Museum faces ‘cultural vandalism’ charges for closing ‘racist, sexist and ableist’ medicine exhibit


A major London museum is closing a long-running exhibit devoted to the history of medicine over its alleged “racist, sexist and ableist theories and language”.

The Wellcome Collection is ending its ‘Medicine Man’ exhibit after 15 years in what the museum has called “a significant turning point”, according to the Guardian.

The Wellcome Collection was founded when Sir Henry Wellcome, an American pharmaceutical entrepreneur who died in 1936, donated over a million objects to the museum, many of which were related to the history of world medicine.

Some of the objects have recently proven controversial, such as a 1916 painting titled ‘A Medical Missionary Attending a Sick African’, which depicts a white missionary tending to a sick African while Jesus Christ stands by over the missionary’s shoulder.

The painting was eventually removed and stored for allegedly “perpetuating racial stereotypes and hierarchies”.

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The 1900-1910 Livingstone Medicine Chest from the Wellcome Collection goes on display January 19, 2011 in London.
(Peter Macdiarmid/Getty Images)

“We cannot change our past. But we can work toward a future where we give voice to the stories and lived experiences of those who have been silenced, erased and ignored,” the museum said in a Twitter thread. last week.

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

The wire went on to allege that the vast collection of paintings, books and anatomical models in wood, wax and ivory dating from the 17th century tell the story of a man endowed with “wealth, power and enormous privileges”.

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“The result was a collection that told a global story of health and medicine in which people with disabilities, black people, indigenous peoples and people of color were alienated, marginalized and exploited – or even completely forgotten,” said writes the museum.

Some on Twitter criticized the museum for closing the permanent exhibition which was free to the public.

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“An act of cultural vandalism to shut down without even having a clue what will take its place,” one user tweeted.

“Is there no one who can get rid of these cultural vandals instead or is the rot going all the way to the top? Is this the prelude to the closure of entire museums because their collections don’t aren’t awake enough?” wrote another user.

Sir Henry Wellcome, born in 1853 in a log cabin on the Wisconsin border, became a pharmaceutical entrepreneur with a passion for collecting medical artifacts.

Sir Henry Wellcome, born in 1853 in a log cabin on the Wisconsin border, became a pharmaceutical entrepreneur with a passion for collecting medical artifacts.
(Library of Congress)

A new exhibit detailing health-related stories from historically marginalized communities will be rolled out in the coming years, according to the museum’s website.

In 2019, the museum hired a new director, Melanie Keen, who expressed a desire to find out who the rightful owners of the museum’s objects were and how Wellcome came to obtain them, the Guardian reported.

Skulls and skull-like vessels are displayed at the "Death: A Self-Portrait" exhibition at the Wellcome Collection on November 14, 2012 in London.

Skulls and skull-shaped vessels are displayed at the ‘Death: A Self-Portrait’ exhibition at the Wellcome Collection on November 14, 2012 in London.
(Peter Macdiarmid/Getty Images)

“It seems impossible to worry about this material we hold without wondering what it is, what stories need to be understood more deeply, and how the material came to be in our collection,” Keen said.

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The museum did not immediately respond to Fox News Digital’s request for comment.


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