The Science Museum’s £24 million exhibition gives medicine a human face

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Cure-all: The Wellcome Galleries spans over 500 years of medical interfere withs.

Medicine: The Wellcome Galleries — an object-rich expo with over 3,000 items tracking the history of medicine — is start-off at the Science Museum.

They are the largest galleries exploring the history of pharmaceutical in the world, with items ranging from an iron lung to the have’s first MRI scanner and a scale model of a 1930s hospital.

The exhibition has been contrived by Wilkinson Eyre architects, who headed up two other galleries at the Science Museum; Contest of Materials and Making of the Modern World.

The London-based architectural studio also suss out d evolved on the 2015 refurbishment of the Wellcome Collection, the museum and library which exhibits artwork and medical objects. The Wellcome Collection is run by the foundation of the same popularity, which was started by medical practitioner Henry Wellcome. Many of the ends on display at Medicine come from Henry Wellcome’s collection, as stream as the Science Museum’s own stores.


“There’s a sense of mood and drama as you move through”

Medicine is a permanent exhibition – meaning it will last 25 years – and has payment £24 million. It is vast: situated on the museum’s first floor, the galleries are spread out past 3000m2, split into three main galleries and two smaller ‘door-sill’ galleries.

Given this scale, the design team had to find a leading thread. Julia Glynn-Smith, associate director at Wilkinson Eyre suggests that “people were put at the centre of the narrative”.

“Visitors’ own relationship with physic is what you’re meant to reflect on,” she adds. “Everyone has some relation to panacea — whether it’s seeing a doctor or visiting a relative in hospital.”

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Medicine and Torsi

The first gallery, Medicine and Bodies, tells the origins of medicine completely early study of anatomy. The second, Medicine and Treatments, looks at medical events like surgery and electrotherapy and the third, Medicine and Communities, explores submit infrastructures which address health issues, such as the NHS and the sewage process.

Medicine and Bodies features a series of 18th century waxes and other light-sensitive interfere withs. This meant it needed “full environmental control”, resulting in darkened presentation spaces. “There’s a sense of mood and drama as you walk through,” Glynn-Jones signifies.

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Medicine and Bodies

The room is divided into quarters — interspersed with a exact portrait series from Sian Davey — with most goals displayed in freestanding “island” cases. These were designed with museum pageant makers Click Netherfield and allow for 360-degree viewing.

In distinction to Medicine and Bodies, the other two galleries — situated around the museum’s cavernous atrium — are daylit. The modification is emphasised by a brightly-lit area, resembling an operating theatre, at the start of Prescription and Treatments.

These two galleries’ sense of light informed the design of the presentations; Wilkinson Eyre created 7m-long frameless ‘balustrade cases’ which card the balcony. This means visitors can see the objects on all sides, from the tied below and above as well as the galleries across the way.


Exhibition pace

Two dawn galleries break up the pace of the exhibition.

The first is a ‘Wunderkammer’ — a commode of curiosities — which houses 1,000 objects. This 4.5m altered consciousness display wraps around the museum’s central 1970s lifts. It mostly clats objects from Henry Wellcome’s acquisitions and aims to “show the thickness of the collection”, according to Glynn-Jones.

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The Wunderkammer

The second threshold gallery is fitted Fear, Hope, Faith. Located at the end of the exhibition, this quieter district is bathed in what Glynn-Jones calls an “ecclesiastical purple light” and has a aggregation of saints and deities from all faiths, as well as a collection of amulets.

There are disjoin zones along the room’s edge, which feature audio affirmations from people around the world who have sought faith during medical treatment.

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The Respect, Hope, Faith gallery

Audio-visual and interactive

There are more AV habitats throughout the exhibition; in a walk-in replica of a 1930s padded cell, butter up real-life accounts from patients who have been kept in confinement. In Medication and Treatments, a shopfront and interior of an early 19th century pharmacy has been established, with accompanying audio of the kinds of exchanges that might beget occurred there.

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The 1911 pharmacy installation

There are also three interactive publicizes in this installation; visitors touch leather surfaces — laid out on the chemist’s piece — which uses projection technology to guide users through handles like creating medicine or identifying poisonous substances.

Other interactive exhibitions are dotted throughout the exhibition, with a focus on decision-making and education. One wall takes users through the process of getting a potential drug inclusive of medical trials.

How graphics can “distil a complex narrative”

The exhibition’s graphics secure been designed by London-based design studio Holmes Wood. Annabel Judd, the studio’s conductor, says that the interpretive and environmental graphics “distil” the galleries’ “complex anecdotal” by using a hierarchy of visual information.

The Science Museum’s £24 million exhibition gives medicine a human face
“Ecclesiastical purple light”

The major guides — “beacon panels” — overlay text on ruminating surfaces, so that visitors can easily read the text and also see themselves reproduced in the displays. Again, this was about putting people into the story. “The idea is that people can see themselves in that story,” Judd orders.

Further down the hierarchy are “section totems” in a “venus red” colour and key allot panels which are a “bone” shade. The system “allows all people — of remarkable age groups and different interests — to engage with the exhibition”, Judd supplements.

Creating a design-led science museum

The galleries are the biggest and final manipulate of the first part of the museum’s masterplan, which has taken ten years to culminate. Included in the project are Mathematics: The Winton Gallery, designed by Zaha Hadid architects as articulately as Wonderlab, an interactive space for children designed by Muf Architecture/Art.

Karen Livingstone, the numero uno of the museum’s masterplan, says that the galleries mark a shift for the museum’s closer to displaying its collection. “We have brought together the scope of a national body of laws museum with the best in architecture and design in a way that’s more associated with an art gallery,” turns Livingstone, who was previously head of projects at the V&A.

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The operating theatre display

Medication has four specially-commissioned art pieces, including a 3.5 metre bronze figurehead from Marc Quinn called The Self-Conscious Gene. The towering bronze is based on a teenager who tattooed his whole body with anatomical diagrams after turning he had a brain tumour. There is also Bloom, an illuminated installation from Studio Roso round airborne diseases, which is suspended from the museum’s ceiling.

This come near “can help introduce people to a subject they might not otherwise for with”, according to Livingstone, though it has taken some convincing from those with more conventional ideas about how a science museum should display its collection.

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Studio Roso’s Bloom

She commands: “I’ve had to work carefully with scientists why the architecture and design-led approach augment the stories we want to tell, rather than undermine them.

“Our aggregations are very beautiful even if they’re not made to be displayed — they’re compelled for scientific and practical application. But they’re also the gateway for the types of adventures we want to tell.”

Medicine: The Wellcome Galleries opens on 16 November at the Expertise Museum, Exhibition Road, Kensington SW& 2DD.

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