Intended for healthcare professionals

Views & Reviews Review of the Week

Skin: the forgotten organ

BMJ 2010; 340 doi: (Published 23 June 2010) Cite this as: BMJ 2010;340:c3348
  1. Sophie Cook, editorial registrar, BMJ
  1. scook{at}

    Skin, the most vulnerable and visible human organ, is the subject of an intriguing new exhibition, finds Sophie Cook

    The crucial physiological role of skin is drummed into clinicians from an early stage. A new exhibition at the Wellcome Trust considers skin beyond this, examining the cultural, artistic, sensory, ethnic, and identity roles that skin plays in society. Alongside beautiful and delicate anatomical drawings and contemporary art are some gruesome representations of diseased skin, tattooed human skin cuttings, and magnified video footage that some may find unsightly. However, the collection is intriguing and encourages visitors to think about skin in many different ways.

    The exhibition’s four main themes are objects, marks, impressions, and afterlives. It walks viewers through the history of skin, which until the 18th century wasn’t considered an organ in its own right but was viewed merely as a barrier to the internal organs that so intrigued the early anatomists. This view is depicted in many of the Renaissance écorché drawings, in which the subjects can be seen flaying the skin from their bodies like a gown. The first written works on skin disease began to …

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