored”.