The Wellcome Collection in London has announced that they will be working with architecture and design studio Assemble to design their new permanent exhibit on medical and health topics. The new exhibit is scheduled to open in September 2019 and will replace the current “Medicine Now” room, which will close on April 22.
The “Medicine Now” exhibit has been a fixture of the Wellcome Collection since the museum opened. Other permanent exhibits include the “Medicine Man” room, which houses a small part of Sir Henry Wellcome’s original collection of historical medical paraphernalia and paintings. Henry Wellcome founded the Wellcome Trust charity in 1936, and it’s currently one of the largest medical research funders in the world. Besides funding research, the charity encourages public engagement with the biomedical sciences, and the Wellcome Collection is the hub of many of their public-facing activities.A visitor studies a work on obesity entitled, ‘ I can’t help the way I feel’ by John Isaacs at the Wellcome Collection exhibition in central London, UK. This work is one of the pieces on display in the Medicine Now exhibit, which will close on April 22, 2019. Photographer: Graham Barclay/Bloomberg News
In addition to the permanent collections, the Wellcome Collection also runs regular rotating exhibits on issues related to human health. Past displays have included themes such as forensics, consciousness and traditional Indian medicine. The most recent temporary exhibit, “Living With Buildings”, was all about living in a built environment, and drew connections between architecture and mental health.
Even though “Living With Buildings” has closed, it looks like the Wellcome Collection is planning to continue their exploration of architectural design. They recently announced that they have signed on art and architecture studio Assemble to design the new permanent exhibit, which will open in September and will replace “Medicine Now”.
Assemble is a London-based collective of designers, architects and artists. Many of their projects involve redesigns of public spaces. In 2015, they won the Turner Prize for a series of neighborhood revitalization projects in Liverpool. For their upcoming project at the Wellcome Collection, Assemble plans to “use natural materials, colour and inclusive design to create a humane and uplifting space where challenging conversations can happen, and where a wide variety of different visitors feel welcomed,” according to the studio’s Joe Halligan.
The Wellcome Collection has also revealed a few details of what to expect in the Assemble-designed space. Their announcement mentions “a jukebox of contemporary songs about epidemics” and “a DNA sequencer smaller than an iPhone.”
It should be a refreshing new start for this exhibit. After twelve years, “Medicine Now” no longer focused on currently relevant medical topics, but very much on what was new in 2007. The exhibit includes a bookcase full of printouts of the human genome, and fur and droppings from Dolly the sheep, but no mention of newer advances in genetic medicine. Another display includes examples of products and devices used for convenience and exercise (to highlight how lifestyle affects obesity) but here, too, the technology clearly dates the exhibit.
There are still a few weeks left to see the Medicine Now exhibit, which includes a glass model of the swine flu virus by Luke Jerram and a series of amber resin sculptures by Annie Cattrell, created from functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging (fMRI) images of the brain responding to inputs from the different senses.
Besides Assemble, no artist collaborations for the new exhibit have been announced yet, and the charity could not confirm what will happen with the existing art on display, so, if you’re in London in the next few weeks, this could be your last chance to see these scientific artworks.