Wellcome Collection is a venue in London for contemporary and historic exhibitions and collections, home to the world-renowned Wellcome Library and is a part of the Wellcome Trust. If you look at their website they themselves describe it as a place for ‘the incurably curious that explores the connections between medicine, life and art in the past, present and future’. As part of our MA Publishing program we had the opportunity to explore two particular places within the Wellcome Collection – the Reading Room and the Blackwell’s Bookshop.
I have visited many spaces dedicated for reading or book buying, as you might have guessed already, but Wellcome Collection’s Reading Room tops them all. You might not be able to have your favorite cup of tea while binging one of their books but you will no doubt feel inspired and nurtured by the space and what it has to offer. It even has a Reading Room Companion book where there is even more to be explored. The book was written and compiled by the lovely Anna Faherty who is also the one that helped to create the space. It is an addition to the Reading Room and you can find out about the reasons behind all the chosen art pieces, books, the way room is designed and it’s history.
The Reading Room and the books in it are organized in ten sections: Alchemy, Food, Travel, Body, Breath, Face, Pain, Mind, Lives and Faith. Not exactly your usual fiction and non-fiction stuff. It is a very creative and interactive space designed to grab your attention and keep you engaged and curious about ideas and objects that are in front of you. You can grab a bookmark and jot down your thoughts to keep it in your chosen book to be read by the next visitor who picks up the same title.
In the Face nook there is a writing table with a mirror suggesting this as a perfect place for painting/sketching a self-portrait. The Lives section is dedicated for people’s biographies. It has a little audio place where you can listen to stories such as A pregnant woman in a naked bodysuit by Rebecca Bartholomew and her reasons for posing in a nude color bodysuit when 38 weeks pregnant. You can also find many board games and walls full of people’s ideas such as their choice of food when in need of a pick me up. There is so much to see, to read and to explore that spending just few hours will not be enough.
As for the Blackwell’s Bookshop, it compliments the themes of the Wellcome Collection by their selective stock and they also are the exclusive sellers of Wellcome Collection branded merchandise. In here you can find anything from forensic books to toys shaped like different bacteria. Rest assured you will not leave this place without a purchase, even if it isn’t a book, the food in the Wellcome Cafe connected to the bookshop will be hard to miss.
I can’t confidently say how much time did we spend in the Wellcome Collection but I do know it wasn’t enough. I am lucky that my university is situated just next to it so coming back there is something I will be doing regularly. If you don’t have the time to explore the Reading room or live quite far out than be sure to check their Reading Room Companion book. And spread the word – the world’s greatest reading space/library is here and it’s free!
Wellcome Collection website – http://wellcomecollection.org/
Reading Room Companion E-Book – http://tinyurl.com/q39pjvg