In November, two years ago, I was lucky enough to visit the Wellcome Collection in London, UK. The unique exhibition was entitled “Death: A self-portrait – The Richard Harris Collection” and focused on the iconography of death and humanity’s complicated attitudes towards it. From rare paintings, medical documents to scientific specimen and ancient skulls. The first exhibition I visited at the Wellcome Collection was about the brain and was a lot more disturbing than this one, yet I loved it and found it amazing. So I was mentally prepared for what awaited me. Albeit macabre, the exhibits were remarkably interesting and the analysis and explanations provided were very insightful and well-researched. Essentially, the exhibition succeeded in depicting humans’ journey in history to come to terms with and comprehend death.
On the wall of the final exhibit room was the most impressive, in my opinion, piece: a massive visual diagram showing and effectively ranking the major causes of death (counted in millions) in the 20th century. Simply and elegantly designed, this artwork was commissioned by the Wellcome Collection to David McCandless of http://www.informationisbeautiful.net, who created an extremely helpful visualization of greatly significant, very well researched facts and data about death. I particularly appreciated the original statistical information on the leading causes of death and risks in life. Note that diarrhea killed 226 million people in the 20th century, while only 6 million were killed by snake bites. Kind of makes you re-prioritize your fears, doesn’t it? Another good one is that illegal drugs caused 6,5 million deaths, whereas tobacco caused a stunning 100 million deaths in the 20th century alone! Click on the image to see for yourself the diagram in full size and zoom to explore the information easily.
Entrance to the Wellcome Collection is free to the public and its exhibitions are always on topics of extraordinary relevance and interest. For instance, the current exhibition, which I really hope I get a chance to go to, is on the history of the human study and perception of sexuality (on till September 2015).