Website Review

Wellcome Images

A remarkable collection of historical images focused on biomedical and other scientific topics, the Wellcome Images website is a treasure trove for educators and students. Although there is not an emphasis on children’s and youth history, creative use of the site’s search engine allows scholars and students of the history of childhood some fascinating glimpses into changing presentations of children in various historical locations and eras. Moreover, there are many resources to facilitate education, particularly in the realms of medicine, biology, and the changing nature of scientific knowledge over time. This makes the Wellcome Images website a welcome addition to any educator’s toolbox for teaching.

Scholars of childhood histories will find that the site's built-in search function easy to use, and, by plugging in keywords such as "boy," "girl," and "child," a plethora of images will emerge that depict a variety of historical representations of children. Many European images depicting methods of child health care, ranging from the medieval to modern eras, are available on the site. There are also scores of 20th-century promotional posters available that reveal (mainly) British public health education efforts promoting preferred methods of child rearing and health care. Moreover, there are tens of advertisements from the past 200 years, depicting children as promotional tools for selling hygiene products. There is a wealth of photographs and manuscripts from the medieval and modern eras from India that illustrate changing attitudes toward children and health care.

The Wellcome Images website is easy to navigate, and all images are free for personal and academic use under Creative Commons sharing rules. The site has divided its collections into five categories: "Illness and Wellness," "Life," "Culture," "Nature," and "War." Each image may be downloaded in a low-resolution format that is acceptable for websites, multi-media presentations, and other educational presentation needs. Users who wish to purchase high-resolution scans and physical prints may do so, for a price. Moreover, users who register (for free) with the website may save images to a "Lightbox," in order to compile, organize, and view their collections at any time. This is a welcome addition to the website and allows users to collect a variety of images at once, then sort and organize them later.

A useful section of the website is the "Life" section. Curated with an emphasis on human body parts and historically shifting notions of human anatomy, images from this group would be excellent sources for educators who wish to illustrate the changing conceptions of biology throughout the ages. Images of x-rays and microscopic cell photography sit side-by-side with Victorian "cure-all" advertisements and early modern anatomical illustrations. Like the rest of the site, the user must select his or her own images and place them within a larger historical context. However, given the proper supplementary information, this section in particular would be a wonderful basis for illustrating historical trends in understanding human biology. Comparing and contrasting images of children and adults would allow scholars of childhood histories the opportunity to discern changing attitudes about the nature of children and their anatomies over time and space.

Educators may want to keep a couple of caveats in mind when using this site. First of all, the collection is not comprehensive, nor it is chronologically organized. It is a marvelous resource for image finding, but not a starting point for obtaining information about any subject matter. Second, there are some rather graphic depictions of warfare, medical procedures, and biological functions shown in some of the images. Adults may want to preview the site before having younger children conduct research. That being said, the Wellcome Images website is a wonderful resource for educators and students who are looking for some fascinating historical images of scientific understanding of youth across cultures and eras.

How to Cite This Source

Nancy Stockdale, "Wellcome Images," in Children and Youth in History, Item #234, (accessed January 22, 2022).

A remarkable collection of historical images focused on biomedical and other scientific topics, the Wellcome Images website is a treasure trove for educators and students.