Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Ear-shapers and other curiosities

The Wellcome Collection opens its new galleries on the 21st June, with a mixture of permanent displays and other exhibitions.

It's got over 1500 exhibits spanning six centuries, looking at the development of our understanding of the body, wellbeing and human identity.

As it notes on the website, "where else could you find an ancient mummy, Napoleon's toothbrush, Darwin's walking stick, a DNA-sequencing robot and a Marc Quinn sculpture all under one roof?

"From the macabre to the bizarre to the beautiful, you can view objects as disparate as a giant jelly baby and the guillotine blade used to execute Jean-Baptiste Carrier (an extreme Jacobin who reportedly committed atrocities during the French Revolution). "

I'm quite excited about it, as other exhibitions I've seen from that collection (Medicine Man and Dr Death) have been fascinating and quirky. You don't have to be a medic or a scientist, just have an interest in people and being human!

There is quite a bit of death-related stuff, prosthetics and odd things relating to the body- the website has more examples. Also quite a few strange wearable contraptions and garments, such as this ear shaper (above).

"The cloth and string 'Claxton' earcap, patented by Adelaide Claxton and used between 1925-36 to correct "outstanding" ears. Designed to be worn at night, there was no evidence they worked. It was also available in silk and worn by children."

Presumably today you'd would be whisked off for a bit of minor cosmetic surgery, rather than endure your parent's attempts to control your sticking-out ears with corrective garments like this. The advert says it's "comfy", but I wonder whether the person who wrote that caption tried it out first?

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