In London we’re truly spoilt for choice when it comes to museums. It’s easy to dither over an empty weekend afternoon; do you opt for the quirky design curation of the V&A (one of my all time favourites), time traveling through the Doctor Who Museum, pop in for a cuppa at the most-English of English Tea Museum, wonder at the beauty in the Natural History Museum or perhaps possibly thread your way through the Sewing Machine Museum.
Alternatively do you choose to peruse the origins of Dr Johnson’s Dictionaries – the author who fed his faithful cat oysters, explore ancient mysteries of the British Museum, marvel at the medically macabre St Bartholomew’s Pathology Museum, smell the daisies in the Garden Museum or simply one of the 190 others not mentioned. And did I mention that most are free entry?
The next time, go for a wander around the Imperial War Museum. If you’re in any way interested in sleek planes, heartwrenching prisoner of war records, gripping stories, interactive history, thoughtfully juxtaposed exhibitions… you name it, it’s there. AND IT’S FREE. The Museum covers conflicts, especially those involving Britain and the Commonwealth, from the First World War to the present day.
In many ways instead of the dry book-learning we had as kids, I envy London school children whose parents are able to teach the living history of their country in an incredible tactile way – they get to explore the First World War Galleries, uncover a variety of artistic responses to conflict, watch first hand accounts of how life was, and explore via the medium of sound and video installations.
“Courage is what it takes to stand up and speak; courage is also what it takes to sit down and listen.” Winston Churchill
What struck me the most (big softy that I am) were the incredible stories punctuating each batch of iconic machines, images and soundscapes. The photos of soldiers who gave their all for their country, stories of hardship and joy, the incredible blanket secretly embroidered with the names of Prisoner of War inmates, secretly stitched in the dead of night.
All housed in a magnificently refurbished building hung with planes, land rovers and anti-aircraft artillery; an enormous mobile of turmoil.
Take a picnic on a sunny day and enjoy the grounds, sip a cuppa in the tea rooms or just wander through the vintage themed gift shop – we popped up to the Garden Museum on the Thames for a vegetarian feast amidst manicured topiary.
You could even do what a friend of mine did lately, and take your ailing Grandpa for a walk down memory lane along the paths of the Imperial War Museum.
“Mankind must put an end to war before war puts an end to mankind.” John F. Kennedy
Have you been yet? What is your favourite museum?