Tuesday, 23 April 2013

Visiting The Museum of London, UK

          The Museum of London is an interesting museum for those fascinated by the city that has stood as the premier city of England for generations; a city that has been torn down repeatedly by fire, disease, and war that always manages to rise up and rebuild itself. The museum has a singular focus on the city of London, and it chronologically documents the history of the city from prehistoric times to the present day. The museum emphasizes the changing landscape of the city itself, its urban development, and the ever changing social and cultural life of London.
Museum of London, London, UK

            When you first enter the museum you will almost forget that this is a museum about London, as the opening galleries take you back to prehistoric times. There are many artifacts and archaeological discoveries in the museum that reveal how early man lived, including early weapons made from carved rocks. In addition, there is much information to read in the area. For example, did you know that the modern Thames is now “a shadow of its former self” that was once a wide braided stream? As you move through the museum, you will jump in history a bit to the Roman-era of London. Here, the museum offers you the chance to look at many statues and busts recovered from that period, Roman-era coins, and of course a wealth of information covering the history of that time period.

Roman Coins, Museum of London, London, UK

            The period of Medieval-era London to the Victorian-era is one of the longest and engrossing periods in London's history to learn about, and the museum does not skimp on the exhibits from this time period. Some of the objects you should definitely pay a visit to are the reconstruction of a medieval-era wooden home, some copies of the earliest texts and books printed in London, and a couple of plates from the famous Copperplate Map of London. The map, circa 1559, is the earliest view of the city known to exist. Printed on copper plates, the map shown in the museum features the eastern side of the city, from Shoreditch in the north to London Bridge in the south. From here, you can gather a wealth of information on the disasters that ravaged London in the 16th and 17th centuries, including the Great Plague of 1665 and the Great Fire of London of 1666. The Great Plague alone killed nearly 100,000 people, a fifth of London's population at the time, while the Great Fire of London destroyed much of the city, including nearly 70,000 homes. What is remarkable though, is the way the city managed to rebuild itself following these disasters. The galleries here show how London rebuilt itself by redesigning the city in a more modern fashion, eliminating wood homes and widening the city streets. There are video rooms where you can learn more about just how much the fire affected the city.
Great Fire of London, 1666, Museum of London

            As you move into the Victorian-era of the city's history, the galleries begin to focus less on the city and more on its social and cultural aspects instead. There are models of old-fashioned cars and horse carriages to look at, including the Lord Mayor's State Coach which is a grand and opulent sight to see. A couple of the more fun exhibitions in this area of the museum attempt to take you back in time to Victorian-era London by recreating full-scale models of how the city may have looked at the time. The Victorian walk offers recreations of various shops and businesses while the Georgian Pleasure Garden lets you imagine yourself as an upper class socialite from the time period. Overall, both are definitely worth taking a stroll through.

Lord Mayor's State Coach, Museum of London

            The modern-era portion of the museum tells the story of London from post-WWII to present. These galleries include a large section on fashion, showing how both men's and women's styles have changed through the decades. While men's formal wear hasn't changed too drastically in the past fifty years, there is a definite progression in women's fashion that is interesting to notice. In addition, the change in younger fashion, from 60's chic to 80's punk fashion to the present day style of skinny clothes is featured in great detail. Lastly, there is also an exhibition on Sir Michael Caine, one of London's most famous actors, currently in the museum near the end. Here, you can learn all about his movies and the life of the man before and after he achieved stardom. Overall, for those fascinated by the city that always remains standing, the Museum of London is a wonderful place to check out and explore for a couple of hours. The museum is easy to navigate, and for a museum with such a singular focus there is a large variety of knowledge to be gained here.

Sir Michael Caine Exhibition, Museum of London
-By Phillip Storm, Arts Correspondent, VisitMuseums.com 

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