I’m lucky enough to live in London which is teeming with hundreds of museums. I’m also lucky enough to be starting to volunteer next week for the Museum of London’s Fire!Fire! exhibition which is about – you’ve guessed it – the Great Fire of London, 1666. For some strange reason, I thought that I’d never been to the museum and decided that, before I start volunteering there, I should actually go and visit, spend some time there, and get better acquainted with the layout so I could help visitors as best as I can.
I have to admit though, I did visit for purely selfish reasons; these reasons take me back about seventeen years to my primary school days. I was always quiet (very quiet actually), loved reading books, and spent a lot of my time writing stories and poems. I also loved history. When I was in Year 4 I had the best teacher ever! I still tell people about him – I’ve never had a teacher that believed in me so much. He treated me with so much kindness…(my mum often jokes that he was my first crush too, which he probably was)…but I digress. I distinctly remembered going on a school trip with my classmates and visiting one of the museums in London. It was there that I saw Roman coins for the first time. There were so many of these little golden coins in all different sizes with all of these different engravings of emperors who lived so long ago. I remember thinking that they were actual people that had these weird names and they ignited some kind of curiosity in me. For years and years, I’d forgotten where it was that I’d seen these coins and I’ve been on a mission to find them. I had already crossed out the British Museum off of my list and, when I’d heard from a friend that they had a collection at the Museum of London, I knew that I’d be on the lookout.
I eventually got there after a few of the underground lines were shut (not to self: check this before leaving on the weekend) and was really quite hungry so decided to eat at the London Wall Bar & Kitchen which is an Italian restaurant right next to the museum. Actually, they had a Fire!Fire! themed pizza which was very spicy! It had fresh chillies and jalapeno peppers on top, needless to say, my mouth was on fire when I’d finished it (which obviously, I did). I had my pizza minus the cheese because I’m a Vegan (I’ll only mention it this one time, promise).
After I’d eaten I made my way into the museum where I was greeted by a lovely host who expertly told me all that I needed to know and then I was off into the main galleries. The first room is Pre-Roman. Its focus is on the River Thames and the way that communities developed around it. Really, there’s a whole lot of skulls and bones, swords, maces, and flint. It’s quite interesting and mostly archaeology-centred but I have to admit, it did all begin to blend into one after a while. I did, however, like the Shepperton woman who lived between 3640 and 3100BC, whose remains were found and her face reconstructed. I felt quite sorry for her though. She was described as having a ‘somewhat masculine’ face. I don’t see it myself and felt like this language used to describe her was a little outdated but I’ll let you be the judge of that:
Next, come the Romans and their introduction of all things new to London, most importantly being roads, some of which are still in use today. I loved the Bucklersbury mosaic, jewellery/hair pieces, and pottery that was on display. I was so impressed with the Roman under-floor heating, and although I’ve probably heard of it before, I still found it very interesting.
Yes, I did find the coins, in case you were wondering. I couldn’t believe it when I saw them. It turns out that I have been to the museum before, and who would have known that this was the building that had made such a deep imprint on my mind and my future. I eventually ended up studying history for both my undergraduate and postgraduate degrees.
My absolute favourite parts of the museum (I’m going to have to cut this short because there was so much I loved about it) was the point where you could actually sit down and listen to the old languages spoken in London and England throughout the years. Old English was very familiar to my ears, although I couldn’t understand a word of it. There was also Latin, Medieval German and Old Norse. This I felt, was a fun and interactive activity, which is perfectly situated for you to take a seat and have a break at.
The most impressive thing for me was the model of St. Paul’s Cathedral in its medieval form, before it burnt down in 1666. It’s an enormous replica, and beautifully intricate in its detail. The model itself is over 100 years old and was constructed in 1908 by the architectural model-maker J. B. Thorp. What struck me about this was that it is history itself depicting history.
Finally, quite possibly one of the most immersive aspects of a museum I have yet been in, is Victorian Walk. You are able to wander through a typical Victorian street and peer into the shops (toy shops, tailors, tobacconists, etc.) and even take a seat in a replica of an old Victorian pub. There’s even a urinal for you to look at – although I
wouldn’t recommend trying to use it!
I’ve had to limit what I’ve put into this post, and there was so much more after Victorian Walk to talk about. I really enjoyed strolling around the museum on a grim Sunday afternoon and I’ve decided that I will definitely return to take in more of the modern exhibits. I have to be honest, I was shocked by the size of it and was quite tired towards the end.
I’m even more excited about starting to volunteer there next week. I cannot wait! I’ve uploaded a few more pictures of some of my favourite objects.
If you’ve been to the museum before, what was your favourite part? Or can you suggest any museums for me to visit next?
Thank you for reading,