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The spiral staircase, part of the Wellcome Collection's redevelopment plans. Copyright: Wilkinson Eyre Architects
The new spiral staircase, part of our development plans announced today. Copyright Wilkinson Eyre.

When Wellcome Collection opened in 2007, we anticipated attracting around 100,000 visits each year. This figure has increased year-on-year to almost half a million this year. In order to cope with unprecedented visitor demand, Wellcome Collection will be transformed over the coming two years. Our spaces will be redefined, bringing new areas into public use, while building on the unique qualities that have made Wellcome Collection and the Wellcome Library such a success.

Opening up the Reading Room
Central to the project, the Wellcome Library’s Reading Room will become an innovative public space, bridging the gap between the Library’s research community and Wellcome Collection’s exhibitions and events programmes and opening our extraordinarily rich collections to new audiences. The Reading Room will be an inviting salon where visitors are free to relax, linger and indulge their curiosity – a blend of the very best curatorial and library practice, in a setting that encourages sociability and the sharing of ideas. This new space will sit at the heart of the building, curated with events and displays of books and objects from the collections, alongside state-of-the-art technology to fully exploit our ambitious digitisation programme.

Enhancing the Research Library
Our Research Library will also be renovated, offering our members an outstanding environment in which to study and work. With an expanded Rare Materials Room, a new Viewing Room, and with improved space configuration – including new desk spaces and areas for group work, private study, and conversation – the Library will be an inviting and stimulating place that will cater for the needs of all our audiences. We will continue to provide a significant proportion of our collections on open access together with greater access to digital resources, and offer better facilities and easier circulation via a new internal lift and staircase. We will continue to offer users a quiet and relaxing working environment in which to enjoy and use our outstanding collections, fostering understanding of the place of human and animal health in all periods and cultures.

Elsewhere in Wellcome Collection
The development will open up 30 per cent more gallery space and double our capacity for public events. A major new thematic gallery will hold in-depth exhibitions over a year-long period, with a mixture of semi-permanent displays and exhibits. There will also be a dedicated youth events studio for 14-to-19-year-olds to engage with and produce work that contributes to the Wellcome Collection programme. An interdisciplinary research Hub will catalyse research and public engagement collaborations between the brightest minds across specialisms, with grants being made available for group residencies. A Spotlight events series will offer a forum for experts from different disciplines to come together and debate key topics and policy issues affecting medicine, science and society. And a new restaurant, in addition to the current café, will significantly increase the catering offer within Wellcome Collection.

Keeping in touch
Major works on the development will begin in summer 2013, with completion scheduled for summer 2014. We will keep Library users informed throughout the project, alerting you to key dates throughout the build. If you are planning on visiting the Library during summer 2013, please contact us and we can keep you updated on projected dates for building works, and access to the various collections.

Later in November, we will be hosting a series of drop-in sessions where you can come and see the building plans and hear more about the development project. Details of these dates will be published on the Library website and blog and be displayed in the Library on the noticeboard. If you have any questions at all before then please feel very free to get in touch.

Dr Simon Chaplin
Head of the Wellcome Library



Phoebe Harkins

Phoebe Harkins is Library Communications Co-ordinator at the Wellcome Library.

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