Blythe House - Wellcome Collection Archives

As part of my research into amulets I was given the opportunity to visit the Wellcome Collection archives at Blythe House in Kensington. (This is part of the Step Up programme run by Outside In in collaboration with the Wellcome Collection - previously blogged about here). The visit gave me a real insight into how museums work behind the scenes, for example, only 0.4% of Wellcome's collection is on display!

Sketch of the shelves at Blythe House, showing wooden saint statues 

Blythe House itself is an extraordinary setting, it was built in the early 1900s as the head quarters of the Post Office savings bank. It is quite imposing, and it would be easy to get lost among the tiled corridors without a guide. Each type of object has its own room, for example, there was a room dedicated to medicine boxes and another for medieval wooden statues. The rooms are quiet, carefully controlled environments, the temperature kept cool and dark. Each object is painstakingly cataloged.

Sketches of objects in Blythe House
After the session I looked up all the object numbers and discovered that one amulet which wasn't clear what it was, was in fact a badger's nose. It was carried by an old man as protection against mad dogs.

It was a real privilege to go to Blythe House, and experience objects in the archive, away from the curated and interpreted museum setting, in their raw state. It helped me appreciate the object for itself rather than the setting.