Exploring London | Some Museums…

Now that I’m actually living in London, I feel I should be making the best of all the Capital has to offer. I’ll be the first to admit that I’m making a poor job of it!

I’m going to kick off this series the easy way, and focus on museums.

Figures from 2016 tell me that there are a whopping 250 registered art galleries, museums or similar in London. And that’s the minimum number! To my shame, I’ve barely scratched the surface, and one of those I’ve visited three times in the last eight months. I must do better.

So, the first chunk of my wee list consists of:

  • The Natural History Museum
  • The V&A
  • The British Museum
  • The National Portrait Gallery
  • The Imperial War Museum

As you can imagine (or perhaps not), it’s the dinosaurs I’ve seen three times!

Prior to living in London, the only London Museum I’d ever visited. I’d heard stories of portraits in galleries, ships by the river, and exhibitions in museums, but never made it to any. Until now.The Natural History Museum was something else! I’d heard all about the escalator that goes through the globe, I’d been hearing about it for years, and even at the age of 29, it was still magical! (Or you could argue that I’m easily pleased!) It was great fun rock hunting, and finding a chunk of Scout Scar a long way from home (they say it was off this scar they tossed victims of the Black Death way back when), and the plate that simulates an earthquake is uncomfortably familiar. Been there, done that, thanks!

And of course there are the dinosaurs, that need a wee visit every time, just so they won’t be lonely, you know!

Every time I go to the Natural History Museum, there’s something new – not necessarily new to the museum, but new to me. I’ll probably be wending my way there again in the not too distant future.

Website2The V&A (The Victoria and Albert Museum, for anyone not in the know) is conveniently right next door to the Natural History Museum, so of course my first time there I just had to pop in. It was a flying visit, however. I was already museum’d out, and had no idea how to orientate myself in the V&A, but I’m keen to get back there. They always seem to have some fantastic special exhibitions – I’m sure any of the fashion savvy among you will have heard of the Dior exhibition that I think I’ve sadly missed!

Outwith the special exhibitions, the V&A has what I’d call a chic permanent collection, beautifully curated, and at times you feel like you could be at Pemberly a la Keira Knightly’s Pride and Prejudice, and don’t forget the wealth of fashion – the fashion archive is housed in an entirely separate building. The fashion is all I remember from my first visit and even though I didn’t get there on my recent quick-flit visit, I’m keen to get back there to see what’s changed.

WebsiteBritish museumI hit up the British Museum a few weeks into living in London with a friend who’s a History teacher because, a) museum and, b) posters. Sadly, the British Museum doesn’t sell posters anymore. I’ll be honest, I don’t quite know what to make of that – do people not keep posters on their walls anymore?

But I digress. The British Museum is something else. I’ve been to many Museums in my time, but the sheer scale of all the things we’ve nicked over the years was overwhelming. Fascinating, but overwhelming. We walked past the hall focused on Egypt, and I just stood there in awe. My jaw would have been on the floor had it been possible!

I feel like we made our way around an infinitesimal portion of the museum in relation to the sheer quantity of exhibitions and artifacts it houses. It needs a second trip, probably a third trip, and I wouldn’t be surprised if it needed a few more after that.

Website4The National Portrait Gallery was an unexpected trip on a rainy day. House right beside it’s waaay bigger brother, the National Portrait Gallery is smaller but infinitely more fabulous – though I know this is a personal thing. So many of the portraits had been staring at me out of the pages of history books for years, most notably those of Henry VIII and his Tudor crew. Even when you’ve seen a painting so often it’s ingrained in your brain, nothing prepares you for being faced with the genuine article!

But the National Portrait Gallery isn’t all about the old guard. The paintings, busts, sculptures and photographs go all the way up to the present day, with some of my favourites being those from the last ten years or so, and there was an especially moving series of photographs featuring war veterans. It’s absolutely worth a trip!

WebsiteImpreial war museumGrowing up in Cumbria, with Manchester one of our nearest cities, you can imagine trips to the Imperial War Museum: North were frequent both in and out of school. I love the Imperial War Museums northern cousin, the layout and immersive nature in the centre of the museum – if you’ve been, you know what I mean. It has taken me a long time to visit its southern predecessor and I was not disappointed.

Not your usual date venue, the bf and I went one sunny Autumn day in late October. The sun was out and ceramic poppies were cascading down the entrance way. The museum was founded in 1917, to recored the sacrifice of World War One, and moved to its current home – a former hospital – in 1936, and it feels like the building was built to house the collection it shows.

The museum is beautifully and cleverly created, and conveys a huge amount of information without being overwhelming. It is fun, engaging and immersive. One of their permanent exhibitions is the Holocaust Exhibition. Once again, it is beautifully curated, handling the topic with great sensitivity. I can hardly call it enjoyable, but it’s something I believe it is important to see – it is important to see and understand the depths to which humanity sinks in order to hope that we never do such again.

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