West Sussex History of Medicine Society
The next series of lectures starts again on:
Saturday 10th October 2020
The final lecture on Saturday 7th December was:
1.”Curiosities and Cures: The Medical Collection at the Science Museum” Natasha McEnroe MA
A journey through medicine: the new galleries at the Science Museum with Natasha McEnroe
The Wellcome Galleries are set to transform the first floor of the Science Museum with exciting immersive displays that capture the personal stories of patients and practitioners and aim to inspire a new generation of medics and scientists
Written by Joanna Moorhead
The Wellcome Galleries will captivate young people with immersive experiences.
The world needs the scientists of tomorrow like it’s never needed them before: but what inspires young people to make science their academic pathway, and eventual career? For many, it’s a personal experience: something connects them to a human story that pivots on science. What might have seemed a dry subject comes alive, and speaks to their heart and spirit.
That ambition is central to Medicine: The Wellcome Galleries at the Science Museum in London which, when it opens on 16 November will become the biggest exhibition space of its kind in the world. The 3,000 sq metres (32,300 sq ft) of galleries will be the most significant development in the museum’s 162-year history, and will entirely transform its first floor.
The new section will comprise five main galleries and two immersive experiences, which will be grounded in historic collections and will speak to the medical challenges of today and tomorrow; but, says curator Natasha McEnroe, keeper of medicine at the museum, the most important element isn’t to do with objects or displays, it’s the voices of those – patients and practitioners – who have first-hand experience of being on the receiving end or the dispensing end of healthcare.
“We’re all interested in our own health and in the health of our loved ones,” says McEnroe. “It’s something that unites human beings wherever they are in history or wherever they are on the planet. And learning from personal stories gives us a different dimension, a different perspective.”
Medicine: The Wellcome Galleries will bring to life objects from the Science Museum – such as these artificial eyes – as well as from the collection of the pharmaceutical entrepreneur Henry Wellcome
The personal stories, she says, are woven into the galleries in a range of different ways: individual patients and practitioners have helped devise the displays, and their stories are also dotted around the galleries in audio and visual presentations.
The new galleries draw on two collections – the Science Museum Group’s own, and the collection of the pharmaceutical entrepreneur Henry Wellcome (1853-1936) – which together number more than 150,000 objects, of which over 3,000 will be on permanent display.
The Wellcome Trust is one of the main funders behind the new galleries, as is GSK. Hal Barron, chief scientific officer and president of research and development, GSK, says: “The new Medicine Galleries are a testament to the innovation we have seen in science and medicine over the last few centuries. I hope they will provide a source of profound inspiration to the next generation of scientists who will drive innovation in the years to come.”
GSK’s Stem education manager, Hannah Huxford, says the organisation’s commitment to inspire the next generation of scientists overlapped perfectly with the aims of the new galleries.
“Our partnership with the Science Museum goes back 25 years,” she says. “As organisations, we are both committed to inspiring the next generation of scientists and engineers. We hope they’ll grow up to be innovators and may even go on to solve some of the health challenges of the future. The museum has millions of visitors every year, many of them young people, and we hope they’ll be inspired by learning about the journey medicine has made to this point in history, and the ways it is changing for the future.”
GSK’s support of Medicine: The Wellcome Galleries dovetails with its work on other fronts to support youngsters in their science learning, according to Dr Rhiannon Lowe who is a scientific investigator for the company. She’s part of the Stem education team at GSK, and she supports more than 100 employees who work as science ambassadors, visiting schools and science and careers fairs to enthuse young people about studying and working in science.
Going into schools and talking to students in a range of settings means she can show the links between the curriculum and real life. “I can use what I’m working on in the lab to help young people see the links between what they’re learning about and treatments,” she says. “For example, gene and cell therapy are now on the biology A-level curriculum, so there’s a direct connection between what they’re learning about and what we’re doing.”
In addition, approximately 200 youngsters – both GCSE and A-level students – are offered work-experience placements. “We have a programme called ‘molecule to market’ that takes them through the pathway that sees scientific developments becoming drugs and treatments,” says Lowe. “Young people learn about the whole gamut of drug development, from safety to testing to marketing. They’re seeing the application of science in the real world, and that’s very important.”
Being in a scientific workplace expands their horizons and gives them new insights. “Until this point they’ve seen things like electron microscopes only in textbooks – but on their work experience they see the real thing in use, and they can even try them out.” Teachers, too, are given the chance to immerse themselves in the GSK world. “We have links with 35 schools across the country, each of which has between five and seven teachers engaged in our professional development scheme,” says Lowe. “We also produce materials for the classroom, tracing how treatments for asthma and malaria, for example, have developed.”
GSK also supports major Stem competitions such as the GSK UK Young Scientist and Young Engineer of the Year and these, says Lowe, show the potential for innovation even among relatively young children. “In a competition about combating malaria,” she says, “one of the winners was a 13-year-old who extracted some plant material and made it into a candle that acted as a mosquito repellent. And that really brought home that scientific breakthroughs don’t always happen in the laboratory.” As many more youngsters will learn, with the opening of the new medicine galleries.
This article was amended on 19 November 2019 to add a quote from Hal Barron