Newest Review: ... have to go up a level from the street onto a concrete walkway. Once inside, and having bought a £5 guidebook if you wish, you are set ... more
From Londinium to London
Museum of London (London)
Member Name: Brooke3
Museum of London (London)
Advantages: Some interesting facts
Disadvantages: Information from 1666 not available
So, it's a bank holiday Monday. The weather people predict rain, it's the day before pay day and I have very little money and I am on a mission to do as much sightseeing between now and September in London as possible. That left me with only one thing to do, The Museum of London.
The Museum of London is located between St. Paul's tube station and Moorgate. Both are within easy walking distance of the museum but I would recommend getting off at Moorgate just because the route to the museum is far less crowded than at St. Pauls.
The museum is well sign posted from Moorgate tube station but I would still recommend printing off a map or directions because the signposts are quite small and easy to miss (at least if you're not wearing your glasses, like me).
Actually getting into the museum is like a military operation. I swear, they don't actually want people to go in there. As you approach the museum you will see a big sign (and I mean really really big) saying the Museum of London. You go towards it and find that actually it's only a roundabout. The sign posts have steered you towards here and you can't see any more sign posts but you also can't see an entrance.
The entrance is actually above street level. If you're more observant than me you'll probably notice that there are small signs in front of lifts and escalators on the roads around the round about (not actually on the roundabout where the big sign is) with Museum of London on. You take a lift or escalator (or if you're feeling especially energetic you can walk up the stairs) to the actual museum entrance. I think that this should be better signposted and made more clear. I had to ask someone how to get into the museum and it was only when he pointed me to the right entrance that I noticed the signs.
It is free to get into the museum for anyone and there weren't any exhibitions that I was aware of that you need to pay for.
When we entered the museum we went straight to the reception desk to get a map. We were greeted very warmly and informed that entry was free and then pointed in the direction of the entrance to the exhibitions.
The first section of the museum is called London before London and is basically London before the Roman's invaded. The majority of this exhibition seemed to be about the changes in the land and climate, as well as the early inhabitants. I don't really have much interest in this period of history so I didn't read every little thing. What I did really like about this exhibit was that throughout the room they had posters with general information about the era. This information wasn't very detailed but it did give you a good general idea about what was happening at the time and the important changes that took place. For someone like me who doesn't know much about this time period and would struggle to take in and understand too much information this was perfect, just enough information for me to feel like I had learnt something without feeling overwhelmed by it. For those who are more interested in this period there was a lot of information that went into more depth on the display cabinets, usually illustrated by various artefacts. I gave up on reading this information because I found it quite dull but as I said, I have no interest in this time period.
When you exit the London Before London part of the museum you enter the London's Burning 1666 exhibition. I wanted to do the museum in chronological order so we skipped this part and came back to it at the end. Instead we moved onto the Roman London exhibition. I found this part of the museum to be really interesting. As the name suggests it was all about Roman London.
I particularly liked the small models of how the city would have looked in Roman times, I think that these help you to grasp the differences between London now and London then.
I don't generally consider myself to be a very visual person, I prefer to read about things but I felt that the visual aids in this museum really helped me to understand more about the Roman period. Seeing the replica's of shops, work shops and homes really brought it to life for me.
The information provided in this section, and in fact throughout the entire museum, seems very basic to me. I imagine the information provided would be sufficient for a child or someone with little or no knowledge of history but although I enjoyed looking at the models of the city and the replica's of Roman homes, shops and workshops I was left wanting to know more. There were some interesting facts but most of what I read was common knowledge and very brief.
The next exhibition is on Medieval London. I was surprised to see how little space was dedicated to this period in London's history. It was half the size of the Roman section and covered over a thousand years (compared to the Roman era that was just 360 years).
I was hoping to find out more about the Viking's and the Saxon's because I have next to no knowledge of them. Unfortunately I still very little knowledge of them. The museum has very small sections dedicated to each. There is a board that tells you when they invaded and what they called London and then a few exhibits with various items from that era but little else. I was very disappointed with this.
I felt that the layout of this section lacked logic and was quite confusing. I found myself reading about something that happened in 1100Ce and then something that had happened in 900Ce. I'm not good with numbers (I always wonder how I managed to get a history degree when I have so much trouble remembering years) and this just further confused me and made it difficult for me to understand what order things happened in.
The information provided seems a bit haphazard. You might learn about the impact of religion in one century and the monarch of the next century. I think some consistency in the information given would have been better. For example, either focusing the exhibition on the monarchy and the changes in the monarchy or focusing the exhibition on the way that common people lived or on the changes in religion and how it impacted London. I didn't really feel like it was a history of London. Everything was relevant to London but I was expecting a more complete history of London and the way that the people lived and the city changed.
The next section was London 1558-1666. The most notable part of this section was the part on the plague. I was a bit disappointed to find that the museum gives conflicting information that I think will leave some people confused. They have a board with information about the plague on and claim that half of Londoners were killed by the plague. On the other side of the same board it has a quiz, one of the questions is how many Londoners died in the plague. The answer that they give is that there is conflicting information and it could be between a quarter and half of Londoners.
I did find the video on the plague to be very moving. It was a very brief video and didn't contain that many facts but it did really make you realise how horrific the Plague was and how much people suffered.
After that we headed back to London's Burning, the exhibition on the fire of London.. It's located near the beginning of the exhibitions, between London Before London and Roman London but it's actually chronologically the last part of the exhibitions. I thought the location of this exhibition was really bad planning on the part of the museum.
London's Burning was my favourite part of the museum. I've been in many museums that have exhibitions on the fire of London and I've visited the London Dungeon's Great Fire of London experience but I don't think anywhere has ever brought it to life in quite the way that the Museum of London did. There is so much information on the Fire of London and this is probably the one place where I can't complain about lack of information. I learnt about far more than just the fire and it's immediate impact on London, I learnt about the way it impacted on building regulations (some people may think this is boring, I personally found it fascinating), insurance and fire procedures in London.
There was a six minute video on the great fire which I really enjoyed. It is based on eye witness accounts and I thought that this was a nice touch, it really helped me to empathise with the people of the time.
Unfortunately there are no exhibitions on any time period after 1666 at the moment due to renovations. This was very disappointing but I was aware of this before going to the museum. I will hopefully return in 2010 to see the rest of the museum when it opens!
This is most definitely a family friendly museum. It is currently half term so that may be why there were so many activities for children.
In the entrance hall there were tables for children to do some arts and crafts. Every hour there was story time. Being 25 and in the museum without children I didn't stick around for either of these but if the delighted noises coming from the children during story time is anything to go by they certainly seemed to be enjoying it!
Throughout the museum there are various interactive activities for children. The one that I thought was particularly good (I admit, I played on it) was a touch screen programme that asks you questions, such as, you have just been born, do you want to be baptised? You are 5 years old which of the following do you want to do, play in the street, go to school or help in the home? You are 25 and you have a dowry of 5 gold coins, which of these people will you marry? (These are not exact quotes, just to give you an idea.) After you've made your choices it tells you if they would have been possible or not, for example with a small dowry you may have had limited marriage options and girls were not allowed to play in the streets. This seemed like it would be fun for children and very educational, a great way to help children to remember these things.
There was also a reconstruction of a Saxon home that children could play in.
The London's Burning exhibition attempts to teach children something about fire safety which I thought was good, not only because fire safety is important but because it helps children to learn from history. In this exhibition they also had poems written by children about the fire of London on display, I liked this, I thought it made the exhibition more child friendly.
-Café and Shop-
I wasn't particularly impressed by either.
My friend and I had refreshments in the café, she had a hot chocolate and a cake, I had tea and cake. It came to £7 in total which isn't too expensive for Central London and a tourist attraction. The cakes tasted nice and the tea was also quite nice. However, the service was pretty awful. There was a lot of confusion about who was being served and which drinks were for which people and it wasn't even very busy. The staff in the café were not polite and actually seemed to lose patience with us just because we didn't know what we wanted to order before we got to the counter. They seemed to expect us to order without looking at the drinks list or the cakes on display. I would understand their impatience if there was a queue but there wasn't.
The tables and the floor were dirty, the staff didn't seem to be clearing the trays from tables.
In general I didn't think it was a very comfortable café. The tables were very small, barely big enough to put the tray on.
The shop was okay but didn't have a big range of products. The only good thing I will say is that there was a big selection of books. I personally wouldn't buy any books from there because they are so expensive but the selection was good, even if many of the books were not directly about London. It took me a long time to find things that I wanted to buy for people, not because I was being indecisive but because the selection was so poor. I usually like to buy a post card from every place that I visit but there weren't any post cards that said Museum of London, in fact most of the products sold were not merchandise for the Museum of London.
The museum claims to be fully accessible.
The museum seems to be fully wheelchair accessible, although there are a few parts of the museum that are quite narrow and may not accommodate bigger wheelchairs.
The video's did not have any subtitles which I thought was disappointing. It seems like such a simple thing to do, subtitle videos and then everyone can enjoy them but this museum hasn't done so.
There are facilities available for those with visual impairments.
The entire experience took us about three hours. Although I did have some complaints I do think it was a worthwhile way to spend a couple of hours and I did really enjoy the experience. If you are planning on visitng the museum and can wait until next year then it's probably better to wait until the rest of the museum is open.
For more information please visit http://www.museumoflondon.org.uk
Summary: Better to wait until the rest of the museum is open.
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