By Sumayyah Lane (BA History)
Since the renovation of the Museum of London’s entire ground floor, reliving London’s past is now an experience reimagined. Complete with reconstructed Victorian streets, spoken accounts and 7000 objects, the museum’s nine galleries present a detailed and engaging history of the city.
This historical journey begins in the London before London gallery, taking a step back from the birth of the capital to explore Roman Britain. Around the corner lies the most well-known gallery, War, Plague & Fire, bringing the harrowing story of the Great Fire of London to life through an immersive audio and visual experience.
A short walk into the dimly lit Expanding City thrusts you into a recovered London laden with glamorous colonial goods from the British Empire, the lack of light serving as a metaphor for the darkness that underlined Britain’s imperial projects. Nevertheless, intricately painted fans, silk gowns and delicate china all combine to reinforce the ever-present quality of London as a city of opportunity.
The timeline of London’s milestones continues through to the Victorian Age. People’s City provides incredibly detailed Victorian street scenes before transforming into an era of pre-war vintage glamour. Prepare to be whisked away on a time-travelling adventure surrounded by flapper dresses, elaborate jewellery and the gorgeous Selfridges’ art deco lift.
Previously the galleries had ended just before the Great War. Now London’s story goes further, leaving a slightly apocalyptic feeling in the mouth by showcasing the legacy of the present day. The modern exhibits include an in-depth display on the Suffragette movement amongst interviews and diary entries of child evacuees during WWII. Exhibits on the gay rights movements, the fight against racism, clothing of contemporary Muslim women, and the 7/7 tube attacks are amongst the treasure to be found in World City, reinforcing a view of the capital as a “mosaic of diverse communities and neighbourhoods.”
All in all, the Museum of London paints London as a fast-paced, buzzing city that does it all. Aside from the obvious selling point that the museum is free, it offers a unique nine-stop whiz tour of London’s past that is easily digested and engaging – great for Londoners, and perhaps perfect for international students interested in learning all things London outside the classroom.