This is not a strictly chronological post but an overview of some of things we have been doing over the past few days since my last post.
I expect that many other large cities are similar but when I was doing some research for this trip I was astounded by the number and diversity of museums in London. Apart from the big ones such as the British Museum, Science Museum and Natural History Museum, there is a museum for just about everything you can possibly imagine. There is everything from cartoons, design, operating theatres, home life, war, transport, banking, Horse Guards, Sherlock Holmes and Florence Nightingale to name but a few. As the saying goes, there really is something for everyone.
On Friday we started out with the Florence Nightingale Museum which was billed as a ‘small museum located at St Thomas’ Hospital’. We still managed to while away plenty of time at the detailed exhibits and found it most interesting despite GMan’s initial reservations. A 10 minute walk brought us to the next one on our list which was the Imperial War Museum.
The Imperial War Museum was on our ‘must do’ list this time. We were aware of it on our previous trip to London, however, we spent a full day at the Churchill War Rooms on that trip and felt that we simply could not do justice to any more war-related sightseeing at the time.
The Museum consists of galleries on several different levels and we saw barely half so are planning a return visit in the next week. The Holocaust gallery was quite graphic and harrowing but is a story that needs to be told. Even our visit to the National Holocaust Museum in Washington DC in 2012 did not prepare me for this. I think the other aspect that bothered us greatly was the parallels that can be drawn between the Jews in the lead-up to WWII and the current treatment of particular ethnic and religious groups around the world. The rhetoric of certain organisations and the way it is fanned by the media is quite troubling when compared to the events in Europe during the 1930s.
After a break away from museums on the weekend we were back to it yesterday as we headed off to the Museum of the Bank of England and the Museum of London. These are both located in the heart of the financial district in the City of London. That is not entirely surprising for the Bank of England Museum but the Museum of London is for an ancient reason – it is built partly over the ancient city wall of the Roman settlement of Londinium.
Like the Florence Nightingale Museum, the Bank of England Museum is much more extensive that we imagined. It is located at the rear of the Bank and traces over 300 years of the the history of the Bank of England.
I had no illusions of the extent of the Museum of London as it is billed as telling the story of the world’s greatest city and its people, from prehistoric times to the present day. That is an enormous brief and the exhibitions really do live up to the description. We saw it all but you could certainly spend much more time here.
Today we ventured a bit further from the centre of London to Shoreditch which is still an inner urban area to visit the Geffrye Museum of the Home, a series of almshouses built in the early 1700s. They have been used to recreate domestic interiors from 1600 to the present day. Today was the first day of the special Christmas-themed displays so there were quite a number of visitors.
Additionally, two of the almshouses have been recreated to represent these facilities in 1780 and 1880. These are only open to the public via small group guided tours a few times each month. We managed to co-ordinate our visit with a tour day so made the most of our visit.
Our timing was pretty well perfect as the entire venue is closing in early January 2018 for approximately 2 years as it undergoes a massive refurbishment, including structural work to ensure that these historic buildings survive for centuries to come.
I did not take any photographs at most of the museums as they are really of not direct benefit. To me, it is far more important to observe the displays and read the details which we certainly did.