Monday 26 January 2009

5 specialist museums in London

Forget sweeping remits like ‘modern art’ or ‘science’: these museums focus on one tiny area. Immerse yourself in something new!

Museum of Brands, Packaging and Advertising
Full of items from the Robert Opie collection, this museum offers a heady mixture of design, marketing and consumption history. Travel through the time tunnel, enjoying packaging and advertisements from the 1850s to the present - nostalgia fix guaranteed. There are also additional exhibitions including Waste Not, Want Not which focuses on World War II and runs until the end of November.
Practical info: 2 Colville Mews, Lonsdale Road, W11 2AR. Open Tues-Sat, 10-6, Sun 11-5. £5.80.

Time has been a central element in London's history, from the place of clocks in its luxury goods market to the importance of timekeeping for navigation. Discover more, all illustrated by some amazing timepieces, in this little guild museum within the Guildhall.
Practical info: the museum is in the Guildhall, just down from the bookshop. Monday-Saturday, 9.30-4.30; admission is free.

Fan Museum
Two lovely Georgian houses in the heart of Greenwich house this unique museum. Its collection of 3,500 fans includes many treasures: fans painted by Gauguin, fans hiding secret French Royalist images, fans carved out of ivory to look like fine lace. There is far more to the fan than you ever imagined! Displays illustrate how fans were made and used; there are regular exhibitions, too.
Practical info: 12 Crooms Hill, SE10 8ER. Open Tues-Sat 11-5, Sunday 12-5; admission £4.

Crystal Palace Museum
From the opening of the Great Exhibition to the terrible fire which destroyed the Crystal Palace forever, this museum covers the full history. Rich with photographs, paintings, a model and original memorabilia, the collection takes you through the building’s incredible history including its move from Hyde Park to south-east London; the amazing exhibitions, entertainments, sports events and meetings held there; and its role as the early home of television. Then, poignantly, there is a case of objects salvaged from the Palace after the fire which destroyed it in 1936. Appropriately, the museum is housed in the Crystal Palace Company’s only surviving building, a former classroom for its School of Practical Engineering.
Practical info: Anerley Hill, Crystal Palace, SE19 2BA. Open Saturdays, Sundays and Bank Holidays 11am-4.30pm. Admission free (donations welcome).

London Transport Museum
Here's proof that even a specialist museum can find fame and a prime central London site. Although it's dedicated to the transport history of one city, the London Transport Museum's galleries are filled with tourists, daytrippers and even Londoners. Who could resist the beautifully restored vehicles, fascinating displays, and chance to collect stamps as you walk around?
Practical info: Covent Garden Piazza, WC2E 7BB. Open daily 10am-6pm (Fri 11am-9pm). £10.

This is a pretty random selection: the only criterion was regular opening hours rather than opening by appointment. Again, your suggestions are also welcome!


Adam said...

An interesting selection. It's not particularly a specialist museum, but I love the Museum of London. It's exactly how you would want it to be and covers such a wide range of subjects. Unfortunately there's nothing really similar in Paris, despite a lot of history to cover!

SE8KER said...

I visited the Museum of Brands a few months ago - an absolutely fascinating collection, but very well hidden - make sure you take a good street map!

CarolineLD said...

Excellent advice se8ker: without my map I would never have found it. There is no signposting!

Adam, I agree about the Museum of London - and the Museum in Docklands offshoot is brilliant too.

Peter Ashley said...

Thankyou for these. I knew of the Opie museum and London Transport, but I'm definitely going to give the Crystal Palace one a go this year.

Mr Christopher said...

Great article. I love the fan musuem!