The Welcome Institute’s latest exhibition is a bit of a mess but that’s hardly surprising given its subject matter.

Dirt charts our relationship with everything from soil and air pollution to household refuse, hospital bugs and excrement.

This, like so many of the institute’s previous offerings, could have been something special but comes across as messy and throwaway as its topic.

There’s even some pointlessly pretentious performance art thrown in the shape of drum majorettes twirling their batons in a deserted warehouse and a loop tape of someone washing their hands thrown in to wow! us chimps into thinking we’re missing something. However, Dirt does has its moments.

The Untouchables of India charged with cleaning out public latrines and drains – often with their bare hands -  and the Fresh Kills landfill site on Staten Island which is so big it can be seen from space are among the highlights.

A better bet is to head upstairs to the permanent exhibition of the museum’s namesake Henry Wellcome.

Wellcome, who founded one of the first pharmaceutical dynasties, collected a treasure trove of accumulated artefacts and oddities from a lifetime of kicking around the globe.

It is impossible to show all 125,000 items in his original collection but what is on show is a curio shop of the weird and wonderful guaranteed to slake the curiosity of even the most fervent voyeur.

There is a Chinese torture chair guaranteed to make your eyes water, a mummified Andean corpse, a box of 17th century Japanese sex aids and Charles Darwin’s rather groovy skull headed walking stick.

Other cabinets include a fine selection of prosthetic limbs, an assortment of surgical knives and bone saws and an early advertising board for a dentist which consists of a mobile of customers’ former teeth dangling from pieces of string.

A fine way to wile away a couple of hours if you can dodge the school trips and tourists.

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