I went to the Wellcome Trust Museum today and saw the skeleton exhibit. It's fascinating-- I know all that aging/sexing/disease/occupation analysis, even if I'm not hugely skilled at it, but it was still fascinating to look at a cross section of Londoners through the last thousand years and think about their diseases and injuries and causes of death. And instead of putting up big reconstructions of what their burial places looked like when they died, they put up big photos of what they look like right now. And much of the archaeology was done decades ago, so they're all built over, except for the churchyard. There was a Pizza Hut and a Tube station, and several completely unremarkable sidewalks and random buildings. It really emphasized the time depth involved, and the way things we think of as being permanent are actually very temporary.

I once went to a talk about the attempt to design warning signs for radioactive waste dumps--the dumps will be dangerous for ten thousand years or so, and so the warnings have to be non-verbal and indestructible. But they had to admit early on that nothing they made would last much more than a thousand years under the best of circumstances, and that no non-verbal signal would be construed as a warning by every possible culture, which sort of made the project pointless. The designs were entertaining though!

The rest of the Museum is a lot of fun too, actually- Wellcome had a massive collection of medicine-related stuff, from Momento Mori to torture chairs to childbirth forceps to health amulets to portraits of famous doctors, and it's displayed partly like an old fashioned curio cabinet and partly like a modern museum-- the labels are in drawers or behind doors, so you can look at them or not as you choose. There is also an exhibit of medically inspired art that was a lot of fun. Definitely worth a visit on any trip to London. And my boyfriend informs me that the Wellcome Trust has made more than a 15% annual return for more than a decade, so the museum won't be going under soon!


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