Science Museum: Medicine: The Wellcome Galleries

London, UK

This ambitious cultural project, designed by WilkinsonEyre in close collaboration with the museum’s curatorial team, has transformed the first floor of the Science Museum in London, to create the largest space dedicated to medical artefacts in the world.  The new galleries contain more than 3,000 objects selected from the globally significant medical collections of the Science Museum Group and the Wellcome Trust. WilkinsonEyre’s radical reconfiguration relocates the Medicine galleries to a prominent first floor position, almost doubling the permanent display space in this area from 1,600sqm to 3,000sqm. New lifts provide improved accessibility to the galleries, which were previously tucked away on the fourth and fifth floor. 

The opening of the galleries represents the culmination of Phase I of the museum’s Masterplan that since 2014 has seen more than 6,500m² of new permanent gallery space opened within the museum. WilkinsonEyre’s design takes the visitor on a journey through five distinct exhibition themes: Medicine & Bodies, Exploring Medicine, Medicine & Communities, Medicine & Treatments and Faith, Hope and Fear. This is conceived as a progression from darkness into light and back to darkness, symbolising the human life cycle, and concludes with different spiritual responses to illness and mortality

Specific design responses include display cases, AV displays, wall and floor treatments, lighting, and the arrangement of the objects themselves in collaboration with the curators.  The interpretative and environmental graphics for the galleries were designed by graphic designers Holmes Wood who collaborated closely with WilkinsonEyre from the outset to create an integrated and seamless design that tells the story of the history of medicine through highly crafted text, imagery and installations.

The permanent exhibition also hosts four specially commissioned artworks by prominent artists; Marc Quinn’s bronze sculpture Self-Conscious Gene; Eleanor Crook’s Santa Medicina; Bloom by Studio Roso, and photographic portraits by Sian Davey.  Finally, but significantly, the repurposing of the collection and exhibition space also involved the digitisation of the selected objects, and many others in store, for online viewing and education purposes.