Museum of London, Saturday 25.9.10
Posted by Lisa Hill on September 26, 2010
Our tour of St Paul’s Cathedral had taken longer than we expected so we wasted no time in setting off for the Museum of London. It’s on the London Wall, and (from St Paul’s) it’s reached by taking some stairs up a building on the other side of the road and across a footbridge. There’s a cafe at the entrance which we foolishly chose for lunch; nothing there is remotely edible except for the bananas.
But the museum is fabulous. It is an urban museum, celebrating the history of the city of London from the earliest days of human habitation, and even before that when there were straight-backed elephants and rhinoceroses in what was then a much warmer climate. (The weather today was fine, but there was a brisk wind which made me very glad I’d rugged up with coat and scarf.)
Most fascinating were the displays of early human tools. How inventive those early people were, and how quickly they learned to attach handles to flints so that these tools were handy to use! Early metalwork was equally sophisticated, and before long they were making jewellery as well as tools. The archaeologists who work on these finds do a wonderful job of salvaging fragments and reassembling them, and the displays make the progression of human creativity very clear and easy to understand.
When the Romans turned up, there was an infusion of new ideas and technologies, and there were terrific models of all kinds of structures including a water mill from the 1st century AD. Lots of Roman coins, of course, but also small fragments of exquisite glassware, glorious mosaics and even a wall fresco in excellent condition (from Bath, I think. I forgot to write anything down in this museum.)
After that came medieval London, with costume displays, beautiful pottery and all the chivalric stuff you’d expect. Kids could try on silly clothes here for photo opportunities, and indeed the whole museum is a delight for both the young and young-at-heart because there are things that can be touched and fiddled with and there are electronic displays as well, like this one about the history of London transport. (There was even a little underground with trains for small children to play with!)
After that it became history we were more familiar with, starting with the Elizabethans and the Restoration. Somehow we skipped the 18th century and found ourselves in the galleries of modern London, with exhibits from the 1920s, 30s and 40s, and of course the Swinging Sixties. It was all very impressive and a credit to the curators.
Time to stop writing – we’re off to dinner at Texture, a Scandinavian restaurant!