Wellcome Collection to exhibit everyday objects in Things show

The Wellcome Collection will exhibit iconic design and everyday objects contributed by members of the public as part of new exhibition Things, devised and designed by artist Keith Wilson.

During the exhibition members of the public will be invited to deposit items that they own in an attempt to document products that have particular significance to both the owner and wider society. The exhibition, which opens on 12 October, is conceived by Wilson as being in the spirit of Wellcome Collection founder Henry Wellcome.

Wilson says, ’Like most people, I am fascinated by other people’s things, and find it difficult to throw anything away.’ Wellcome Collection head of public programmes Ken Arnold says, ’We started thinking about how Henry Wellcome would start collecting if he was alive today, but perhaps a bit more democratically.’

It is hoped that the exhibition will include iconic design pieces as well as everyday products and packaging. After being catalogued, photographed and labelled, items will be stored in the museum’s main gallery in a Perspex-fronted metal shelving system designed by Wilson.

Arnold says, ’The process of how museums accept and select objects will also be on display.’ As the objects are deposited, contributors will be asked to supply information about their products. For each day of the exhibition, Wilson will use these personal insights to arrange objects that collectively create an interesting story inside traditional museum display cabinets.

Wilson says, ’Members of the public will come with their stories, which are there to be contested, not least by the objects themselves.’ Halfway through the exhibition, contributors can come and retrieve their items. Arnold says, ’The exhibition won’t be the same for two hours, let alone two days.’


  • Born in 1853, Henry Wellcome collected more than 1.5 million medical objects and books, including Florence Nightingale’s moccasins, amputation saws and enema syringes
  • International contributors will be able to deposit their own objects as part of the Wellcome Collection’s blog
  • Items donated rather than lent to theexhibition will become part of artist Keith Wilson’s future artwork Calendar, which will be shown as part of The British Art Show in 2011
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