Wellcome Collection: A Museum of Modern Nature

“Our summer exhibition shines a light on how each of us connects with nature. We are displaying objects borrowed from members of the public that tell a story about their relationship with nature. Together they create a collective snapshot of how we think about nature in the 21st century and explore how the health of our planet is intricately bound up with the behaviours and values of the people who inhabit it.”

Another blog, another Wellcome Collection temporary exhibition review. I love Wellcome Collection, their interpretation and their collections, so I’m always straight there when a new temporary exhibition opens. And their new one was no different. A Museum of Modern Nature is Wellcome Collection’s newest temporary exhibition, as a second part to the successful and brilliant Making Nature. This time – Wellcome Collection are displaying objects borrowed from members of the public. The donor of the object shares their personal affection for their object, rather than the clinical scientific experience, with Wellcome Collection asking you to “help us create a different kind of nature – one that celebrates our everyday relationship with the world around us.”

Each object has a one minute soundbite, in which the donor describes the object in whatever way they feel is most appropriate, as well as a label that gives their first name and age. As with most Wellcome Collection curation, the description isn’t full of inaccessible scientific jargon. With A Museum of Modern Nature’s interpretation in particular, the donor giving the description of the object themselves adds humanity to the object, adding personal and intimate glimpse into how typical individuals relate to their objects.

Like the exhibitions predecessor, Making Nature: How We See Animals, this exhibition explores why we love nature, why we hold such affection for nature, rather than an academic quest for scientific knowledge. Because of this, Making Nature: How We See Animals really got me thinking about the ways museums interpret their collections when they are catalogued, curated, and consumed by audiences. Perhaps the reason some natural history museums aren’t as loved as they could/should be is because of that inaccessible scientific jargon. This is particularly the case for me and art galleries. This blog rarely features art gallery reviews, and if it does it’s usually talking about the overall theme, rather than individual pieces – the reason is often my own misunderstanding, or sometimes complete lack of understanding, of the labels. There must be a reason people feel intimidated by art galleries, I think that terminology filled labels can be one of, if not the main, reason.

Making Nature: How We See Animals turned this on it’s head. going back to the root human interaction with material culture, remembering that “I like this object because it looks like home” can be just as valid a reason to display it in an exhibition than the scientific or artistic importance. While of course there is an enormous need to collect and preserve objectively important objects, audiences to museums and galleries must also want to feel moved by objects in a subjectively emotional manner, and for me thats where Making Nature: How We See Animals got it so right.

A Museum of Modern Nature, free admission

Wellcome Collection, 183 Euston Road, NW1 2BE

22 June 2017 – 8 October 2017

#SharingNature17

Visitors can also get involved from home with Sharing Nature, Wellcome Collection are currently asking for online submissions, which changed themes every few weeks. All of the submissions appear on the website, then are voted on by the public, the ‘winners’ appear on the digital display in the exhibition itself.

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