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The Phantom Museum and Henry Wellcome's Collection of Medical Mysteries
edited by Hildi Hawkins and Danielle Olsen

Profile Books, London, 2003, 224 pages
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An anthology of stories, true and imagined, inspired by objects from Henry Wellcome's collection, one of the twentieth century's least known and most mysterious museum collections.

In the vaults of a West London storeroom, thousands of objects - once part of Henry Wellcome's extraordinary medical collection - lie quietly guarding their secrets. Contributors to this book have visited the store, walked its long, cool corridors, encountered shelf upon shelf of things and selected a few to interrogate. The results are electrifying.

A. S. Byatt conjures up the Eli Pettifer collection, tucked away in the basement of a hospital, the setting for entanglement, professional and personal, between a doctor, Damian, and a young artist, Daisy. Hari Kunzru gives voice to the past lives of human remains - a shrunken head, a phrenological skull, a fragment of tattooed skin - and, with his photographs, reveals their present surroundings.

Gaby Wood investigates the 'facts' of the poignant world of artificial limbs and their owners. Helen Cleary juxtaposes Roman Britain with contemporary London in two stories which revolve around a particularly expressive fragment of a votive offering.

Peter Blegvad unleashes his obsession with 'matters lactic', taking us on a graphic tour of an imaginary milk exhibition and, finally, Tobias Hill takes on the persona of Peter Johnston Johnston-Saint, one of Wellcome's most faithful agents, on a journey in whichas he acquires the most intriguing object of all - one that seems to be alive....


The contributors:

Peter Blegvad is an artist, writer and performer. His comic strip, The Book of Leviathan, was nominated for an Eisner Award in 2002. His 'Eartoon', Static in the Attic, was nominated for a Sony Award in 2003.

A. S. Byatt is the author of several novels, books of short stories and criticism. Her works have been translated into at least 28 languages. Her next book will be The Little Black Book of Stories, published in November 2003.

Helen Cleary lived in Singapore, Wales and East Anglia before moving to London. She is working on her second novel and writes non-fiction for the BBC History website.

Tobias Hill is the author of three award-winning collections of poetry, along with his hugely acclaimed previous two novels, Underground and The Love of Stones. Skin, his debut collection of short stories, won the 1998 Pen/Macmillan Award for Fiction.

Hari Kunzru lives in London. His novel The Impressionist won the Betty Trask Prize and was shortlisted for the Whitbread First Novel prize, the Guardian fiction prize and the LA Times first book award.

Gaby Wood is the author of Living Dolls: A Magical History of the Quest for Mechanical Life and The Smallest of All Persons Mentioned in the Records of Littleness. She is a staff feature writer on the Observer.

The editors:

Hildi Hawkins is the co-editor of things a journal of new writing about objects, their pasts, presents and futures.

Danielle Olsen is co-curator of the exhibition 'Medicine Man: The Forgotten Museum of Henry Wellcome'.

Cover design: Rose Design

Read the Introduction