John McAslan + Partners has completed the revamp of the Museum of Methodism in the crypt of Wesley’s chapel in London
The museum, which first opened in 1984, has been reconfigured to display the collection showing the story of Methodism in a ‘legible, creative, and contemporary manner’.
According to the practice, the revamp of the chapel’s crypt was constrained by low ceilings and a lack of daylight but new display walls have been installed within the building’s original structural timber columns.
Concealed lighting has been used to create the ‘illusion that the partitions float above the stone floor’.
The steps outside have been widened, creating a ‘stronger link between the museum and garden’.
The collection of buildings on London’s City Road contains the grade I-listed Wesley’s Chapel and John Wesley’s House.
The architect’s view
‘After almost three decades, the existing exhibition space and support facilities required reconfiguration and updating to comply with contemporary museum standards. In 2011, the practice was commissioned to transform the Museum in order to display the collection in a legible, creative and contemporary manner. Staff and heritage stewards were consulted on how they and visitors use the space, informing the reconfiguration of the crypt, now opened up to create an enlarged exhibition area fully utilising the space and creating a clear thematic route displaying the story of Methodism. The project also included rationalisation of mechanical and electrical services, storage and archive spaces.
‘A sequence of niches now display specific objects, such as Wesley’s pulpit, while bespoke glazed display cabinets and iPads show a variety of Wesleyana - archival material, objects and artworks. The new reception desk, shop and display plinths integrate seamlessly with the design of the exhibition areas. At the heart of the exhibition space, a five-screen audio-visual display brings to life the story of John Wesley.
‘The new exhibition layout is inclusive: wheelchair users can navigate through the museum and shop, engaging with the exhibition story without obstruction. The reception desk, with two different heights, meets the needs of wheelchair and standing visitors. Integrated audiovisual systems and tablets offer different languages, catering to the museum’s international audience. The external works now comply with statutory requirements for fire egress and an external wheelchair space provides protected refuge in the event of fire.’
The client’s view
Lord Griffiths of Burry Port, superintendent minister, Wesley’s Chapel
‘The restoration of the crypt to its original size and the intelligent and modern arrangement of our display has transformed our environment in the most telling and attractive way. We owe an enormous debt to our architects, contractors and advisors who have made this possible. Already, visitor numbers have increased dramatically and our entire site is now worthy of its worldwide place in the history of Methodism.’