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Review: Bank of England Museum

The Bank of England stands behind high walls in the City of London and is often ignored by visitors, however it has a fascinating history. The Bank of England has played a unique role in British history for over 300 years, it is the central bank of the United Kingdom which was established in 1694. The bank also plays an important role in setting monetary policy and has a monopoly on the issue of banknotes in England and Wales and regulates the issue of banknotes by banks in Scotland and Northern Ireland.

To find out more about the bank, visitors can enter The Bank of England Museum which has a selection of displays and exhibits which cover the history of the Bank, its buildings, and the role the bank has played more than 300 years.

The first room is The Stock Office which is a reconstruction of one of the bank’s eighteenth-century offices built by Sir John Soane, who was the Bank’s architect from 1788 to 1833.

Displays show how the bank is involved in monetary policy, tries to ensure financial stability by identifying and monitoring risks in the financial system and looks at the Bank of England’s architecture from Sir John Soane to Herbert Baker who rebuilt and expanded the Bank in the 1930s. The current bank building has seven floors above ground and three floors below.

The next section entitled The Early Years 1694 – 1800 explores the first 100 or so years of the Bank of England. The bank was created as a response to the need to raise money at the time of war with France. The Bank was located in rented buildings for its first 40 years, but moved to Threadneedle Street in 1734.

One of the oldest pieces of furniture in the Bank, dating from approximately 1700 is a great iron chest that was the forerunners of modern safes. Visitors can also see a £1 million pound note used for internal accounting in the 18th century. It was in the 18th century that The Bank of England’s got its famous nickname, ‘The Old Lady of Threadneedle Street’, which originated from a 1797 cartoon by the satirist James Gillray.

The centre of the museum is the The Rotunda which features displays for the period 1800 to 1946. The statues around the Rotunda, called caryatids, were original features of Sir John Soane’s bank. They were salvaged for use in the new building.

The bank played an important role during the interwar years, managing the country’s gold and foreign exchange reserves and operating monetary policy, this was formalised when the bank was nationalised in 1946.

A remarkable little known fact is that The Bank of England stores around 400,000 gold bars in its vaults. The gold stored in the vaults doesn’t actually belong to the Bank of England. Instead, the Bank stores gold on behalf of the UK Treasury, other governments and central banks around the world, and many other financial institutions.

If you have ever wondered what it is like to handle genuine bar of gold, you can with a bar weighing 13kg (28lb) available for visitors to lift up in a small box.

The Banknote Gallery looks at the origins of paper money in ancient China and how banknotes have changed from the seventeenth century to the present day. The problem with forgeries is discussed and you can look at the complex designs that make modern banknotes more difficult to counterfeit. There is a section on the cutting-edge technology used to create the Bank of England’s newest polymer banknotes.

As well as the permanent displays, the museum has a series of temporary exhibitions taking place throughout the year.

The Bank of England Museum is located within the Bank of England itself and is a fascinating look at this often mysterious institution. The museum is relatively small but full of interesting exhibits which provide some background to the role of the bank in the past and in the modern world.

Admission is free, but all visitors will need to go through airport style security to enter the museum, the museum entrance is on Bartholomew Lane.

Visiting London Guide Rating – Highly Recommended

For more information and tickets, visit the Bank of England website here

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Since our launch in January 2014, we have attracted thousands of readers each month, the site is constantly updated.
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Review: National Maritime Museum in Greenwich

The National Maritime Museum is located within the historic buildings that form part of the Maritime Greenwich World Heritage Site and is run by Royal Museums Greenwich which comprises of the Royal Observatory, Cutty Sark, National Maritime Museum and Queen’s House.

Greenwich has been the home to a naval-based art gallery since the early 1800s, however the idea for a National Maritime Museum goes back to the 1920s, when a public appeal was launched to develop a ‘national naval and nautical museum’. Sir James Caird purchased the A.G.H. Macpherson Collection of over 11,000 maritime prints, along with ship models and many other items, to help begin the Museum’s collection.

Over a decade later, the National Maritime Museum was opened by King George VI in 1937 and now holds some of the most important items in the world on the history of Britain at sea, including maritime art, cartography, manuscripts, official public records, ship models and plans. In the last ten years, more gallery spaces have been added and a new library and archive has been developed.

Highlights of the ground level area are the remarkable collection of figureheads from the late 17th century until the early 20th century, the stern gallery of HMS Implacable, a full size Type-23 frigate propeller and the lavish 20 metre The state barge built for Frederick, Prince of Wales and launched in 1732.

On the ground level is the Jutland 1916 gallery which was opened to mark the centenary of the Battle of Jutland, the largest sea battle of the First World War.

Also on this level is J.M.W. Turner’s largest painting of The Battle of Trafalgar, 21 October 1805, which is one of the highlights of the museums art collection and the Voyagers gallery which tells the story of Britain and the sea and Maritime London.

Moving up to other levels, there are series of galleries and displays including the Nelson, Navy, Nation gallery which explores the life and times of great British hero Horatio Nelson and the history of the Royal Navy and British people from 1688–1815. One of the highlights is the actual uniform Admiral Nelson was wearing when he was fatally wounded at the Battle of Trafalgar.

Visitors can find out about Britain’s maritime trade with Asia in the Traders: the East India Company and Asia gallery and find a moments peace in the beautiful Baltic Exchange Memorial Glass gallery which commemorates World War I dead.

The museum has opened four new galleries from September 2018, Tudor and Stuart Seafarers uncovers stories of adventure and piracy, ambition and greed. Polar Worlds discover the challenges of extreme environments. From Arctic and Antarctic exploration to the impact of climate change on human lives. Pacific Encounters voyage to the world’s largest ocean and hear hidden histories of exploration and exploitation. Sea Things explores more personal connections with the sea with a series of personal stories.

The museum attracts many children and families with its AHOY! children’s gallery and you can enjoy food and drink in the Parkside Café and Terrace which features the popular Yinka Shonibare’s replica of Nelson’s HMS Victory in a bottle.

The National Maritime Museum is one of the top free museums in London and is often visited by those who wish to explore the many delights of historic Greenwich. The museum has in recent years worked to show their remarkable objects in a way that they illustrate particular stories and events. This very popular museum has been innovative in the way it uses historical objects and multimedia to tell the fascinating story of Britain’s maritime past.

For more information and tickets, visit the National Maritime Museum website here

London Visitors is the official blog for the Visiting London Guide .com website. The website was developed to bring practical advice and latest up to date news and reviews of events in London.
Since our launch in January 2014, we have attracted thousands of readers each month, the site is constantly updated.
We have sections on Museums and Art Galleries, Transport, Food and Drink, Places to Stay, Security, Music, Sport, Books and many more.
There are also hundreds of links to interesting articles on our blog.
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Review: Florence Nightingale Museum in London

The Florence Nightingale Museum celebrates the life and work of one of the world’s most famous nurses. The museum is located within St Thomas’ Hospital near the banks of the river Thames opposite the Houses of Parliament. The Florence Nightingale Museum collection is made up of almost 3000 artefacts relating to the life, work and legacy of Florence Nightingale and attracts visitors from all over the world who want to learn more about the ‘Lady with the Lamp’.

The origins of the collection were artefacts acquired by Dame Alicia Lloyd-Still during her time as Matron of St Thomas’ Hospital in 1913-1937. The collection was first publicly displayed for the centenary of the Crimean War in 1954 at the Royal College of Surgeons in London, then again on the centenary of the Nightingale Training School for Nurses in 1960, and the 150th anniversary of Florence’s birth in 1970. The collection was transferred into the care of the Florence Nightingale Museum Trust in 1983, who then went on to open the museum on the site of the original Nightingale Training School in 1989.

Florence Nightingale is most famous for being the ‘Lady with the Lamp’ who organised the nursing of sick and wounded soldiers during the Crimean War, however the museum provides plenty of evidence of the way that Nightingale’s ideas and reforms have influenced modern healthcare.

The museum displays begins by looking at Florence’s ‘Early years’, she was born into a fairly wealthy middle-class family and soon began to show an aptitude for academic studies especially mathematics. Florence believed she had a ‘calling’ from God was destined to do something important with her life. This background gave Florence a strong sense of moral duty to help the poor and gradually began to consider that nursing may be a path to fulfil her ambitions. Paid nursing at this time had a poor reputation at this time and was generally considered a job for elderly women.

What often set Florence apart from many others was her practical approach and she read anything she could find about health and hospitals before persuading her parents to allow her to take three months’ nursing training at an hospital in Dusseldorf. When Florence was 33, she became superintendent of a hospital for ‘gentlewomen’ in Harley Street in London. However it was to be the Crimean War which would make her reputation.

The displays in the museum tell the story of how Florence was invited by the Minister of War to oversee the introduction of female nurses into the military hospitals in Turkey. With a party of 38 nurses, Florence arrived in Scutari and began to organise the hospitals to improve supplies of food, blankets and beds, as well as the general conditions and cleanliness. For centuries, soldiers were more likely to die from disease than conflict when serving overseas but little was done to deal with these issues.

By introducing the new measures at Scutari, the mortality rates declined significantly and British soldiers showed their respect for Florence by giving her the nickname ‘Lady of the Lamp’. The introduction of female nurses to the military hospitals was considered an outstanding success and Florence returned to Britain a heroine. It is this image of the ‘Lady of the Lamp’ that is ingrained in popular culture, however this overshadows her later work which many consider to be even more important. One of her greatest achievements was to transform nursing into a respectable profession for women and in 1860, she established the first professional training school for nurses, the Nightingale Training School at St Thomas’ Hospital.

For the rest of her life, she campaigned tirelessly to improve health standards, publishing over 200 books, reports and pamphlets on hospital planning and organisation. It is said that she wrote over 13000 letters as part of her campaigns and reforms. Some of the books, reports, pamphlets are included in the displays including her most famous work Notes on Nursing: What It Is and What It Is Not.

Despite often being confined to her sick bed, Florence used many of her contacts including Queen Victoria to push for reforms and used statistics to provide evidence of her arguments. Despite her ill health, Florence lived till she was 90, she died in 1910.

The museum looks at Florence Nightingale’s legacy by featuring a set of ten oil paintings by French artist Victor Tardieu, which depict a field hospital during the First World War. The lesson learned in the Crimea were applied in latter wars to save millions of soldiers from disease and death from injuries.

Visitors walking around the museum may be surprised to come across a stuffed owl and dog, Athena was Florence Nightingale’s beloved pet owl which she rescued in Athens in 1850 and used to put in the pocket of her apron. The dog is called Jack and belonged to Edith Cavell, Jack helped soldiers escape from captivity during the First World War.

The Florence Nightingale Museum tells the story of a remarkable woman who transformed the nursing profession in the 19th century. The museum illustrates the life of Florence Nightingale with attractive displays, full of interesting objects that show how modern healthcare was influenced by a woman who used her celebrity to save millions of lives.

Visiting London Guide Rating – Highly Recommended

For more information and tickets , visit the Museum website here

London Visitors is the official blog for the Visiting London Guide .com website. The website was developed to bring practical advice and latest up to date news and reviews of events in London.
Since our launch in January 2014, we have attracted thousands of readers each month, the site is constantly updated.
We have sections on Museums and Art Galleries, Transport, Food and Drink, Places to Stay, Security, Music, Sport, Books and many more.
There are also hundreds of links to interesting articles on our blog.
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here

 

Review: Royal College of Physicians Museum in London

One of the most unusual and lesser known museums in London is the Royal College of Physicians Museum located near Regent’s Park. The collections at the Royal College of Physicians relate to the history of the college, and the history of the Physician’s profession.

The Royal College of Physicians is a professional body dedicated to improving the practice of medicine, chiefly through the accreditation of physicians by examination. It was founded in 1518 and has based in three locations throughout its history, the City of London near St Paul’s Cathedral, Pall Mall (overlooking Trafalgar Square), and Regent’s Park. The present Royal College of Physicians building was designed by architect Sir Denys Lasdun, opened in 1964 and has since been recognised as a building of national importance with a Grade I Listing, one of a very select band of post-war buildings to share this distinction.

The museum has elements all around the building which gives the opportunity for visitors to appreciate some of the fine points of the remarkable building.

The Royal College of Physicians has had a library since its foundation in 1518, although many of the original books were destroyed during the Great Fire of London in 1666. However it still has a wide selection of rare books and special collections including classical medical texts by Greek, Roman and Arabic doctors books belonging to Elizabethan astrologer and occultist John Dee.

All around the building is a selection of portraits associated with presidents, Fellows and other physicians associated with the college from its foundation in 1518 to the present day.

The silver collection has few pieces pre-dating the Great Fire of London (1666) but Baldwin Hamey’s inkstand bell and William Harvey’s whalebone demonstration rod, tipped with silver do survive. Many pieces of silver are used for formal occasions in the college. Special objects include the President’s staff of office, the caduceus and the silver-gilt College mace.

Some of the more stranger objects in the museum are six 17th-century anatomical tables, these were probably made by drying and mounting the actual blood vessels and nerves of the human body onto blocks of wood and then varnishing them. They were used as a teaching aid for teaching anatomy.

The Symons Collection of medical instruments is not for the squeamish with collection of objects relating to self-care in Georgian times and expanded to include items that would have been used by physicians when treating patients, mostly in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries.

The modernist building does offer a major surprise for visitors, the Royal College of Physicians’ Censors Room has a 17th-century oak-panelled interior. Historically, medical students gained their licence to practise after passing a difficult viva voce examination held in the Censors Room. The interior has been used in the three former locations of the Royal College of Physicians and is a physical and tangible part of the college’s history.

All the attractions are not inside the building, The Royal College of Physicians’ garden contains over 1,100 plants, all with links to medicine. Visitors can enjoy the peace and calm of the garden and admire the main building from outside.

The Museum often presents special exhibitions that include objects from the collection within a particular theme and holds a series of events throughout the year.

The Royal College of Physicians Museum is a fascinating insight in the medical profession and its long and sometimes strange history. Many of the collections have been built up by physicians over the centuries and provide plenty of interest and discussion. The building is perfectly suited to the modern and ancient aspects of the Physicians profession and it well worth a visit on its own merits.

Admission to the collections are free and are open to the general public Monday to Friday 9 am – 5 pm, however access to some parts of the building may be restricted if there is official events taking place.

Visiting London Guide Rating – Highly Recommended

For more information, visit the Royal College of Physicians website here

London Visitors is the official blog for the Visiting London Guide .com website. The website was developed to bring practical advice and latest up to date news and reviews of events in London.
Since our launch in 2014, we attract thousands of readers each month, the site is constantly updated.
We have sections on Museums and Art Galleries, Transport, Food and Drink, Places to Stay, Security, Music, Sport, Books and many more.
There are also hundreds of links to interesting articles on our blog.
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The Museum of London acquires a large panorama of London by Pierre Prévost

A panoramic view of London, from the tower of St. Margaret’s Church, Westminster, by Pierre Prevost, Courtesy of Sotheby’s

The Museum of London has acquired a remarkable 20 feet wide panorama of London, painted around 1815 by the French artist Pierre Prévost (1764-1823). It is the preparatory watercolour for a lost, full-scale 30m diameter panorama which was exhibited in Paris in 1817.

A panoramic view of London, from the tower of St. Margaret’s Church, Westminster, by Pierre Prevost, Courtesy of Sotheby’s

The panorama was acquired at auction at Sotheby’s for £200,000. There is only one other work by this artist of a similar size and quality still in existence, a view of Constantinople, which is in the Louvre.

A panoramic view of London, from the tower of St. Margaret’s Church, Westminster, by Pierre Prevost, Courtesy of Sotheby’s

The panorama was painted as the Napoleonic Wars drew to a close, and gives an immersive 360° view of London as the Duke of Wellington would have known it. Looking from the tower of St Margaret’s, the church situated within the shadow of Westminster Abbey, we are presented with a sweeping view over a sunlit city. Dominating the foreground is the Abbey and the old Palace of Westminster (the Houses of Parliament), which burnt down in 1834, and includes the medieval House of Lords chamber, target of the failed Gunpowder Plot of 1605.

A panoramic view of London, from the tower of St. Margaret’s Church, Westminster, by Pierre Prevost, Courtesy of Sotheby’s

Prévost made panoramas of many European cities, but this particular example is thought to have been created at the height of his career. His first panorama of London, now lost, was made when he visited the city during the Peace of Amiens in 1802. He is thought to have returned to London in 1815, shortly after the Battle of Waterloo, to create this amazing image of London.

A panoramic view of London, from the tower of St. Margaret’s Church, Westminster, by Pierre Prevost, Courtesy of Sotheby’s

The panorama provides a snapshot of London just after Waterloo and provides incredible detail of the Westminster area that would be transformed within 30 years of the painting. Unlike today, the panorama shows it was Westminster Abbey that dominated the skyline rather than the Houses of Parliament and the surrounding area is quite spacious with wide open spaces.

The panorama was acquired with the help of Art Fund, the Aldama Foundation and a group of individual donors, with additional support from Michael Spencer, the Leche Trust and other donors who wish to remain anonymous.

If you would like further information, visit the Museum of London website here

London Visitors is the official blog for the Visiting London Guide .com website. The website was developed to bring practical advice and latest up to date news and reviews of events in London.
Since our launch in 2014, we have attracted thousands of readers each month, the site is constantly updated.
We have sections on Museums and Art Galleries, Transport, Food and Drink, Places to Stay, Security, Music, Sport, Books and many more.
There are also hundreds of links to interesting articles on our blog.
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Mission to Mercury: BepiColombo at the Science Museum

The Science Museum has unveiled a full-size engineering model of BepiColombo, the European Space Agency’s first ever spacecraft to explore Mercury, and one of the most challenging planetary missions ever launched.

Standing over 6 metres tall, this Structural Thermal Model (STM) of the spacecraft has been used to test BepiColombo’s resilience to vibration at launch and extremes of temperature during its seven-year journey to Mercury.

This is a unique opportunity for the public to get a close-up look at an integral component of a space mission’s development programme. The model has been subjected to temperatures ranging from -190°C to 400°C, recreating the conditions the spacecraft will face when in shade and when in the illuminated face of Mercury.

 

Visitors will be able see the handstitched insulation blankets specifically designed to protect BepiColombo’s instruments and electronics from the intensity of the Sun’s heat, and peer inside the body of the spacecraft to see some of its internal components. The folded solar panel wing on display matches two of the three that will be on BepiColombo when it travels to Mercury, this pair extending to 30 metres when fully deployed. The panels will generate all of the mission’s electrical power.

Visitors can also hear from engineers and scientists who have helped design and develop the spacecraft and its scientific instruments on a video accompanying the model about why the BepiColombo mission is so important and so challenging.

The BepiColombo STM has been loaned to the Science Museum by the European Space Agency (ESA) and was developed and built for ESA by Airbus, the mission’s prime industrial contractor, at its sites in Germany, the UK and across Europe. Airbus engineers prepared the model for display at the Science Museum where it can be seen before, during and after BepiColombo’s launch to Mercury in October 2018.

For more information, visit the Science Museum website here

London Visitors is the official blog for the Visiting London Guide .com website. The website was developed to bring practical advice and latest up to date news and reviews of events in London.
Since our launch in January 2014, we have attracted thousands of readers each month, the site is constantly updated.
We have sections on Museums and Art Galleries, Transport, Food and Drink, Places to Stay, Security, Music, Sport, Books and many more.
There are also hundreds of links to interesting articles on our blog.
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World’s earliest figural tattoos revealed by the British Museum

If you think tattoos are a modern phenomenon, you may be surprised by recent fascinating research from the British Museum.

The world’s earliest figural tattoos have been revealed on two natural mummies in the British Museum’s collection. Dating to between 3351 to 3017 BC, figural tattoos of a wild bull and a Barbary sheep were identified on the upper arm of a male mummy and linear and S-shaped motifs have been identified on the upper arm and shoulder of a female mummy; the oldest tattoos ever found on a female body. The findings are due to be published in the Journal of Archaeological Science.

Daniel Antoine, one of the lead authors of the research paper and the British Museum’s Curator of Physical Anthropology said ‘The use of the latest scientific methods, including CT scanning, radiocarbon dating and infrared imaging, has transformed our understanding of the Gebelein mummies. Only now are we gaining new insights into the lives of these remarkably preserved individuals. Incredibly, at over five thousand years of age, they push back the evidence for tattooing in Africa by a millennium’.

The mummies individuals are from Egypt’s Predynastic period, the era preceding the country’s unification by the first pharaoh at around 3100 BCE.

The male mummy, known as Gebelein Man A has been on display almost continuously since his discovery around 100 years ago. Previous CT scans showed that Gebelein Man A was a young man when he died (18 – 21 years of age) from a stab wound to the back. Dark smudges on his arm, appearing as faint markings under natural light had remained unexamined. Infrared photography recently revealed that these smudges were in fact tattoos of two slightly overlapping horned animals. 

The horned animals have been tentatively identified as a wild bull (long tail, elaborate horns) and a Barbary sheep (curving horns, humped shoulder). Both animals are well known in Predynastic Egyptian art. The designs are not superficial and have been applied to the dermis layer of the skin, the pigment was carbon-based, possibly some kind of soot.

The female mummy, known as Gebelein woman, has several tattoos, a series of four small ‘S’ shaped motifs can be seen running vertically over her right shoulder.

Below them on the right arm is a linear motif which is similar to objects held by figures participating in ceremonial activities on the painted ceramics of the period. It may represent a crooked stave, a symbol of power and status, or a throw-stick or batons and/or clappers used in ritual dance. The S–motif also appears as an element of Predynastic pottery decoration, always in multiples.

Both sets of tattoos would have been highly visible and may have denoted status, bravery, cult/magical knowledge or protection.

Previously archaeologists had thought that tattooing was gender restricted and only applied to women. This was due to ‘tattoos’ being depicted only on female figurines of the period. But the discovery of tattoos on the male mummy now shows body modification concerned both sexes.Seven mummies from the same site were examined as part of the research, though tattoos were only found on two.

The application of tattoos to the human body has enjoyed a long and diverse history in many ancient cultures. The Gebelein tattoos can be considered amongst the earliest surviving tattoos in the world.

For more information , visit the British Museum website here

London Visitors is the official blog for the Visiting London Guide .com website. The website was developed to bring practical advice and latest up to date news and reviews of events in London.
Since our launch in January 2014, we have attracted thousands of readers each month, the site is constantly updated.
We have sections on Museums and Art Galleries, Transport, Food and Drink, Places to Stay, Security, Music, Sport, Books and many more.
There are also hundreds of links to interesting articles on our blog.
To find out more visit the website
here