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Wellcome Collection appoints Assemble studio to design new gallery space

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London’s Wellcome Collection, is to undertake an exploration of "what it means to be human", in a new permanent gallery set to open in September 2019.

The organisation has appointed Turner Prize-winning architecture and design studio Assemble to design the gallery space. It will replace the Medicine Now display at Wellcome, which will close on 22 April 2019 after 12 years and nearly two million visits.

Featuring artworks from around the world, as well as new commissions from well-known and emerging contemporary artists, the new exhibit will present a "fresh approach to health, science, art and medicine", the museum said. It will draw on perspectives and personal stories from artists, activists, clinicians and researchers to "challenge how we think about ourselves, each other and the world around us".

Alongside the artworks, there will be objects that engage a range of senses, such as a jukebox of contemporary songs about epidemics, a DNA sequencer smaller than an iPhone, and a Friendship Bench, developed in Zimbabwe to help transform mental health by taking counselling outside the clinic.

Wellcome Collection is also working with an advisory panel of scientists, and an advisory group organised in collaboration with the University of Leicester’s Research Centre for Museums and Galleries, bringing in expertise on disability. The museum said that the new gallery will use a social model of disability to "reframe the way objects and stories are presented".

Assemble won the Turner Prize in 2015 for its network of neighbourhood projects created with residents of Granby, Liverpool. The Wellcome Collection gallery will "tell a more person-centred story through inclusive design and a handmade aesthetic", according to the museum.

Joe Halligan from the studio said: "We’re going 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."

Rosie Stanbury, head of public programmes at Wellcome Collection, commented: "In a society more siloed than ever, it’s vital that we inspire our audiences to think differently about health if we’re to make real change. We know that museums – particularly medical museums – can be alienating for underrepresented groups. I hope this display at Wellcome Collection will do the very opposite and set a precedent for a new and more inclusive approach."

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London’s Wellcome Collection, is to undertake an exploration of "what it means to be human", in a new permanent gallery set to open in September 2019.
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