Shaping the city: London’s story
Date Posted: 27/08/2010
Group Leisure attended the recent opening of the Museum of London’s new Galleries of Modern London, tracing the city’s development over the past 350 years.
This summer marked the long-awaited opening of the new Galleries of Modern London, unveiled at the Museum of London. The result of a £20 million redevelopment project, the galleries aim to tell the story of the nation’s capital and its inhabitants, covering a period of almost four centuries, from the Great Fire of London in 1666, right up to the present day.
Demonstrating the museum’s ongoing commitment to the travel trade, group organisers were invited along for a special opening, not only providing a chance to view the galleries, but the opportunity to learn about the variety of guided tours and facilities available for groups. Group Leisure attended the opening along with dozens of active GTOs, all keen to see how the new galleries could enhance a visit to the Museum of London.
A walk through time
The galleries are divided into five designated areas, together displaying over 7,000 exhibits which aim to bring London’s story to life. The first gallery, Expanding City, covers the period after the Great Fire, up until the 1850s. Highlights include the intricate Fanshawe dress, made from local Spitalfields silk and worn by Ann Fanshawe when her father was Lord Mayor of London from 1752 to 1753, as well as an original 18th century prison cell, which visitors can step inside and read the graffiti engraved by the cell’s unfortunate inhabitants. This space also includes the recreated Georgian pleasure gardens, displaying period costumes and a number of specially-commissioned masks and hats by Philip Treacy.
The People’s City illustrates a divided city, with a huge gap between rich and poor. This gallery covers a period of rising conflict, from the Suffragette movement up until the end of World War Two. Visitors can stroll along the Victorian Walk, and explore the segregated city with Charles Booth’s Descriptive Map of London Poverty. Contrasting the emerging West End glamour is the immersive war room, featuring a suspended bomb.
Taking the capital into the present day and looking towards the future, the World City gallery examines a modern London for the masses, from changes in fashion to new and emerging technologies and entertainment. Arguably the most interactive of all five galleries, an interactive river featuring iconic landmarks including St Paul’s, the Gherkin and the new 2012 Olympic stadiums, allows visitors to debate issues affecting the city and its residents today, from burial space to climate change.
The two final spaces are comprised of the ground floor City Gallery, which boasts the splendid Lord Mayor’s Coach as its centrepiece; and the Sackler Hall, a contemporary hub at the heart of the museum, providing an area for rest and refreshment.
Emphasis on interaction
The redevelopment project has placed a great deal of emphasis on visitor interaction, and this is perhaps the most striking feature about the new galleries. With a host of interactive displays throughout, groups can truly immerse themselves in the museum experience, by literally touching, listening and even smelling London’s past, moving away from the old-fashioned notion of ‘look but don’t touch’.
A guided tour can also enhance your visit to the Galleries of Modern London, and the museum has added a new series of tours to its groups programme, some of which will appeal directly to individual interests. A 45-minute gallery highlights tour can cover such themes as: Sects and the City, looking at belief and worship from prehistory to the restoration; Dirt, Doctors and Diseases, examining the history of health, hygiene and medicine; and Sports, Pastimes and Entertainment, discovering how Londoners of the past enjoyed their leisure time.
Groups of ten or more people planning a visit to the Museum of London are entitled to a range of benefits. Admission to the museum is free, and organisers can also take advantage of a free familiarisation visit. In addition to its exciting programme of talks and guided tours for pre-arranged parties, the museum also offers pre-bookable dining options, which include a free meal for GTOs.