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.
Persons or organisations featured in this material include:
Wellcome Historical Medical Museum and Library
WAHMM/BUPremises and Buildings
WAHMM/CTCJS Thompson Personalia
WAHMM/ICPrints, paintings and drawings (Iconographic Collections)
WAHMM/REReceptions and Events
WAHMM Wellcome Historical Medical Museum and Library
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