A Museum of Modern Nature

Kelli Powling’s tattoo of phytoplankton Kelli Powling’s tattoo of phytoplankton Wellcome Collection
22 Jun
2017
The Wellcome Collection continues with its year-long exploration of our human relationship with nature – and this time it’s personal

‘Find an object that tells a story about your connection to nature’ was the brief and for three days in Spring 2017, the Wellcome Collection in central London was brought objects from members of the public, like some curious pagan offering.

At first glance, the most impressive aspect is the variety. It’s not all stick-and-feather collections (though there are some of those). There’s a tattoo, a slice of bread, a garden gnome and even a cat made from cat hair. Some are big, others small, some are physical objects and others are recorded sounds. By seeing what different people have brought, it’s clear that nature is a prism that splits us different ways.

antlerChris Packham holding his deer antler (Image: Wellcome Collection)

Curiously, people’s connections to nature aren’t always natural. While some of the contributions are drawn directly from animals and plants – BBC Springwatch presenter, Chris Packham, has given a deer antler the size of his arm – there are also manufactured items such as a mousetrap, a tank of oxygen and a single synthetic yellow chick – the kind that appear by the trayload in supermarkets around springtime.

chickDavid Cahill Roots and his synthetic chick (Image: Wellcome Collection)

The chick’s contributor, 36-year-old David Cahill Roots, tells a story of visiting a farm and comparing the real-life chicks to the pretend one on his desk. ‘The fake items become the standard by which we hold the real world to account,’ he says. A similar object, a piece of plastic turf that was colonised with real grass after 31-year-old Jenny Battenson laid it down, is more hopeful. ‘Nature will always find a way to get back to its equilibrium,’ she says. Her piece of turf frees nature from the binary of ‘natural’ versus ‘artificial’. The only thing missing from the collection is a TV or documentary boxset. An obvious choice perhaps, but for many people, the natural world shown through artificial technology is a key source of curiosity and inspiration in modern life.

Nonetheless, in being collected and curated by members of the public, A Museum of Modern Nature is reflective and utterly relatable. Walking through the grown up show-and-tell, you might ask yourself ‘what would I have brought to the table?’

A Museum of Modern Nature is on at the Wellcome Collection until 8 October 2017. Entrance is free. Opening hours are 10am to 6pm, with late openings on Thursday (closed on Mondays). Alongside the exhibition, a digital project Sharing Nature is showcasing images and ideas from the public. For more information, visit wellcomecollection.org.

Share this story...

Submit to FacebookSubmit to Google PlusSubmit to Twitter

Geographical Week

Get the best of Geographical delivered straight to your inbox every Friday.

Subscribe Today

EDUCATION PARTNERS

Aberystwyth UniversityUniversity of GreenwichThe University of Winchester

TRAVEL PARTNERS

Ponant

Silversea

Travel the Unknown

DOSSIERS

Like longer reads? Try our in-depth dossiers that provide a comprehensive view of each topic

  • The Air That We Breathe
    Cities the world over are struggling to improve air quality as scandals surrounding diesel car emissions come to light and the huge health costs of po...
    National Clean Air Day
    For National Clean Air Day, Geographical brings together stories about air pollution and the kind of solutions needed to tackle it ...
    Diabetes: The World at Risk
    Diabetes is often thought of as a ‘western’ problem, one linked to the developed world’s overindulgence in fatty foods and chronic lack of physi...
    The Nuclear Power Struggle
    The UK appears to be embracing nuclear, a huge U-turn on government policy from just two years ago. Yet this seems to be going against the grain globa...
    The true cost of meat
    As one of the world’s biggest methane emitters, the meat industry has a lot more to concern itself with than merely dietary issues ...

MORE DOSSIERS

NEVER MISS A STORY - follow Geographical

Want to stay up to date with breaking Geographical stories? Join the thousands following us on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram and stay informed about the world.

More articles in REVIEWS...

Books

by Kiyonori Kanasaka (translated by Nicholas Pertwee) • Renaissance Books…

Books

by Steven Price Brown • Bloomsbury • £16.99 (hardback/eBook)

Books

by Jo Woolf • Sandstone Press • £24.99 (hardback)

Films

An epic journey through the Amazon in a traditional dugout…

Books

by Victor Mallet • Oxford University Press • £20 (hardback/eBook)

Books

Get 30% off the cover price of this in-depth journey…

Exhibitions

Twenty one years, sixteen countries, seven continents... RGS-IBG director, Rita…

Books

by Peter Millar • Arcadia Books • £20 (hardback)

Books

by the National Archives • £25/£21.99 (hardback/eBook)

Books

by Leon McCarron • IB Tauris • £17.99 (hardback)

Books

by Alex de Wall • Polity Books • £16.99 (paperback)

Books

by Jacki Hill-Murphy • Adventuress Publishing • £9.99 (paperback)

Films

An emotional and divisive documentary that explores the trophy hunting…

Books

by Paul Murton • Birlinn • £14.99 (softback)

Books

by Harry Hook • HIP Editions • £54 (hardback)

Books

by James Suzman • Bloomsbury • £18.99 (hardback)

Books

by Thorkild Hansen • New York Review Books • £11.99…