The Museum Of London's New Galleries

Christopher Fowler
The new £20million galleries at the Museum of London are a triumph. The mistake everyone makes when visiting this smallish museum is underestimating the time it takes to visit. The early sections of the museum are, for me, the dullest - it's hard to make bits of pottery interesting, or to bring to life the times when they were thrown. But because the early history is extensive, you get museum fatigue just at the point when you reach the best bits. The secret with the Museum of London is to start at the present day and work backwards. So what's new? A huge amount of interactivity, involving advanced technology, from touch-screens to projections that play behind objects. For example, an exhibition of clothes worn to the Vauxhall Pleasure Gardens is supported with unfolding filmed playlets of characters walking the gardens and gossiping about the inhabitants, and items from a 1930s Lyon's tea house has projected footage of 'Nippies' (the black and white dressed waitresses) behind them. There's a lot of stuff at kids' height, but that hasn't meant dumbing down the adults' material. Rather, there has been a change of emphasis throughout the museum. Instead of showing us just London's architecture and artifacts, the curators have brought her inhabitants to the fore, giving them voices in sound and vision, and this allows you to more easily connect with the past. Some of the best items are still the big objects - a Newgate jail cell, the beautiful elevator and walls from Selfridges, the coronation coach, the Victorian shops - but there are small delights dotted everywhere, certainly enough to warrant return visits. And, of course, entry is free. You'll find the Museum on London Wall at the junction with Aldersgate Street.
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