Celebrating its 40th anniversary this year, the Museum of London is a repository of the city’s history from the area’s earliest Neolithic settlements to the present day. Doing something different than other museums of its time, architects Philip Powell and Hidalgo Moya laid out their design for the MOL in such a way that it forced visitors to travel through the permanent galleries as if they were traveling through time from pre-London to the modern era. Now spread out into three museums and looking at a move from Barbican Centre, have a look at some interesting facts about this great city museum.
They say it’s all about “location, location, location”, and for a history museum, the MOL decided to put itself in one of the best places that it could. 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. This year, the museum is working on moving itself from the Barbican complex to the Smithfield Market building, a move that is estimated to cost £70 million.
Not Antiques Roadshow
The Museum of London offers a free object identification service for members of the public who come across unknown objects related to London’s history. They do not, however, put any value on the items they identify.
Good Gracious, Great Fire of London
Presently, one of the MOL’s featured exhibits relates to the Great Fire in 1666, recognising the 350th anniversary of an event that changed the very face of the city. The museum launched a permanent website to let browsers delve into the course of the fire as it raged for four days as well as a physical exhibit that shows the lives of Londoners in the 17th Century and enables visitors to play archaeologist by examining and identifying burned and melted items.
Out of Two, One
The Museum of London was actually created from the collections of two separate facilities. One was the London Museum and the other was the museum at the Guildhall, the City of London’s municipal headquarters. The Guildhall’s museum focused on ancient objects while the London Museum displayed more modern pieces.
The Museum of London is actually comprised of three separate museums. The first is the main museum at the Barbican complex. The second is the Docklands Museum, which focuses on the history of the docks and how they related to transport and trade. The third location is the Museum of London Archaeology, which is an outreach of the museum that assists with digs across the United Kingdom.
Shopping for History
One of the museum’s main archives is the Sainsbury Archive, which is named such not necessarily due to donations from the superstore but comprises items from the story’s history, showing the changes in shopping patterns, advertisements, and displaying artifacts dating as far back as the first shop’s opening in 1869. The archive also has interactive displays for visitors as well as a digital archive of the in-house JS Journal from its first publication in 1946.
It may look like a series of blobs, but the MOL’s logo was designed by the firm of Coley Porter Bell in 2009 to comprise the city’s boundaries over the course of time.
History is in Their Bones
The Centre for Human Bioarchaeology is one of the most fascinating parts of the Museum of London. Here, scientists work to discover the lives of Londoners by studying their very bones. The centre has over 10,000 bodies in its care and even offers evening courses such as Bare Bones that are available to visitors.
Life in Pictures
The MOL’s archives contain over 35,000 images, many of which are available for licensing or purchase as prints.
Walking Through History
One of the coolest aspects of the Museum of London is its free galleries that let visitors walk through the city’s history. These galleries include: London Before London, Roman London, Medieval London, “War, Plague, & Fire”, Expanding City, People’s City, World City, City Gallery, and the London 2012 Cauldron, the last of which details the construction and symbolism behind the Olympic Flame cauldron for the 2012 Summer Games.