After 15 years of opening to the public in London, the Wellcome Collection Museum board announced the closing of one of its main exhibitions. The reason: the exhibition is  “racist, sexist and ableist theories and language”. Called the Medicine Man, the exhibition is a collection of more than a million objects. It intended to give an insight into global health and medicine. 

Medicine Man showed a selection of curated artifacts from the collection of Henry Wellcome. He was the founder of the trust and an American pharmaceutical entrepreneur whose company, Burroughs Wellcome & Company. The company merged with other pharmaceutical organizations to form the modern-day drugs behemoth GlaxoSmithKline. Wellcome died in 1936.

Wellcome amassed more than one million items relating to the history of medicine throughout the course of his life. The Wellcome Collection displayed his collection to a visiting public for free.

As BBC reported, the decision has marked a “significant turning point”.

Wellcome Collection said the decision was made to give voice to the narratives and lived experiences of people of color. The museum also said that exhibiting the collection of paintings, books and anatomical models told a colonial story of a man with “enormous wealth, power and privilege.”

 “We can’t change our past. We tried to do this with some of the pieces in Medicine Man using artist interventions. But the display still perpetuates a version of medical history that is based on racist, sexist and ableist theories and language.” The museum wrote on Twitter. 

Controversial objects

Wellcome Collection added that the result was a collection that told a global story of health and medicine. However, the exhibition exorcised, marginalized and exploited – “or even missed out altogether.” disabled people, Black people, Indigenous peoples and people of color.

Controversial objects include a 1916 painting titled “A Medical Missionary Attending to a Sick African”. It depicts an African person kneeling in front of a white missionary.

The Wellcome Collection’s website says a new exhibition featuring health stories of people who have been previously marginalized or even erased from museums will be unveiled in the coming years.