The Wellcome Collection, one of London’s newest and most popular museums, has unveiled an ambitious redevelopment plan that will transfrom its building and provide a wider and deeper engagement with the issues around medicine, life and art.
The major £17.5m project will see the popular Charing Cross Road medical museum, which houses the collection of Sir Henry Wellcome (1853 – 1936), turned into an interdisciplinary venue of interconnected galleries linked by a dramatic central spiral staircase.
Wellcome amassed an immense collection of medical related objects, artworks and books and the back of wealth generated by his pharmaceutical empire. After his death his will provided for the creation of the Wellcome Trust, which today is one of the most prolific working across science and culture.
The museum that carries his name showcases his passion for all things medical and welcomed its two-millionth visitor this summer, shortly after the fifth anniversary of its opening.
Clare Matterson, the Trust’s Director of Medical Humanities
and Engagement said the new development would “add to the legacy of Sir
Henry Wellcome’s intellectual curiosity, his research and collections".
"Our new galleries and spaces will surprise and inspire our visitors with new connections and ideas and respond to the debates they provoke.”
Opening up 30% more gallery space and doubling the capacity for public events, the development will include a major new thematic gallery that will hold in-depth exhibitions over a year-long period. A dedicated youth events studio will also offer an activity space for 14-19 year olds to engage with and produce work that contributes to the Wellcome Collection programme.
The Wellcome Library’s iconic Reading Room will become a public space for book related exhibitions and public facing research. The latter will also benefit from a “Hub” which will provide a space for the “brightest minds” with grants available for group residencies. A new event series called Spotlight will also provide a forum for debate while a new restaurant will be added to the museum’s current generous café facilities.
Building work, which is being undertaken by Wilson Eyre Architects, will start in summer 2013, with completion scheduled for summer 2014. The Wellcome Collection will remain open to the public throughout, with a flexible programme of events and displays.