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Wise Ways: Travels of A Dundee Doctor

Wise Ways: Travels of A Dundee Doctor

Visitors to The McManus: Dundee’s Art Gallery & Museum can follow in the footsteps of a Dundee Doctor and discover his cabinet of curiosities as part of the latest exhibition at the heritage attraction. Wise Ways: Travels of a Dundee Doctor draws on artefacts from the city’s collection and includes a spectacular set of maps on loan from the British Library as part of the show examining the life of Thomas Wise and his expeditions around Tibet, India, China and  Japan.

Dr Wise was born in Dundee on 12 January 1802 at his father Thomas’ estate of Hillbank. The elder Thomas had been a physician in Jamaica. Wise followed in his father’s footsteps and studied medicine at the University of Edinburgh, graduating in 1824. In 1827 he took up a position in the Indian Medical Service. He had two brothers already working in India, younger brother Josiah Patrick as a merchant and an older brother in the military branch of the East India Company.

A true polymath, Dr T.A. Wise collected everything from Egyptian amulets to Irish copper axes, and wrote treatise on subjects as varied as the Hindu system of medicine, Buddhist imagery on Pictish stones, diseases of the eye and the preservation of ice. He was dedicated to further understanding the communities from which he collected.

During his time in India he made contributions to both medicine and education, founding a hospital and college and becoming the Secretary to the Committee of Public Instruction in Calcutta. Dr Wise retired from India in 1851 and returned to Scotland, where he dedicated his life to archaeological and educational interests and belonged to a variety of scientific and antiquarian societies. He later moved to London where he died in 1889.

Thanks to a loan from the British Library, this exhibition reunites a rare set of maps of Tibet with objects that Dr Wise collected on his journey and to those he only visited in his imagination.

Sinclair Aitken, Chair of Leisure & Culture Dundee said

“Wise Ways gives a facinating insight into the extraordinary  life of Thomas Wise and the objects he gathered during his lifetime. The show also demonstrates what an outstanding resource we have with the City’s collection. We are also really grateful to the British Library for the loan of maps which really enhance this wonderful assortment of artefacts and look forward to welcoming visitors to the exhibition throughout the summer at The McManus.“

Dr Malini Roy, Head of Visual Arts at the British Library, said:

“We are delighted to be lending the McManus Museum highlights from the British Library's Thomas Wise collection to support their exhibition ‘Wise Ways’.  The Library's unique collection consists of large scale ‘maps’ or visualisations of the local topography of Tibet and the western Himalayas drawn in the mid-19th century by a local artist.  'Wise Ways' will offer an exciting opportunity to see the maps displayed alongside the artefacts that Thomas Wise collected during his travels for the very first time.”

The exhibition is free to visit at The McManus: Dundee’s Art Gallery & Museum and runs from Friday 8 March to Sunday 25 August 2019.