The London Series is a series I am doing focused on, wait for it… London! I’ve already told you all to go see the Changing of Guard at Buckingham Palace and about some free things to do and see. This week I am looking at the museums. I kind of stretched the truth a little bit with the title as one of them is technically a gallery, not a museum. Well, not technically. It is a gallery.
Last week I didn’t include any museums in my free things to do and see list on purpose as I thought they deserved a post of their own. Plus my post was already quite long and nobody has time for that in one go. There are hundreds of museums in London and these are just the ones we saw with the timeframe we had. as of 2015, there were 215 museums in London. That a whole lotta museuming
So without further ado, I present to you some cool museums to waste some time in and have a nosey through:
Natural History Museum
The Natural History Museum building stands tall and proud like something dropped out of a fairytale straight into the center of London. As we lined up in the queue that snaked around the corner my awe of this massive building grew. The iconic museum is famous around the globe and here I was, waiting to be let in and allowed to explore its depths.
As we walked up the stairs Dippy the Diplodocus (true story) looked down at the throng of visitors vying for selfies and tourist snaps. Once you enter the hall it is hard to know which way to turn. Luckily we had a handy wee map as it would have been quite easy to miss something (and I wanted to see everything) or get lost. Although, even with the map we did get lost a few times. Or at least went around in circles more than once.
We do live in a marvelous lil ole world, don’t we? Our history is mind-boggling and there are so many wonders to explore and experience. I wish someone would just invent a time machine already so we could go back and forth. That would be a very useful teaching tool in schools. I was disappointed to learn that the dinosaur exhibit was closed for refurbishment the first time we went. But we still spent a good few hours there until both of our attention spans waned a bit. Admittedly mine first.
- The museum’s collection includes over 70 million botanical items, 55 million animal exhibits, 9 million archaeological relics, and 500,000 rocks and minerals.
- The original collection came from Sir Hans Sloane, who also invented hot chocolate. What a useful man to have around.
- The gallery ceilings are embellished with detailed tiles that feature plants from all over the world on 162 panels. I wish I had known this before we went. Shows how observant I am.
- In 1905 Dippy was the first full skeleton of a dinosaur to go on display in the world.
Allow a good part of the day to see this, you won’t be able to do it in a hurry. Unless you are going for something specific like we did the second time. As we missed out on the dino’s the first time we went back the next time we were in London just to see them. They were T-Riffic!
The Science Museum is a magnificent way to kill half a day. If you like tutooing (it’s a word) with things then this the ultimate place to be. There are buttons, windy things, and levers glore. Naturally, I had to have a play with all the things we wandered past. Except for the pole that gives you an electric shock. No thank you.
As strange it as seems to people that know me, I actually have a very logical mind. I like to know how things work, so this was the perfect place for me to quench my thirst for knowledge. If we had more hours I could have quite happily soaked up every sign that was placed around the displays (so fascinating to read!).
There are several galleries to make your way through including, the “Glimpses of Medical History” exhibit which displayed medical equipment from through the ages. Sometimes I am glad we live in the time of modern medicine, even if we missed out on the dino’s, some of the medical equipment looked like it belonged in a torture exhibit.
Other impressive things to wander past include a lot of clocks (you can see them evolving as you walk further past them), some airplanes (you can also see the evolution here), steam trains, rocket ships (so different to how I pictured them looking) and a lot of other intriguing and absorbing bits and bobs.
- Some scenes in the Ipcress File, the thriller starring Michael Caine, were filmed in the old Science Museum Library in 1964.
- The first children’s gallery opened in December 1931
- The Science Museum holds over 300,000 items
- The Science Museum’s iron buildings, once part of South Kensington Museum, were so ugly that they were named the ‘Brompton Boilers’.
Come nice and early so you have lots of time to tinker with all the objects (not the ones that say don’t touch or are behind a glass display. That’s frowned upon apparently)
Tate Modern was a quick fly through for us, I will be the first to admit I don’t understand art so I don’t have a very well-educated view. I like art where I don’t have to think about the hidden meaning behind it or have to interpret it. Here is a place you will find all kinds of art from sculpture, to paintings, to installation works, to interactive pieces but it depends on when you go as to what particular pieces you will see as the displays are changed often.
The first piece we saw I was less than impressed. To me, it looked like something a kindergarten child would bring home, big pieces of collage stuck together randomly. I’m sure it made perfect sense to the Knowledgeable Art Lovers that trailed through. Unfortunately, I was not one of them. At one point I caught Rob laughing at me. Apparently, I had been so busy making fun of a painted red square that I completely missed a Picasso painting. As we moved further into the rabbit warren of displays I gradually started to appreciate more of the pieces as they were works that I could understand.
I couldn’t spend too long perusing the art as it is not something that I am terribly interested in but in saying that I am glad we went. Once I got the hang of being a Knowledgeable Art Lover, it was quite fun putting my own interpretations on the pieces.
- Tate Modern displays works based on theme rather than chronological order. This means sometimes 21st century art can be sitting next to works from the early 20th century as long as they match.
- The Tate Modern is housed in the former Bankside Power Station. The architect of the power station was Giles Gilbert Scott who is famous for having designed the iconic red telephone boxes dotted around the UK. He was a busy man.
- You can thank sugar for the Tate Modern. Henry Tate, a 19th century sugar merchant from Liverpool, donated his collection of contemporary paintings and £80,000 to the government. He was the man responsible for introducing sugar cubes to the United Kingdom. He was also a busy man.
Have an open mind, try to see the art not just for what they look like but what they stand for and don’t make fun of them. I got several dirty looks shot at me by other gallery visitors.
Museum of London
The Museum of London documents London’s history through prehistoric to modern times. This was especially interesting to me as I was reading Edward Rutherfords London (still am quite some time later, to be honest. It’s hard going) so it aligned with the history I was reading about. The museum was just a quick walk around the corner from St Paul’s Cathedral which we had been eating our lunch in the shadow of.
The museum is laid out in a really unique way. You feel as though you are travelling through time, starting with prehistoric London. Then you wind your way through history to modern times, passing through the Romans and Saxons, medieval London and through the years ravaged by plague and fire until you finish in modern days. For history geeks, this is the ultimate place to explore London’s past.
- Over 6 million objects are held at the museum which is the largest urban history collection in the world.
- Part of the museum’s grounds at Barbican complex literally touches the city’s history by connecting to the ancient Roman Wall that formed London’s original boundary.
- The Barbican Centre also has its own interesting history, having been the site of a Roman fort and saw heavy destruction during the London Blitz.
- The Museum’s logo was designed by the firm of Coley Porter Bell in 2009 to comprise the city’s boundaries over the course of time.
The lighting isn’t photograph friendly. Make sure you know how to use the settings on your camera if you want to take away some permanent documentation. I have no photo’s as I was rubbish with my camera and as a result, all my pictures came out blurry.
Other museums on my bucket list include
- British Museum
- Victoria and Albert Museum
- Sherlock Holmes Museum
- Museum of Comedy
- Churchill War Rooms
Well, that is enough museum-info for one post. I hope you enjoyed reading, let me know in the comments below which other museums to add to my bucket list. Alternatively, add your thoughts on the museums mentioned if you have been before. I’d love to hear about your experiences.