Reading Room

Look, touch, read, collect, share…

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New spaces for onsite and online engagement

– past project


Wellcome Collection logoMeeting the challenge of creating new physical and virtual spaces to help deepen audience engagement with collection content.


“Science has never been so sexy
nor a museum so stylish”

– The Evening Standard


The Reading Room project involved transforming a traditional library reading room into an experimental space to encourage new modes of audience behaviour.


At the heart of the Wellcome Collection Development Project, this hybrid gallery / library / live events space was conceived to create a stronger connection between the highly successful new gallery spaces and the hugely important Wellcome Library that underpins them.



Reading Room


The Reading Room was realised working closely as part of the Wellcome team and in collaboration with the architectural design and research agency AOC.


This bold new space attracted media intrigue from the outset, including architectural plaudits from the RIBA Journal, Blueprint, ICON, Dezeen, the Telegraph, Financial Times, Architecture Today, and a six page feature in the World of Interiors.




Digital Stories was developed as a digital dimension to the Reading Room, aimed at providing a modular system for engaging with collection content. Having made a major investment in digitisation, Wellcome Library was keen to extend its reach beyond the more traditional research user to a broader and more casually curious public audience.


The project is launching incrementally, rolling out a series of digital stories drawing on the Reading Room themes. Each story uses an immersive interface created in collaboration with award-winning digital agency Clearleft, including image galleries, video, and interactives.


Users scroll through a narrative woven together from rich historical material from Wellcome Library and specially commissioned media content. The user-friendly journeys also offer a feed through to internal and external catalogues and direct access to primary source material through the library reader for people wanting to delve deeper. Throughout, users are encouraged to download high resolution images for their own use.




The first to be launched is Mindcraft, a story in six parts about a century of madness, murder and mental healing (1778-1895).


Written by Mike Jay, Mindcraft takes you on a journey that asks who really is in control of their own mind, and where does the mind’s power to harm or heal end? Perhaps most importantly, it provides a compelling route into a wide range of original reference resources held by Wellcome and beyond.


A press release is available here.


The Collectors


The second digital story to be launched is The Collectors, a story about the pursuit of knowledge and the compulsion to collect.


Written by Anna Faherty, the story traces the history of six collectors, from John Tradescant to Marie Stopes, whose curiosity drove them to accumulate objects and information, knowledge and notoriety, with some extraordinary consequences…