ArtSmart Roundtable: The Museum of London

Posted on Jan 8, 2013 in ArtSmart Roundtable | 2 comments

This article is part of the monthly ArtSmart Roundtable, a group of art-history-loving travel bloggers who post a related article the first Monday of each month.  January’s topic is the Best Museum You’ve Never Heard of – I think we all had to dig back in our travels for this one, but it was fun to remember and share a worthwhile spot that doesn’t often get the publicity.  For more related posts, check out the links at the end, or find us on Facebook here.

Anyone who has visited London would probably take one look at this and think, “The Museum of London? I’m almost sure I saw that. Yeah, I definitely went there.” Followed by a series of introspective looks that really read, “Now…what did it look like again?”

Precisely. A simple name for a not-so-simple museum that I bet you haven’t heard of because it seems to take a guidebook-influenced backseat to the Victoria & Albert, Courtauld, British Museum, National Gallery or Tate.  And while I myself much prefer a great art-centric museum, there is something to be said for a more practical, history-focused one. After all, you’re visiting the city to learn about it, right? Then you’d have come to the right place.

Located near St. Paul’s Cathedral, the Museum of London is an imposing venue, if only from the inside (I found the exterior rather…plain), and no small feat to explore. With free admission to visitors and a visual cornucopia of the entire history of London, from prehistoric times to the present, it is a masterful way to discover a whole lot of centuries at once.  Entering, you are at leisure to wander the chronologically-organized galleries, (actually that’s the only route you can take) and gaze upon over 7,000 objects, from London’s Roman Wall, medieval weaponry and chain mail, the Great Fire of 1666, a replica of Georgian gardens, Victorian London, the women’s suffrage movement, British fashion and much more – all the way up to the twentieth century, where of course one can relive the glory of swinging ’60s London and all the pop culture icons from the past several decades.

 

Image of the Great Fire (photo credit: Museum of London)

Roman Coins (photo credit: Museum of London)

Victorian Walk (photo credit: LondonMuseums.org)

Vespa from 1960's London (photo credit: Museum of London)

Some of the highlighted items to hunt for? A Roman leather bikini, a 5100 yr-old skeleton, Oliver Cromwell’s death mask, a fireman’s helmet from the 1600′s, an actual prison cell from the 1800′s and a tribute to British fashion icon Alexander McQueen.

These, in addition to various temporary exhibits will tell you everything you probably ought to know but most likely didn’t know about one of the grandest cities in the world.  For me, who wandered so long among the objects and life-size displays with my 2 friends that I almost passed out from hunger (and missing lunch), it actually shrouded London in greater mystery, as I felt I’d only scraped the surface of the history of a city I thought I knew much better. It’s a museum I think oft-overlooked, but one you’ll be glad you didn’t.

In fact, I myself could use another breeze-through…after a hearty lunch this time, that is.

Other January ArtSmart Feature Articles:
The Stibbert Museum in Florence, Italy by Jeff at EuroTravelogue
The Bata Shoe Museum, Toronto by Lesley at Culture Tripper
The Copley Library Galleries by Christina at Daydream Tourist
A Different View of Florence by Jenna at This Is My Happiness
University Art Galleries by Kelly at Travellious
Palazzo Strozzi by Jenna at This Is My Happiness
and don’t forget to check out the group on Facebook for more!
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2 Comments

  1. Wow! If I ever make it to London
    , I will certainly pay a visit to this museum! I would love to see that Vespa from 1960…wow! Wonder if it’s the same one Audrey Hepburn rode in one of my all-time favorite movies…”Roman Holiday.” Great post my friend!!

  2. I love London, too, Leslie and can’t believe I’ve never made time to visit the Museum of London. It’s definitely on my short list for next time. I heard their recent exhibition on Dickens 200th anniversary was fantastic. Dickens was an insomniac who walked the streets of London at night. The museum created an app that guides you along with Dickens on his dark walks through Victorian London – shiver! http://www.museumoflondon.org.uk/Resources/app/Dickens_webpage/index.html

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