About our collections

Our collections challenge the way we all think and feel about health, by exploring the connections between science, medicine, life and art. We endeavour to maximise the reach and impact of our collections amongst current and new audiences. We also want our collections to support great ideas about health, not just today, but into the future, by documenting current activity and preserving historical material.

Our collections include:

Visual and material culture

This includes Sir Henry Wellcome’s Museum Collection, a closed collection of mainly three-dimensional objects. The most significant part of this collection, comprising over 117,000 historic items relating to medical history and the history of science more generally, has been on long-term loan to the Science Museum since 1976. Other smaller elements of the collection, including a group of Egyptian stelai and a collection of classical statuary, are on long-term loan at other institutions.

It also includes an estimated 250,000 prints, paintings, drawings and photographs, and a small number of other artistic objects, dating from the 14th Century to the present day, which are directly managed by Wellcome Collection.

Printed and published rare materials

These include our significant holdings of rare and early printed books, ephemera and pamphlets. In addition to around 70,000 monographs (including over 600 pre-1501 books, and over 5,000 16th Century books), the collection includes more than 900 pamphlets and 700 items of ephemera.

Archives and manuscripts

These include unpublished material, drafts, notes, letters and photographs in both analogue and born-digital formats, including over 3,000 moving image and sound recordings. There are over 800 collections of personal papers, organisational archives, image and audio-visual collections and around 21,000 manuscripts in over 50 different languages, dating from antiquity to the present day. In addition to material collected from outside Wellcome, we hold the corporate archives of Wellcome Trust, Wellcome Foundation Ltd., and other predecessor and related organisations and associated individuals.

Printed and published reference collection

This includes approximately 15,000 journal titles, 300,000 books, pamphlets and items of ephemera and 5,000 moving image and sound recordings. It is exceptionally strong in secondary sources for the history of medicine and also covers the wider medical humanities and social sciences. Another focus area is primary medical and scientific literature, including medical monographs and textbooks, pharmacopoeias and anatomical atlases, clinical and scientific journals, annual reports and grey literature.