Press release

Public invited to contribute 'Things' to Sir Henry Wellcome's curious collection

Wellcome Collection is calling on the public to loan or donate objects and become co-creators of its new temporary exhibition, ‘Things’.

Members of the public are invited to deposit an object they own in a bring-a-thing-athon between 12 and 19 October. The object can be any single thing they own, be it special or boring, rare or common. The only stipulation is that it must be no bigger than their head.*

A reflection on the nature of compulsive acquisitiveness and an opportunity to snoop into the lives of others, 'Things' is a dynamic and constantly changing exhibition devised by artist Keith Wilson in the shadowy guise of a latter-day Henry Wellcome.

Contributors will be asked to deposit their chosen thing at Wellcome Collection together with relevant details. Behind the scenes each object will be catalogued, photographed and labelled, allocated a specific date out of 365 days in 2011 and placed on public display in a system of metal shelving and museum display cabinets. There will also be a facility to upload an image of an object and become part of the 'Things' exhibition online.

Visitors will also be able to explore the 'Medicine Man' collection on the first floor; a display of more than 500 artefacts from Henry Wellcome's original, weird and wonderful stockpile of one-and-a-half million objects.

Keith Wilson says: "Like most people I am fascinated by other people’s things, and find it difficult to throw anything away. This event is an opportunity to explore that fascination by setting up a collection which is immediately on open display. Members of the public will come with their stories, which are there to be contested, not least by the objects themselves. At each step of their procession through the exhibition the objects might be reconsidered. It is a flirtation with a potentially endless number of other stories that might exist out there, anchored in the reality of each thing itself."

Unlike most museum collections, 'Things' will be dismantled immediately after completion. All contributors will be invited to a celebration on 19 October and will begin to reclaim their loaned objects in the take-it-back-athon until 23 October. Those objects that have been gifted, rather than loaned, will be retained by Keith Wilson and may become part of a future artwork, 'Calendar', to be shown as part of The British Art Show in 2011.

'Things' will reveal an ever-changing modern cabinet of curiosities that reflects on the meaning of objects, their relationship with time and how they relate to one another in different settings. In a constant state of flux, the exhibition will ask us also to look at the things in the present while projecting them into the future, anticipating how the visitors of tomorrow might make sense of them - a kind of anthropology of the here and now.

The expansive nature of the exhibition-cum-event intends to mirror Henry Wellcome's collection itself. Wellcome - entrepreneur, philanthropist, patron of science, pioneer and compulsive collector - had a universal interest in health and the body, which has resulted in a stunning anthropological collection that sheds light on humanity with a diverse range of cultural artefacts. Exhibited alongside 'Medicine Man', the permanent showcase of Henry Wellcome's curious collection, 'Things' is a modern investigation into the practice of collecting things.