A woman dropping her porcelain tea-cup in horror upon discovering the monstrous contents of a magnified drop of Thames water; revealing the impurity of London drinking water. Colored etching by W. Heath, 1828

A woman dropping her porcelain tea-cup in horror upon discovering the monstrous contents of a magnified drop of Thames water; revealing the impurity of London drinking water. Colored etching by W. Heath, 1828. Credit: Wellcome Collection. CC BY 4.0.

The Open Artstor: Wellcome Collection is now available, featuring a selection of more than 100,000 images from the Wellcome Collection that connect science, medicine, technology, life, and art under Creative Commons licenses. This is part of a new, free initiative to aggregate open museum, library, and archive collections across disciplines on the Artstor platform — already a destination for scholars using visual media.

Mount Vesuvius erupting violently at night over the bay of Naples, with two spectators and a guard on watch from the castle in the foreground
Mount Vesuvius erupting violently at night over the bay of Naples, with two spectators and a guard on watch from the castle in the foreground. Gouache painting. Credit: Wellcome Collection. CC BY 4.0.
Vitrifications and other volcanic productions. Coloured etching by Pietro Fabris, 1776
Vitrifications and other volcanic productions. Coloured etching by Pietro Fabris, 1776. Credit: Wellcome Collection. CC BY 4.0.

The Wellcome Collection is characterized as “life, death and everything in between.” The Artstor selection fulfills that promise; across matter — human, animal, plant and mineral; across the ages; throughout the world; and encompassing natural phenomena as well as the history of industry and technology, from the molecular to the monumental. An extended perspective on the environment and geological history is provided by images like the etching captioned “Monster Soup/Thames Water,” 1828, and an 18th-century gouache of Mt. Vesuvius erupting. A closer view of volcanic matter may be gleaned from works like Vitrifications,1776, a colored etching by Pietro Fabris and William Hamilton. Evolving imaging techniques heighten magnification and concentrate the view in plant studies such as the centric diatom (algae) rendered by electron microscopy and the cyanotype of a Turkey Oak by contemporary artist Ansel Oommen. The plant world is also recorded in more traditional works — a glorious ad for gloxinia, c. 1890, and a meticulous photograph of echinacea, one of a series by Dr. Henry Oakeley, specialist in medicinal plants.

Centric diatom. Kevin Mackenzie, University of Aberdeen.
Centric diatom. Credit: Kevin Mackenzie, University of Aberdeen. CC BY 4.0.
Leaf, Turkey Oak (Quercus cerris) by Ansel Oommen
Leaf, Turkey Oak (Quercus cerris). Credit: Ansel Oommen. CC BY 4.0.
Mixed flowers, all cultivars of the florist's gloxinia (Sinningia speciosa)
Mixed flowers, all cultivars of the florist's gloxinia (Sinningia speciosa). Chromolithograph, c. 1890. Credit: Wellcome Collection. CC BY 4.0.
Echinacea purpurea (L.) Moench Asteraceae. Coneflower
Echinacea purpurea (L.) Moench Asteraceae. Coneflower. Photographed in the Medicinal Garden of the Royal College of Physicians, London. Credit: Dr Henry Oakeley. CC BY 4.0.

Wellcome’s emphasis on health is reflected in the abundance of medical imagery (both human and animal). Representations of the heart demonstrate a range from Vesalian observation, as shown in the engraving, 1701-1726, by the Dutch surgeon Frederick Ruysch and the dynamic potential seen in Heartstrings that records cardiac fibers revealed by MRI technology developed by Dr. Patrick Hales. The human figure proliferates in all its complexity in renderings and models from the time of the ancients through today. A sampling provides a print of an enervated skeleton from the anatomical book of Etienne de la Rivière, 1545, a bronze 18th-century figure in the tradition of the European academy, and a Japanese acupuncture model used for teaching the healing art. We invite you to make your own discoveries from this wondrous resource.

F. Ruysch, Human heart
F. Ruysch, Human heart. Thesaurus anatomicus primus. Credit: Wellcome Collection. CC BY 4.0.
Heartstrings. Credit: University of Oxford, Dr P.Hales/BBSRC
Heartstrings. Credit: University of Oxford, Dr P.Hales/BBSRC. CC BY 4.0.
Human skeleton showing anterior nerves.
Human skeleton showing anterior nerves. Credit: Wellcome Collection. CC BY 4.0.
Bronze anatomical figure, Europe, 1701-1800
Bronze anatomical figure, Europe, 1701-1800. Credit: Science Museum, London. CC BY 4.0.
Japanese papier-mâché acupuncture figure
Papier-mâché acupuncture figure, Japanese. Full view, black background. Credit: Science Museum, London. CC BY 4.0.

Wellcome was established in London by the Wellcome Trust, endowed by pharmacist, entrepreneur, philanthropist, and collector Sir Henry Solomon Wellcome (1853-1936). Today, it funds health research on a broad scale epitomized by its onslaught on disease and epidemics.

– Nancy Minty, Collections editor