“If only rain could fall inside a room”

In June 1983, about two and a half years after John M Hull registered as blind, he began to record an audio diary onto cassette tapes. Notes on Blindness, A journey through the dark collects John’s recordings together into a book, exploring his profound sense of loss, altered perceptions of time and space, of waking and sleeping, love and companionship. In this extract, John first explains why he began recording his experiences, and goes on to describe the surprising ways that heavy weather can reveal the unseen world to him.

This was when the truth of being blind began to hit me. You may wonder why it took so long, but the first couple of years were full of exciting problems to be solved. It was only afterwards that I began to make the transition from being a sighted person who could not see to being a blind person.

Sometimes I added something to my cassette every day, day after day, but sometimes weeks would go past. I recorded things that I felt strongly about; when they puzzled me, or delighted me, I said what I had to say in order to help me to grapple with what was going on. I kept this up for three years, and gradually the need to make further recordings grew less. I spoke about my children, my work, my relations with women and men, and I recorded my dreams.

 

9 September 1983

This evening, at about nine o’clock, I was getting ready to leave the house. I opened the front door, and rain was falling. I stood for a few minutes, lost in the beauty of it. Rain has a way of bringing out the contours of everything; it throws a coloured blanket over previously invisible things; instead of an intermittent and thus fragmented world, the steadily falling rain creates continuity of acoustic experience.

I hear the rain pattering on the roof above me, dripping down the walls to my left and right, splashing from the drainpipe at ground level on my left, while further over to the left there is a lighter patch as the rain falls almost inaudibly upon a large leafy shrub. On the right, it is drumming, with a deeper, steadier sound upon the lawn. I can even make out the contours of the lawn, which rises to the right in a little hill. The sound of the rain is different and shapes out the curvature for me. Still further to the right, I hear the rain sounding upon the fence which divides our property from that next door. In front, the contours of the path and the steps are marked out, right down to the garden gate. Here the rain is striking the concrete, here it is splashing into the shallow pools which have already formed. Here and there is a light cascade as it drips from step to step. The sound on the path is quite different from the sound of the rain drumming into the lawn on the right, and this is different again from the blanketed, heavy, sodden feel of the large bush on the left. Further out, the sounds are less detailed. I can hear the rain falling on the road, and the swish of the cars that pass up and down. I can hear the rushing of the water in the flooded gutter on the edge of the road. The whole scene is much more differentiated than I have been able to describe, because everywhere there are little breaks in the patterns, obstructions, projections, where some slight interruption or difference of texture or of echo gives an additional detail or dimension to the scene. Over the whole thing, like light falling upon a landscape, is the gentle background patter gathered up into one continuous murmur of rain.

I think that this experience of opening the door on a rainy garden must be similar to that which a sighted person feels when opening the curtains and seeing the world outside. Usually, when I open my front door, there are various broken sounds spread across a nothingness. I know that when I take the next step I will encounter the path, and that to the right my shoe will meet the lawn. As I walk down the path, my head will be brushed by fronds of the overhanging shrub on the left and I will then come to the steps, the front gate, the footpath, the culvert and the road. I know all these things are there but I know them from memory. They give no immediate evidence of their presence, I know them in the form of prediction. They will be what I will be experiencing in the next few seconds. The rain presents the fullness of an entire situation all at once, not merely remembered, not in anticipation, but actually and now. The rain gives a sense of perspective and of the actual relationships of one part of the world to another.

If only rain could fall inside a room, it would help me to understand where things are in that room, to give a sense of being in the room, instead of just sitting on a chair.

An image of the front cover of 'Notes on Blindness'

‘Notes on Blindness, A journey through the dark’ by John M Hull

This is an experience of great beauty. I feel as if the world, which is veiled until I touch it, has suddenly disclosed itself to me. I feel that the rain is gracious, that it has granted a gift to me, the gift of the world. I am no longer isolated, preoccupied with my thoughts, concentrating upon what I must do next. Instead of having to worry about where my body will be and what it will meet, I am presented with a totality, a world which speaks to me.

Have I grasped why it is so beautiful? When what there is to know is in itself varied, intricate and harmonious, then the knowledge of that reality shares the same characteristics. I am filled internally with a sense of variety, intricacy and harmony. The knowledge itself is beautiful, because the knowledge creates in me a mirror of what there is to know. As I listen to the rain, I am the image of the rain, and I am one with it.

This extract is taken from Notes on Blindness, A journey through the dark by John M Hull, published by Wellcome Collection.

The image at the top of this article is taken from the feature film Notes on Blindness, an Archer’s Mark production, in association with Fee Fie Foe Films and 104 Films, and in co-production with Agat Films & Cie and ARTE France.

Sharing Nature: feeling mortal

As part of our Sharing Nature project, over the past fortnight we asked you to share your photos on the theme DEAD, and respond to other people’s submissions. You decided Jeane Trend-Hill’s contribution was most meaningful.

“A robin’s nest inside a human skull, at the ossuary in Hythe, Kent. The ultimate in recycling, death and birth.” Jeane Trend-Hill’s photograph and words submitted on the theme DEAD.

It’s a fantastic juxtaposition. The robin’s nest likely makes us think of eggs, and therefore birth and new beginnings. The human skull perhaps pushes us to think about what lies beneath our skin, or to ponder our mortality.

The human skull is a common symbol for piracy, hazards, toxicity and death. Beyond that, skulls aren’t something most of us see all that often, not real ones anyway, unless you go to a production of Hamlet and they happen to keep Yorick real. But at St Leonard’s Church at Hythe in Kent, where Jeane Trend-Hill took her picture, you can see over 1,000 of them.

In fact, St Leonard’s claims to have the largest and best-preserved collection of ancient human bones and skulls in Britain, boasting, among other things, “a single stack of bones and skulls measuring 7.5m in length, 1.8m in width and just over 1.8m in height”. The crypt – or ‘ossuary’ –  is thought to be home to the remains of 2,000 people, and theories have abounded over who they might be, from those killed during the Battle of Hastings in 1066, to victims of the Black Death. General consensus now suggests the bones belonged to Hythe residents who were originally buried but had to be dug up when the church was extended in the 13th century.

An ossuary is a place where human skeletal remains are kept, and can range in shape and size from a box to a building. Some of the most famous are the vast catacombs in Paris, which are thought to house the remains of more than 6 million people. They were constructed in the late 1700s when the city’s cemeteries were too packed to take any more bodies. An ossuary is often used when space for burial is limited (individual coffins can take up a lot of space).

‘Natural’ or ‘green’ burials are an increasingly popular alternative to cemeteries, crematoria, catacombs and crypts. They’ve been around since the late 1980s (although of course ‘natural burial’ would have been ‘normal burial’ in the past), and the idea is to return the body to the earth in as low impact a way as possible, often in a woodland setting.

Jeane Trend-Hill mentions recycling in her contribution to the Sharing Nature project, and that’s exactly what natural burial is all about. In an article for Mosaic, Fathima Simjee explains that the deceased person is buried in a manner that doesn’t inhibit decomposition. She quotes Rosie Inman-Cook, manager of the Natural Death Centre, who says, “People like to think that the nutrients in their body will be recycled and will be of some use to the soil, and the fauna and flora that the soil supports”. In this way a death makes future life possible, and so the natural cycle can continue.

What’s neat about Jeane’s photograph is that the robin’s nest makes it very much an image on the theme of life as well as death. The RSPB reveals that robins “are famous for nesting in all kinds of unlikely locations, including sheds, kettles, boots, hanging baskets, coat pockets, under car bonnets, in farm machinery, even on boats in daily use”. What seems to be most important to the robin is finding a “fully concealed cavity”, where it can construct a cup-shaped nest made from dead leaves, moss and hair. It turns out your skull is not only a fantastic, bony construction that keeps your brain safe and all your head bits in place. In the future it could also have a second life as a happy home for Britain’s best-loved bird.

Sharing Nature continues until 1 October 2017, and upcoming themes include green, alone, plastic, health, and consume. A museum of modern nature is at Wellcome Collection until 8 October 2017.

A monkey doctor, wearing glasses and a hat, examines a supine cat.

10 animals doing things only doctors should do

Wellcome Collection is 10 years old this summer, and we’re celebrating by sharing some of our top 10 favourite things from the collections.

It turns out animal-human hybrids doing medical things was a common theme in popular prints. Here are 10 ambitious animals making out like they’re human beings, including a bespectacled monkey examining a supine cat, a beautifully dressed bunny being attended by a midwife who also happens to be a hen, and a tabby covered in condoms.

1. Cats mocking quacks

A cat in a feathered turban, and with human hands, disembowels one of its own, watched by various other animal-headed humans. The verse on this engraving from the early 18th century reads: “Behold how in the colledge hall, the surgeons and the doctors all, are met in consultation wise, a carcase to anatomize.”

Image credit: Wellcome Library.

Graphic satire was often used to mock the medical profession, and its quacks and quackeries, from the 17th century on. Animals made excellent figures of fun. This early 18th century engraving shows a handsome, human-handed cat in a feathered turban, disemboweling one of its own, watched by various other animal-people. The verse reads: “Behold how in the colledge hall, the surgeons and the doctors all, are met in consultation wise, a carcase to anatomize.”

2. Monkey, barber, surgeon

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Image credit: Wellcome Library.

Before it became illegal in 1745, barbers performed minor surgery as well as cutting hair. With doctors unwilling to perform surgical tasks before this time, the often illiterate barbers happily stepped in. They trained as apprentices, rather than academics, and were mocked for it. In this image a monkey-barber trims a cat’s whiskers, another treats an injured foot, while a wounded monkey arrives supported by two dogs.

3. The art of ‘fleaology’

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Image credit: Wellcome Library.

Monkeys and cats were some of the most common creatures in graphic satire. Monkeys were often shown ‘aping’ human behaviour, and used to suggest vanity and foolishness. Here a monkey doctor practices the art of ‘fleaology’ on a feline patient.

4. Rapid relief for wealthy hypochondriacs

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Image credit: Wellcome Library.

Images where fashionably dressed monkeys act like humans to mock their foolish ways are known as ‘singeries’, which means ‘monkey tricks’ or ‘monkey house’ in French. The lithograph above from 1830-9 shows an angry monkey with a giant syringe squirting two other apes with water. Clysters – or enemas – were popular forms of constipation relief for wealthy hypochondriacs from the 17th to the 19th century.

5. Doggy dentistry

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Image credit: Wellcome Library.

In this 19th century print, a monkey dentist wearing a rather smart jacket extracts the teeth of a submissive dog. Other “victims” wait their turn. Until the early 20th century in Europe, tooth extractions were carried out by traveling dentists at town fairs. The dentists were known as ‘tooth drawers’, and would pull teeth at phenomenally fast rates, often for free.

6. An over-indulged cat 

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Image credit: Wellcome Library.

A human doctor examines the pulse of a well-dressed cat while it bathes its feet in a tub. The handwritten text reads: “Bad symptoms – quick pulse – a difficulty in purring – a hoarse mew – decidedly mumps. Recipe some mouse tail soup.” Cats were popular in the 19th century, but they were also frequent subjects for satirists. Towards the end of the century, many Victorians saw them as a nuisance.

7. Lazy ass

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Image credit: Wellcome Library

A donkey doctor takes the pulse of a dying man. This is one of several ‘Caprichos’ or ‘Caprices’ created by the artist Goya that feature sinister-seeming donkeys acting like privileged men. The donkey – or ass – was widely used to symbolise laziness and stupidity.

8. Froggy enema

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Image credit: Wellcome Library.

Featuring frog-like frogs, and human-like frogs, the idyllic scene above shows a sick frog being given an enema. In the background, a frog rows by in a canoe. While the frog certainly has witchy connotations, the amphibian could also be seen as a symbol of metamorphosis, and therefore cleansing and renewal.

9. Bunny birth scene

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Image credit: Wellcome Library.

This Japanese woodcut shows a bunny that’s recently given birth to twins. Rabbits and hares have long been associated with the moon and rebirth, and used as a symbol of fertility. The belief that rabbits can be messengers of the gods persists. Okazaki-jinja is shrine in Kyoto, and, according to Lonely Planet, “The rabbit is the spirit animal here and people come to this shrine to pray for fertility and safe childbirth.”

10. Condom-clad cat

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Image credit: Wellcome Library.

Using animals to deliver medical-themed messages continued into the 20th century, as this ‘Safe Sex’ poster from 1995 shows. The condom-clad, cartoon cat softens the campaign message, and gives it a more universal appeal.

Would you like a playful path, a relaxed ramble or a deep dive into Wellcome Collection? Visit us this July and August, and choose your own summer

Six personal health zines that might change your life

Personal zines put health conditions back in the hands of the people who experience them. For International Zine Library Day, here are six that we love.

Like people and their health, zines come in all shapes and sizes. Among these tactile, unofficial and informal publications (‘zine’ is short for ‘fanzine’ or ‘magazine’), sometimes the smallest and most inconspicuous-looking ones explore the biggest topics. Just six passion-filled pages can concisely communicate the culture, politics and lived experience of the human condition.

From a long-standing but still-thriving scene of self-published pamphlets and  booklets, a new sub-genre has emerged: autobiographical perzines (or personal zines) give us alternative narratives of physical and mental health, focussing on human-centred issues, emotions, and experiences.

While many of us would naturally turn to official medical resources or literature when we want to know more about a condition that affects us or people that we love, zines give an inclusive and personal approach, abandoning the jargon of health practitioners for a  perspective that puts illness and treatment back in the hands of the people experiencing it.

The creators may not be health professionals, but they are experts in their own bodies and experiences, able to identify gaps or absences in mainstream advice and support. The DIY tradition of zine-making offers the opportunity to produce and distribute information and first-hand accounts easily and cheaply, leapfrogging the glossy, edited and distanced input of official publications.

Pocket-sized zines, in particular, offer an intimate reading experience, through their handmade production values, and open, honest and accessible writing. They are the small but mighty placard voicing the thoughts and feelings of the individual who needs to speak out about their own experiences, and offer comfort, support and inclusion to others who may be experiencing the same.

Wellcome Library has been collecting zines as part of our growing graphic medicine collection, and for Zine Library Day today we’ve selected a handful of the tiniest zines that explore big issues in meaningful ways.

Trich Witch, by anonymous

Trich Witch

Unassuming and discreet in style, perhaps with intention, this mini-zine contains a secret.  Like reading a very raw diary entry, this zine reveals the embarrassment, humiliation and shame the creator feels living with the obsessive hair-pulling disorder, trichotillomania. The disorder is common, but often difficult to diagnose, but this zine is an honest attempt at destigmatising some of these behaviours so others can identify with them.

What not to say to a Type I diabetic… Ever! by Charlie L.

GB. London. Wellcome Collection. Personal health zines. 2017.

What not to say to a Type I diabetic… Ever!

Humour is often used as coping or connecting mechanism to ease tension and get people to open up and communicate about issues that may be painful, taboo or awkward.  This zine is a great example of how humour can be employed to challenge our preconceptions about illness, and speak out against discrimination towards those with (in)visible illnesses or disabilities.

Keep Going and Dogs not Diets (you are more than a body shape) by Hattie Porter

Dogs not Diets

Carefully crafted, these tiny hand-sewn zines are perfect for keeping in a wallet or pocket, for a daily prompt of self-care, or slipped into an envelope to send to a friend who might need a little help in understanding struggles with mental health. Unlike other mental health zines that are very personal diary-like streams of consciousness, these give practical and practicable mental health advice (one even includes an insert with helplines and recognised resources).

Period Pragmatism by Sicily Fiennes

Period Pragmatism

Zines have been used as a vehicle for activism for decades, so it’s unsurprising that, however tiny, they continue to shout to the rafters about huge global issues succinctly and powerfully. Topics such as LGBTQ+, disability and women’s rights, racial equality and health care reform (to name a few) have all been given a platform, as well as menstrual activism and global environmental issues. This tiny zine combines the latter two, informing women about sustainable alternatives to help reduce sanitary waste, and overcoming social taboos by encouraging women to talk about menstruation more.

Every Month by Philip Kennedy

GB. London. Wellcome Collection. Personal health zines. 2017.

Every Month

Some zines require very few words to get their message across, and this mini-zine packs a visual punch. Earlier this year on International Women’s Day  Philip Kennedy put out a zine to highlight the number of Irish women who travel to the U.K. every month for an abortion. Digitally distributed, the zine is free, and can be downloaded, printed and physically shared to raise awareness of the repeal the 8th campaign.

Your body, your choice; & keeping it that way by Emma Holland, India Menuez, Ellie Alter and Layla Alter

Your body, your choice; & keeping it that way.

In the United States, activism forcefully re-entered the mainstream in the wake of Donald Trump’s inauguration and subsequent attacks on women’s health through funding cuts to reproductive health and education services. Repro Rights Zine, another free and open resource, was born to educate all people (women, trans and non-binary) on their reproductive rights, and the health services currently available in the US and those under threat. Distributing the zine freely is part of the revolution to inform and empower the disadvantaged, because, in their own words: “information is power, and using your voice to take ownership of the things you care about is a radical act”.

Help us collect more zines!

Wellcome Library has a growing graphic medicine collection, and is now collecting zines focussed broadly around themes of health (both physical and mental), medicine and the human condition. If you’ve made a zine that you think would complement our collection and would like to donate a copy, please contact Nicola Cook or Loesja Vigour (libraryacquisitions@wellcome.ac.uk). Follow us on social media to get updates on the collection’s development too!

 

Nicola Cook (@nicololosaurus) is a Librarian, and is interested in diversifying the voices and perspectives of health in our library collection. When she’s not cataloguing, she can be found discussing curious cures in the Reading Room or trawling the web for new zines.

Loesja Vigour  (@loesjavigour) is a Librarian who spends her time cataloguing and instagramming books for @wellcomelibrary. She is interested in seeking new and diverse audiences for the collections by engaging them with unique, beautiful, and thought-provoking content. She loves zines, children’s books, and Ant and Dec.

Sharing Nature: Relationships

We asked you to share and rate images on the theme of relationships. Marianna Bucina Roca’s photo shows us just how fragile those relationships might be.

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Over the last fortnight, we’ve asked visitors to Wellcome Collection and our Sharing Nature website to contribute and rate images on the theme of RELATIONSHIPS. The image that resonated most was this picture taken by Marianna Bucina Roca. It shows treetops reflected in water, the upper and lower reaches of our immediate environment. Marianna writes:

The critical zone. The living, breathing, continually changing area that extends from the top of the trees to the bottom of groundwater. It’s the layer where rock, soil, water, air, and living creatures interact in a complex relationship. These complex interactions regulate the natural habitat and determine the availability of life-sustaining resources, including our food production and water quality. The critical zone sustains nearly all terrestrial life including human life, however ever-increasing negative impacts of human society like land use, pollution, and climate change on the critical zone continue to put this fragile relationship in peril.

If these relationships are in peril, how do we understand what they are? Ancient philosophers had systems of classifying the natural world, and Christian models of nature specified relationships and dependencies, including moral ones: the duty of fidelity to God’s law.

The systematic detailing of the relationships and the birth of modern taxonomy (never to be confused with taxidermy) came with Swedish botanist Carl Linnaeus’s Systema Naturae of 1735. Setting out to classify God’s creation, Linnaeus named over 10,000 separate organisms and organised them along the principles of similarity, for the first time placing humans with other primates.

Over a century later, biologist Ernst Haeckel coined the term ‘ecology’ (‘Ökologie’ in his native German) to describe the emergent science of the complex relationships between individual species of plants and animals, developing ideas of individual habitats and food webs of mutual dependency.

Ecology has moved beyond science. Founded in 1975, the UK’s Ecology Party became today’s Green Party whose commitment to social and economic justice makes clear that the relationship between humans and nature is also political.

The natural conclusion of western ecological thought might well be James Lovelock’s Gaia hypothesis. Lovelock theorised that inorganic systems and living beings form a single self-regulating system that encompasses the entire planet. From this point of view the critical zone itself becomes something more like an individual being.

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Earthrise. Courtesy NASA.

The Gaia theory has obvious antecedents in the religion of earth goddesses, but might also have been influenced by the rapid technological development of the 1960s: Bill Anders’ famous Earthrise photo, taken from the Apollo 8 spacecraft allowed Earth’s inhabitants to see their home for the first time as a single, fragile planet.

Critical to our survival, the critical zone is perhaps in critical danger. All our relationships depend upon it.

Sharing Nature continues until 1 October 2017, and upcoming themes include relationships, dead, green, alone, plastic, health, and consume. A museum of modern nature is at Wellcome Collection until 8 October 2017.

10 reasons to wear sunglasses

Wellcome Collection is 10 years old this summer. We’re celebrating by sharing some of our favourite things from the collections.

We didn’t set out to collect photos of people wearing sunglasses but turns out we have some great examples in the collections, from fashionable scientists to cultural icons sunglasses can reveal (or conceal) more than a sense of style.

1. Something to hide

L0053278 risk of contracting AIDS while on holiday

German AIDS public health poster, 1990s. Image credit: Wellcome Library.

This German AIDS poster implies that there may be more than a pair of pretty eyes lurking behind those sunglasses. In the 19th century smoked or coloured lenses were often worn by people with photosensitivity – a symptom of syphilis. Today celebrities and private detectives use dark glasses as a form of disguise, but the early movie stars wore dark glasses to hide tired eyes strained by the constant glare of arc lights.

2. Military models

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War in Egypt: soldiers wearing the new eye protection and head gear, 1884-85. Image credit: Wellcome Library.

Colonising armies realised the need for eye protection in hot climates early on, but how do you keep your sunglasses on when your trying to quell a native uprising? The military pioneered active wear sunglasses and continued to set trends with the aviator sunglasses first worn by pilots.

3. Making a statement

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Harry Hawksbee and colleague in rehearsal, 1914. Image credit: Wellcome Library.

Seen here in drag is Harry Hawksbee, a music-hall entertainer, rehearsing for a show in a park in Yalding, Kent. Maybe his companion hoped wearing sunglasses would help him stand out next to Hawksbee’s more flamboyant dress?

4. A touch of glamour

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Professor R A Fisher and colleagues on the Queen Mary on the way back from the USA, 1945. Image credit: Glasgow University Archive Services, University of Glasgow / Wellcome Library.

There’s no doubt that Professor Fisher’s companion brings a touch of 1940s film star glamour to this photo of scientists playing shuffleboard on deck.

5. Perennial style

Pontecorvo

Harriet Ephrussi-Taylor with her husband and colleagues at Cold Spring Harbor USA, July 1946. Image credit: Glasgow University Archive Services, University of Glasgow / Wellcome Library.

Fashions may change but sunglasses are eternally stylish, as geneticist, mother, lab manager and all round superwoman Harriet Ephrussi-Taylor demonstrates. The fact that she’s French may also have something to do with her sense of style!

6. Staying cool

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Dr M Singer (centre) at a symposium on nucleic acids in Hyderabad, India, 1964. Image credit: Wellcome Library.

Dr Singer proves that Sixties sunglasses were smart enough to wear to work but still looked cool in the Indian sun.

7. The perfect accessory

Watson

James Watson, Watson, his secretary Maria Hedges, and Ann Maaloe at a Cold Spring Harbour symposium., 1971. Image credit: Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory Archives / Wellcome Library.

What a difference a decade makes! Even in the laid back Seventies, sunglasses were groovy!

8. Holiday essential

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AIDS prevention poster by the AIDS Delegationen, Sweden, ca. 1995. Image credit: Wellcome Library.

Nothing says holidays like a pair of sunglasses! This Swedish AIDS prevention poster reminds expat Swedes not to get too relaxed while abroad.

9. Rock star chic

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AIDS public health poster, published by AIDS Prevention, Denver, 1991. Image credit: Wellcome Library.

Another AIDS poster using an iconic rock star image to represent the risks of the ‘sex-and-drugs-and-rock’n’roll’ lifestyle.

10. Eye protection

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Patient receiving arc light treatment to the face, photograph in Light Therapeutics; a Practical Manual of Phototherapy for the Student and the Practitioner by John Harvey Kellogg, 1910.
Image credit: Wellcome Library.

OK so not technically sunglasses, but the photo of this man wearing protective goggles for phototherapy was irresistible!

[Thanks to Wellcome Collection User Experience team manager Jennifer Phillips Bacher for sharing some of her favourites.]

Would you like a playful path, a relaxed ramble or a deep dive into Wellcome Collection? Visit us this July and August, and choose your own summer

Sharing nature: making connections

As part of our Sharing Nature project, over the past fortnight we asked you to share your photos on the theme EMOTION, and respond to other people’s submissions. You decided Magda Harmon’s contribution was most meaningful.

Trees

“Connectedness. We are nothing without nature. We are nature. Nature is us. Our veins, branches of an ancient oak, the Amazon river – All is One.” The photograph and words Magda Harmon submitted on the theme EMOTION.

For Magda, nature is all about feeling connected. Her photograph looking up into a tree canopy that’s just coming back into leaf illustrates that emotion. Rather than viewing vegetable life as something separate and other to herself, Magda sees interconnections, believing “all is one”.

Magda also notes the patterns the branches create against the creamy grey sky, and draws out the similarities the shapes have with a river, and with veins. She has a point. Looking through Wellcome Collection’s image library, there are parts of human and animal bodies that are rather root-, branch- and river-like, including these:

In an article for The Conversation, Richard Taylor, Director of the Materials Science Institute and Professor of Physics at the University of Oregon, asks us to consider the tree as an example of something that’s ‘fractal’: “First you see the big branches growing out of the trunk. Then you see smaller versions growing out of each big branch. As you keep zooming in, finer and finer branches appear, all the way down to the smallest twigs.” Taylor says these fractals, or repetitive patterns, are one of the key things that makes a work of art or a natural scene visually appealing and stress relieving. So, just looking at Magda’s beautiful, fractal tree photograph, and perhaps feeling some kind of emotional connection with it, could be doing you the world of good.

Sharing Nature continues until 1 October 2017, and upcoming themes include relationships, dead, green, alone, plastic, health, and consume. A museum of modern nature is at Wellcome Collection until 8 October 2017.