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
One of London's Lesser Known Free Museums?
Museum of London (London)
Member Name: azana
Museum of London (London)
Date: 26/07/11, updated on 26/07/11 (88 review reads)
Advantages: free, quieter than some of the better known museums
Disadvantages: don't be put off by the surrounding architecture
Wherever I go I do like a good museum for learning about the place I am visiting, but, to my shame, having spent a good part of my adult life in London, I only recently discovered the existence of the Museum of London. It's located near the Barbican (link to the website and exact tube directions and opening times at the end of this review), and one that, having visited, deserves a place among the better known free London museums. Certainly on the Sunday I went there, having driven past the Natural History Museum and seen that it was overrun with tourists, the Museum of London was probably a more tranquil and satisfying visit, I was even able to park for free in a nearby street - the Tube and St Pauls is a short walk away. Despite the 70's architecture that surrounds the museum providing for a rather poor first impression, this is one place that is really worth the trip, it contains collections that have been built up from 1826 onwards, which again you can read about in more detail on the museum's excellent website.
To get to the museum you will 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 for a fascinating journey into London's past. The exhibition starts in Prehistory with some amazing relics from sites in London from flint tools to hoardes of Bronze age treasure. The museum is quite large and as you continue your visit there's the chance to see Anglo-Saxon London and Roman London, complete with a street scene and typical Roman rooms. In all the rooms there's the possibility to touch and interact with the exhibits, it's not a stuffy museum at all and all the interactive tools available to the modern museum such as touch screens and dressing up are utilised in a sensitive and educational way without detracting from the displays in any way. I found the History of London during the difficult medieval times and the Black Death well explained, and the section on the Great Fire of London is utterly compelling and no doubt firmly on the School Visit circuit.
You can forget you are in central London such is the vastness of some of the exhibits, I really enjoyed the Victorian street section and the nearby "Pleasure Gardens" from the eighteenth century, complete with rather eerie faceless costumed characters. It was fascinating to see how past Londoners in all ages dressed and lived, the exhibits encompass the lives of every class of Londoner and there really is more than you can take in on one visit. It was interesting to see the Mayor's Carriage in all its glory close up, and items and clothes from the near past. As the exhibition moves towards modern times I did find it a bit strange to see things I remember from my youth in cases and on display - the children's TV area was a real nostalgia fest, though I had some difficulty explaining to my kids that no TV didn't use to be in colour, pausable or indeed available 24 hours a day and yes, I did use to like watching Andy Pandy when I was your age. The museum is well designed for every age in my opinion, items are carefully and I assume intentionally at child height and there are worksheets available for the young and plenty of play opportunities too - the tube and tram system you could play with was a real hit and my children also liked the interactive drinking well.
The museum has a number of non permanent exhibitions, on the day I went there was a photography exhibition which was fascinating. At the end of the tour there is a well stocked shop and a cafe, a nice touch being that there is also a room for picnics just outside the entrance, we had this to ourselves, and it was clean, modern and comfortable in modern cafe style, and a very good shelter from the rain. All areas of the museum are also accessible for those in wheelchairs, and there is also a further part of the Museum at the Docklands, which I hope to visit on my next London trip.
If you are planning a day out in London this museum is definitely worth considering visiting especially if you have already been to the better known places on the tourist trail. It is a fascinating and well designed modern museum that manages to be instructive and entertaining all at once and is a vibrant and living museum about which I could wax lyrical for ages, but about which I will say instead, go visit for yourself and see, you will be glad you did!
Link for more info:
Summary: I'll be back here - can't believe it's taken me this long to go for the first time
More reviews in the field of Museum National
- Hmmm, puzzling
- A paradise for wine lovers!
- A house of surprises
- Humbled To Say The Least
- Shakespeare's Mum Lived Here!
- Lions, bears and Highland cows
- Edwards Heath's last gift to the public
- A fabulous Freebie Day Out for the family
- Behind the scenes of Harry Potter - Phenomenal
- Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery
- Grey Point Fort (Northern Ireland)
- Birnham Arrts & Conference Centre
- Hornby Visitor Centre (Kent)
- Chesters Roman Fort and Museum (Hadrians Wall)
- Northamptonshire Ironstone Railway Museum
- Horniman Museum and Gardens
- Dinosaurland Fossil Museum (Dorset)
- Life and Death Pompeii and Herculaneum (London)
- Gallery of Modern Art (Glasgow)
- Cambridge & County Folk Museum