Wellcome Historical Medical Museum

Reference code(s): GB 0120 WA/HMM
Held at: Wellcome Library
Domain: archival
Title: Wellcome Historical Medical Museum
Date(s) of contents: 1874-c.1984
Level of description: Collection
Extent and medium: 513 boxes


Name of creator(s):

Administrative/Biographical history: Outline history of the Wellcome Historical Medical Museum and its successor body, the Wellcome Institute for the History of Medicine, up to 1992:
1897 CJS Thompson began to collect books and manuscripts for Henry Wellcome's library
1898 CJST became an employee of BW&Co
1903-4 Historical Medical Exhibition planned
1911 Historical Medical Museum established at 54a Wigmore Street
Jun-Oct Museum open to coincide with the 17th International Congress of Medicine
1914 Museum re-opened as the WHMM
Administratively affiliated to the WBSR; practically still linked to BW&Co
1924 Wellcome Foundation Ltd established
1925 Malcolm appointed as Conservator
1926 October: Museum re-opened after refurbishment
1927 Willesden Store acquired
1931 183 Euston Road opened as the Wellcome Research Institution
1932 Museum moved to the new building; remained closed
1934 Johnston-Saint became Conservator
1936 HSW died
1941 Daukes appointed as Director
1946 Company took over the WRI as its headquarters; Trustees agreed to accept temporary financial responsibility for the Museum
1947 Moved to 28 Portman Square
1954 Returned to 183 Euston Road
1960 Ownership of the historical collections transferred from the Company to the Trustees; administration still carried on by the Company
1966 Trust established a Sub-department of the History of Medicine in the Department of Anatomy, UCL
1968 Name of Wellcome Institute of (later for) the History of Medicine replaced the WHMM and Library
1973 Decision to transfer the Museum collections and for the Institute to concentrate on academic and scholarly research
1976 Transfer of the Museum collections began
Scheme of association between the Institute and UCL and building up of the Academic Unit
1981 PO Williams became Director of the Institute
1982 Staffs of the Trust and the Institute administratively integrated
1986 Public Flotation of TWFL; transfer of ownership of the Wellcome Building from the Company to the Trust
1989 Company moved out of 183 Euston Road
1992 Wellcome Trust and Institute moved back to 183 Euston Road after refurbishment
A comprehensive examination of Wellcome’s vision is given in Ghislaine M Skinner, ‘Sir Henry Wellcome’s museum for the science of history’, Medical History, vol 30, no 4, Oct 1986. For a history of the WHMM development and dispersal see John Symons, 'Wellcome Institute for the History of Medicine. A Short History', The Wellcome Trust, 1993. A useful summary of the accession and transfer of objects is Georgina Russell et al 'The Wellcome Non-medical Material', in 'Museums Journal', vol 86, Supplement 1986. See also AR Hall and BA Bembridge, 'Physic and Philanthropy. A History of the Wellcome Trust 1936-1986', CUP, 1986; R Rhodes James, 'Henry Wellcome', Hodder & Stoughton, 1994.

Custodial history: The archive of the Wellcome Historical Medical Museum is a large and complex body of records. Although the archive appears to have survived in a fairly complete form, it has suffered from periodic and partial rearrangement schemes, which have obscured original archival order by removing some materials from their context or by creating new sequences.
The arrangement that follows in this catalogue attempts to reflect the original order where it remained, but it also retains some of the later, rearranged schemes. These later schemes are most evident in the chronological correspondence sequences [WA/HMM/CO/Chr and Alp], where a new filing scheme was imposed in the 1960s on earlier sequences dating from 1922-1952.
At the time of cataloguing, materials which had been removed from their original archival context were replaced in this context wherever possible. However, in some cases this context was not identifiable, so a few artificial series were created to pull together materials of a similar apparent provenance or function.

Immediate source of acquisition: WHMM


Scope and content/abstract: The archive provides a reasonably comprehensive record of the WHMM from its genesis in 1903, through its active period until its final dispersal in 1985. The archive also contains records for the Library up to 1960, the date at which it no longer reported to the WHMM, but as an independent unit. Post-1960 records of the Library, and of the Wellcome Institute for the History of Medicine from 1968, are awaiting cataloguing and may be available to readers on request to the Archivist.
It appears that Wellcome never formalised in a written form his vision of what the WHMM should be or how it should develop. His statement in 1928 to the Royal Commission on National Museums and Galleries, provides the clearest written expression [see WA/HSW/OR/L]. Further information may be gleaned throughout the archive; for example an explanation of the concepts of arrangement of the WHMM hall of primitive medicine is in file WA/HMM/CO/Alp/6, guides and handbooks contain introductory statements Wellcome [see WA/HMM/PB/Han]. However, it appears that rather than having a pre-determined plan, the WHMM grew out of Wellcome’s wide-ranging enthusiasms, and its development was partly shaped by the interests and specific expertise of key staff members at different periods. The archive thus contains material relating to all aspects of the WHMM collections and interests: not only the history of medicine, but also anthropology, archaeology, art and folklore are some of the other major areas of concern.
The reports [WA/HMM/RP] provide a summary of the major developments in WHMM policy and activity and are a useful starting point for wide-ranging queries. Many of the reports to Henry Wellcome are annotated in his hand, giving a vivid insight into the extent of his involvement with the policy and the routine management of the WHMM.
The largest group of records within the WHMM archive is the correspondence [WA/HMM/CO], falling into a number of interlocking and overlapping series which together deal with all aspects of the WHMM's work and organisation including the accession of objects, visitor and researcher access, and internal administration. In some cases the correspondence series contain material filed at other periods in specific series: for example re exhibitions [also in WA/HMM/EX]. Cross references have been given in the list where appropriate.
Accession records [WA/HMM/CM] and transfer records [WA/HMM/TR] are not catalogued here to object level, as the size of the WHMM collections has made this an impossible task. For guidance on how to locate the records relating to a specific object or collection, see the leaflet ‘Museum objects: accession and transfer records’. The accession and dispersal records for the period before 1936, and for the dispersal of objects before the 1960s, are less comprehensive and systematic than later records. For example, provenance information for the early period is rarely detailed or illuminating, perhaps reflecting contemporary museum practice. However, the early records are supplemented by files collated by WHMM staff in the 1970s and 1980s.
The final core group of records are the staff files [WA/HMM/ST] which give an indication of the development of a professional and specialised personnel. These files are subject to restricted access, at the Archivist’s discretion, as they contain personal information.
Photographs of the WHMM premises, exhibitions and objects may be found in WA/PHO/Hmm.
This archive contains material relating to Wellcome’s personal life, especially in Saint’s correspondence series [WA/HMM/CO/Sai], which includes papers relating to the arrangement of Wellcome’s funeral. Conversely, Wellcome’s personal papers [WA/HSW] contain materials relating to the work of the WHMM: including photographs and correspondence with learned societies. Cross references are given in the list where known.

System of arrangement: OUTLINE LIST
RP/Hmm General WHMM Reports
RP/Dea Dean reports
RP/Mal 'Wellcome & Malcolm'
RP/Tho 'Thompson Reports'
RP/Jst 'Johnston-Saint Reports'
RP/Jst/A. Ms travel diaries
RP/Jst/B. Ts reports and correspondence
RP/Sta 'Staff Reports'
RP/Lac Lacaille reports
RP/Kem Kemp reports
CO/Hme Historical Medical Exhibition 1903-1913
CO/Ear 'Early correspondence' 1904-1921
CO/Abc Alphabetical series A-C 1921-1952
CO/Chr Chronological series D-Z 1922-1963
CO/Chr/A. 1922-1924
CO/Chr/B. 1925
CO/Chr/C. 1926
CO/Chr/D. 1927
CO/Chr/E. 1928
CO/Chr/F. 1929
CO/Chr/G. 1930
CO/Chr/H. 1931
CO/Chr/J. 1932-1952
CO/Chr/K [A-Z] 1953-1963
CO/Sub Subject sequence 1931-1954
CO/Wel Wellcome bodies 1922-1952
CO/Wel/A WBSR 1922-1932
CO/Wel/B Dean and Malcolm memoranda 1929-1931
CO/Wel/C Dean and Underwood memoranda 1932-1952
CO/Wel/D Wellcome Foundation Limited 1935-1939
CO/Wel/E Other files 1927-1944
CO/Sai Saint correspondence 1921-1940
CO/Sai/A General correspondence 1921-1940
CO/Sai/B ‘Saint, private’ 1933-1945
CO/Sai/C ‘Heugshem’ 1933-1946
CO/Sai/D French Scientists 1933-1945
CO/Sai/E Belgian correspondence 1934-1940
CO/Sai/F Exposition Internationel, Paris 1937
CO/Sai/G Xth International Congress for the History of Medicine, Madrid 1935
CO/Eau Underwood correspondence 1946-1964
CO/Lac Lacaille correspondence 1932-1959
CO/Lac/A Caldey Island 1949-1959
CO/Lac/B Miscelleanous 1932-1941
CM/Cla Classification and registration scheme
CM/Not Notebooks 1921-1936
CM/Acc Accessions Registers, main series 1913-1980
CM/Reg Registers, supplementary series
CM/Reg/A British Museum [ethnographical materials]
CM/Reg/B ‘C’ register 1899-1902
CM/Reg/C Goods received 1913-1917
CM/Reg/D Loans register 1912-1961
CM/Reg/E Presentations 1913-1945
CM/Reg/F Stone implements 1919-1920
CM/Reg/G Burroughs Wellcome & Co 1969-1977
CM/Reg/H Loans by HMM 1969-1979
CM/Reg/J Objects transferred from store
CM/Reg/K Chinese exhibits 1939-1940
CM/Inv Flimsy Inventory Cards
CM/Inv/A Main sequence
CM/Inv/B First Subject Sequence
CM/Inv/C Second Subject Sequence
CM/Env Envoice books 1936-1959
CM/Lis Lists and inventories 1911-1941
CM/Col Collection Dossiers
CM/Pam Paira Mall 1897-1921
CM/Pam/A Diaries
CM/Pam/B Registers
CM/Pam/C Notebooks
CM/Pam/D Correspondence
CM/Dan EM Dance [Classical Medicine Gallery]1940-1946
FI/Hme Objects purchased for HME 1904-1910
FI/Pur [Special] Purchase Books 1907-1947
FI/Cas Cash Books 1913-1933
FI/Pri Private Purchase Books 1921-1935
FI/Led Ledgers
FI/Pet Petty cash books 1913-1933
FI/Ban Bankbooks 1906-1927
TR/Inv Inventory cards
TR/Inv/A 1936-1977
TR/Inv/A.1 Birmingham - ethnography
TR/Inv/A.2 Burroughs Wellcome
TR/Inv/A.3 Museum of Mankind
TR/Inv/A.4 Merseyside
TR/Inv/A.5 UCL
TR/Inv/A.7 Egyptology
TR/Inv/A.8 Miscellaneous
TR/Inv/B 1978-1983
TR/Inv/B.1 'B' Material
TR/Inv/B.2 'C' Material
TR/Pre Pre-War dispersal 1936-1946
TR/Pre/A. Files
TR/Pre/B. Item lists
TR/Pre/C. Auction catalogues
TR/Eth'Surplus ethnographic material' 1946-1953
TR/Eth/A. 'The Ten Distributions'
TR/Eth/B. 'Residue'
TR/Dis ‘Disposals’ 1964-1971
TR/Ret 'Retrospective' files
TR/Ret/A. Card Index
TR/Ret/B. British receiving institutions
TR/Ret/C. Receiving institutions abroad
TR/Abc 1978-1983 Disposal
TR/Abc/G. General policy and administration files
TR/Abc/A. 'A' Material
Abc/A.1 Registers
Abc/A.2 Other
TR/Abc/B. 'B' Material
TR/Abc/B.1 'The Wellcome Museum Inventory List "B"'
TR/Abc/B.2 'Typed transfer lists'
TR/Abc/B.3 Files
TR/Abc/C. 'C' Material
TR/Abc/C.1 Gift registers
TR/Abc/C.2 Gift agreements
TR/Abc/C.3 Files [of Eric Freeman]
TR/Abc/C.4 Files [of Richard de Peyer]
TR/Abc/C.5 'Recipients' references
EX/A Joseph Lister 1927
EX/B Henry Hill Hickman
EX/B Cinchonna Tercentennary 1930
EX/D A Century of Progress, Chicago 1933
EX/E Paris International Exhibition 1937
EX/F Minor exhibitions 1947-1962
RE/A Opening ceremony 1913
RE/B Reopening ceremony 1926
RE/C Cornerstone ceremony 1931
RE/D Other receptions 1922-1932
VI/A HMM/HME 1913-1957
VI/B Library 1950-1964
LI/Bks Booksellers correspondence 1905-1922
LI/Cla Classificaton scheme 1913-1932
LI/Rep Reports and classifications
LI/Pur Purchase lists 1928-1932
LI/Odd Other materials 1946-1959
PB/Han Handbooks and guides 1903-1965
PB/Res Research Studies in Medical History
PB/Res/A. Published volumes
PB/Res/B. Drafts and correspondence
PB/Sta Staff Reprints
PB/Sta/A. Thompson
PB/Sta/B. Lacaille
PB/Sam Printing samples
ST/Ear Early series 1904-1923
ST/Ear/A. Alphabetical series
ST/Ear/B. General
ST/Lat Later series 1909-1961
ST/Ear/A. Alphabetical series
ST/Lat/B. Generaol
CT/A Papers and correspondence
CT/B Notes and unpublished writings
CT/C Publications


Language: English

Conditions governing access: The papers are available subject to the usual conditions of access to Archives and Manuscripts material, after the completion of a Reader's Undertaking.

Conditions governing reproduction: Photocopies/photographs/microfilm are supplied for private research only at the Archivist's discretion. Please note that material may be unsuitable for copying on conservation grounds, and that photographs cannot be photocopied in any circumstances. Readers are restricted to 100 photocopies in twelve months. Researchers who wish to publish material must seek copyright permission from the copyright owner.

Finding aids:


Related material: In the Wellcome Library:
>From the 1930s to the 1970s, some materials were removed from this archive to be held by the Western Manuscripts Department of the Library (now part of the unified Archives and Manuscripts department), where they are listed in the main manuscripts series (they all carry numbers between MS.8000 and MS.9000, but do not comprise every manuscript item in this range). At the time of cataloguing the WHMM archive, some material was returned from the Western Manuscripts series, but much remains, chiefly to do with research activities of staff. Cross references are given where appropriate in the catalogue.
Correspondence files relating to the work of the artist Langdon Kihn are held by the Iconographic Department, and it may be that other current Library departments hold further files relating to the books, manuscripts or iconographic materials in their care.
The personal papers of Sir Henry Wellcome are held as WA/HSW and also include material on the Museum.


BMA British Medical Association
BMJ British Medical Journal
CJST CJS Thompson
HSW Henry Solomon Wellcome
PJJ-S PJ Johnston-Saint
RSM Royal Society of Medicine
[W]BSR Wellcome Bureau of Scientific Research
[W]CRL Wellcome Chemical Research Laboratories
[W]EFL Wellcome Entomological Field Laboratory
[W]HMM Wellcome Historical Medical Museum
WLTM Wellcome Laboratory of Tropical Medicine
[W]MMS Wellcome Museum of Medical Science
[W]MTMH Wellcome Museum of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene
[W]PRL Wellcome Physiological Research Laboratories
WRI Wellcome Research Institution
[W]TRL Wellcome Tropical Research Laboratory.

Date(s) of descriptions: http://www.wellcome.ac.uk/en/library/homlib/HOMlibACCreg.html


Personal names

Corporate names
Wellcome Historical Medical Museum