A Day in London Museums

I’ll put up my hands and say it. I love museums. I just love going to them. Love seeing what’s on display. Love admiring the works of art, seeing the objects and reading the stories. Wherever I go, and much to the dismay of others, I have to go to a Museum. My day out in London was no different. I started the day at 9am, and headed from Brick Lane to Greenwich, for stop one of the day, the Cutty Sark. Using my trusty Museums Association card I was in for the discounted rate and set off on my little adventure.

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Cutty Sark

For those that don’t know, the Cutty Sark was damaged in a fire in 2007, whilst undergoing conservation work. The clipper was reopened in 2012 by The Queen. I made my way around the ship reading panels and taking pictures as I went. I found the out of order signs to particular humorous.

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“Out of Order”

As I worked my way through the decks, I was approached by the visitor services assistant who issued me with my admission ticket. She came over and introduced herself, and asked how I was finding the Cutty Sark. I explained I’d never been and it was on my list of “places to go that I still hadn’t been to”. As we chatted, we discussed museums we wanted to go to and places we had been to. I explained where I worked in Edinburgh, and she exclaimed she had just been in Glasgow for the MA conference. It was great to hear from Mariana (I think this was her name, if it’s not I apologise and I’ll change it! Please get in touch if you are reading!!), about her passion for Museums and that she had made the effort to attend conferences and do as much networking as possible at every opportunity she had. As a former VSA myself, it’s incredibly refreshing to hear there are others who are making it their mission to do as much as possible in the sector and get involved as and when they could. After our chat I worked my way around the rest of deck, taking in the Captain’s quarters, before heading underneath the clipper.

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Underneath the Cutty Sark

There’s something quite powerful about standing underneath such a large ship like the Cutty Sark, especially when 963 tons are about four feet from the top of your head. Assuming you are 6 foot tall. I’m not. From this point I made my way back upstairs and headed up towards the National Maritime Museum, a short walk from the Cutty Sark.

I’d been told to visit the Emma Hamilton exhibition by colleagues. I’ll be honest and say it didn’t really appeal to me. Everyone has different things that they are into in Museums; Egyptians, Mummies, Skeletons, Archaeology, Portraits to name but a few. With the Emma Hamilton, the main image used in the marketing is Emma Hart as Circe by George Romney. For me, this wasn’t ticking any boxes and really didn’t appeal to me, but with faith in my colleagues’ opinions I made my way to the exhibition.

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Emma Hamilton

I was massively surprised. This exhibition was fantastic. I don’t want to ruin it for anyone who may or may not be reading this but I would encourage anyone who is in London near Greenwich to visit this exhibition. The narrative woven into the exhibition was superb, and I came out of the exhibition feeling more knowledgeable about Emma Hamilton’s life than before.

After viewing the exhibition, I met up with Sacha Coward, the Community Participation Producer at National Maritime Museums Greenwich. We chatted museums and the good they can do for communities. It was great to hear enthusiasm from a colleague about the work they are doing with their Museum and everything that goes with it. NMM just recently held an Out at Sea Family Festival which was met with great success. Royal Museums Greenwich are also taking part in LGBT History Month which is celebrating the histories, lives and experiences of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people. They’ll also be taking part in London Pride this year, so I can’t wait to see what is planned next!

After lunch I jumped on the Tube and headed across London to the V&A Museum to see You Say You Want A Revolution? Records and Rebels 1966-1970. I grew up listening to music from this period in my house, so I was really keen to experience it, as I had heard it was a bit… different.

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I wasn’t wrong. This expedition was designed as an immersive experience. I got my ticket and made my way to the exhibition, to collect my headphones and music player. With music from the 60’s playing in my ear I entered the exhibition space to see, well, lots of people that looked like my dad. I enjoyed seeing lots of 60’s paraphernalia, and hearing how rebelling and marches and protests were commonplace, something that still resonates today. I didn’t like the crowds. A lot of the exhibition focused around sensory experience, so when you moved into a space a relevant tune or bit of audio started playing. Unfortunately these were usually located around cases with objects in them. What was also unfortunate was that it was hard to see past everyone and get close to the case in order to trigger the sensory experience. I felt that it could have worked BUT the physical spaces were too narrow. Nonetheless, I persevered and whipped round the rest of the exhibition. On the whole I did enjoy it, but the crowds were just a little bit too much… You Say You Want A Revolution? Records and Rebels 1966-1970 runs until the 26th of February and costs £16.

After the V&A I headed off the Grant Museum at UCL. One word, fascinating. Whilst this Museum is a lot smaller than the previous three I had been to, it was absolutely eclectic. In a relatively small space, there were 100’s of comparative anatomy specimens, including the infamous Glass Jar of Moles and the Micrarium, home of one the most famous locations for a Museum Selfie. It is a wonderful collection of  animal skeletons and ‘things in jars’. Working in an anatomy museum myself, it’s absolutely fantastic to see such a larger collection of animal anatomy.

From here, I took a quick jaunt around the corner to the Wellcome Collection, to check out Bedlam and From Nature. I love Wellcome, it’s one of these places that everyone likes and everyone enjoys, but is just slightly left-field.

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When I was there, I visited Making Nature and Bedlam. Making Nature looks at the relationship between us and nature, although I think this tweet describes it best…

Bedlam was absolutely fantastic. This exhibition looked at mental health and the exploration of the asylum and how it changed over the years. The exhibition is now closed, but you can read about it here.

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After exploring the Wellcome Collection, I managed to meet Russell Dornan, the man responsible for this amazing tweet.

Surely I must get some sort of reward for cramming in so many Museums in one day?

One thought on “A Day in London Museums

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