Making Nature, Wellcome Collection’s newest major temporary exhibition, opened at the start of this month. Kids in Museums volunteer Chloe Turner visited and like with all of Wellcome Collection’s exhibitions, found it to be perfect for the incurably curious.
Of course, Wellcome Collection consistently works alongside many of the points in the Kids in Museums Manifesto, as does Making Nature. The leaflet describes the exhibition as having ‘over 100 fascinating objects from literature, film, taxidermy and photography.’ Exploring how humans and animals interact, Making Nature looks at our relationship with the natural world.
Although the specific content of Making Nature is ‘grown up’, ethics, psychology, and lots of complicated science and big words, the exhibition is still accessible for younger children. While there isn’t much to touch, there is lots to listen to and watch. A little boy, perhaps aged around three, wearing a jumper with cartoon foxes on, shouted in delight at a little taxidermy fox ‘sleeping’ under one of the display tables. And I’ll admit, I almost did the same. There aren’t any labels, as far as I saw, describing what these were or why they were there, but it certainly brought the curiosity that Wellcome Collection prides itself on.
The exhibition is split up into four spaces, exploring themes of ‘Ordering’, ‘Displaying’, ‘Observing’ and ‘Making.’ In each room, there is something to engage with as you walk around. Each space has at least one cabinet with accompanying headphones to pick up and listen to. The audio is quick, easy to understand, and entertaining. In one of the rooms, a wall is full of bird songs, from the 19th Century, to be heard through the headphones, placed low enough for young children to reach without help. The room ‘Displaying’ can open up the conversation for families of what it is museums do. A series of photographs from Richard Ross, from his photography series, show behind the scenes photographs from Natural History Museums. The photos are funny, enlightening and not even centre stage of the exhibition.
Outside the exhibition, like with any Wellcome Collection temporary exhibition is comfortable seating with access to read free copies of the book to go with the exhibition, called Animal Vegetable Mineral. Again, while the specific content of Making Nature book is ‘grown up’, ethics, psychology, and lots of complicated science and big words, the book is still accessible for younger children. In part written by Tim Dee, a writer and BBC radio producer, the book has lots of colourful images, photographs of animals and drawings of insects. This space would be, like in the Kids in Museums manifesto, a comfy, safe place for children and families to talk about what they thought of the exhibition.
Making Nature is an exciting, engaging exhibition of curiosities, looking at animals, and the way us humans relate with them, completely differently. ‘No matter how you see nature now, you’ll never see it the same way again.’
Making Nature, Wellcome Collection
Open 1st Dec – 21st May 2017, free admission
Photograph: Richard Ross British Museum, Natural History | London, England 1985