The Wellcome Collection is based at 183 Euston Road, London, NW1 2BE. It’s probably not correct to call it a museum, I don’t think it’s big enough for that, but there is always something going on there, and it has the most amazing library. It’s always worth a visit if you are close by.
There is currently an exhibition on, until 21 June, called “Forensics, The Anatomy of Crime.” I visited today with Bro and Ali. (Message to the two Paul’s – happy to visit again with you, if we can fit in a suitable date.)
The website describes the exhibition as:
‘Forensics: the anatomy of crime’ explores the history, science and art of forensic medicine. It travels from crime scene to courtroom, across centuries and continents, exploring the specialisms of those involved in the delicate processes of collecting, analysing and presenting medical evidence. It draws out the stories of victims, suspects and investigators of violent crimes, and our enduring cultural fascination with death and detection.’
The exhibition starts with ‘The Crime Scene.’ It shows how mock ups of crime scenes are used to train detectives how to investigate crimes, and has various photographs and artefacts of crime scenes. Naturally, there are exhibits relating to Jack the Ripper, amongst others.
Next is ‘The Morgue.’ This has a video recording of a mortician – there is another name but I can’t remember what it is – who assists the pathologist. In fact, the mortician informed us that she does a lot of the jobs that we see the pathologist doing on NCIS or CSI or whatever. This section contains other exhibits as well, all related to death and pathology. One of the things I found really interesting was that the NHS monitors the way people die in the UK so that identify where NHS resources need to be focussed. Makes sense, I’d just never realised that before.
The third section is “The Laboratory.” The first true police crime laboratory was founded by Edmond Locard in Lyon, France in 1910. It was Locard who established the principle, “Every contact leaves a trace.” There are recorded interviews of some eminent forensic scientists, which are really interesting to listen to.
Fourth is “The Search” which gives details of how some crimes were reconstructed, starting with the disappearance of Isabella Ruxton and Mary Rogerson in 1935. It was fascinating how, when the remains were found, the identification process was carried out. The murderer had removed all identifying features such as teeth, so existing photographs were superimposed on x-rays of the remains, indicating that they were one and the same. More recent cases included identification of bodies from the war in Bosnia and political prisoners in Chile. In Chile, people were searching for the remains of their loved ones for years. What I found most upsetting was a woman who had found her brother’s foot and she took it home with her, whilst it was still in the sock and shoe, and she cuddled it all night. I can’t begin to imagine how I’d feel or behave in those circumstances.
The final section in the exhibition is called “The Courtroom.” It does what it says on the tin; and included excerpts from various TV series or films which related to court scenes. I didn’t know that our modern system is based on the ancient Roman system. Reference was made in here to Dr Crippen and his conviction for the murder of his wife. What I hadn’t realised until I went to the exhibition was that there are doubts about whether Crippen actually did murder his wife. In fact, evidence found in 2007 proves that remains found beneath Crippen’s house were not those of his wife. It wouldn’t be the first time that there was a miscarriage of justice, would it? Ali told me as we were going around the exhibition that the third most common reason for someone being wrongly convicted is police incompetence. I don’t know whether that is the case with Dr Crippen but it is sad that someone was hanged for something they didn’t do.
To lighten the mood a bit, after we’d finished in the exhibition, we went for lunch in the restaurant on the second floor, known as the Wellcome Kitchen. I may have said before that I don’t eat wheat or gluten, and I have other food allergies, so we always have to check before we go anywhere that I will be ok. Nor do I eat red meat, which makes me a bit fussy, I suppose. What I liked was that when I asked for the bread to be removed from my chosen meal, there was absolutely no drama. (Believe me, some places do make a fuss about it, although probably fewer nowadays.)
The Wellcome Kitchen offered a two course meal for £12 and a three course meal for £17. Ali only wanted a main course; I opted for two and Bro went for three. Bro had soup to start – Broccoli and Feta cheese; I had a smoked duck salad. The soup was better when stirred, my salad was lovely.
Main courses: Ali had fish finger sandwiches with chips. “Sandwiches” is a slight misnomer; the fish fingers were in ciabatta. The tartar sauce was home made. Bro had a chicken burger with chips – the “burger” was a fillet of chicken. Me – I had halloumi with hummus, salad and chips. (Yes, we were all pigging out on chips today.) I was pretty impressed with the meal, with a bottle of wine; the total was about £60. Maybe a bit expensive for lunch, but I don’t normally have wine and a two course meal for lunch. I thought that was ok.
We all needed to get a few more steps in so we walked down to Kings Cross and popped into the Renaissance St Pancras on the way. The Renaissance was previously the Midland Grand Hotel (when it closed in 1935, it was used as railway offices). It re-opened as a hotel in 2011. One of the people working there advised us to go to see the red staircase, so we did.
Then we popped into St Pancras to have a chat to Sir John Betjeman.
© Susan Shirley