London is the home of the most amazing world’s museums, such as the British Museum, Victoria and Albert Museum, Science Museum and Design Museum. But today we want to present you in Decor & Style The London’s Most Unusual Museums – Part I. Let’s start with the first Ten London’s Most Unusual Museums:
1. Leighton House Museum, Holland Park
Its exterior may be unprepossessing, but Leighton House Museum’s beautifully opulent interiors must rival the most lavish private houses in surrounding Kensington. The building was once the home and studio of the Victorian artist Lord Frederic Leighton and it remains a showcase for his spectacular artefacts.
The central Arab Hall displays Leighton’s dazzling collection of shimmering Islamic tiles, but other ornate rooms impress with antique furniture and tasteful contemporary art displays. If possible it’s worth timing your visit to coincide with the free tours given at certain times on Wednesdays and Sundays.
2. Cartoon Museum, Holborn
Just a few streets away from the looming British Museum, the diminutive Cartoon Museum is easily missed but worth seeking out. Its mission is to preserve and promote British cartoon art, comic art and caricature and with a collection that dates from the 18th century to the present day, visitors of all ages will discover cartoons that tickle their fancy or spark a childhood memory.
Playful and popular cartoon strips featuring The Bash Street Kids, Billy the Whizz and Dennis the Menace are shown alongside rarer and more politically minded works; if you feel the subject matter warrants further exploration you can also make an appointment to access the museum’s library, where comic book connoisseurs can study the medium further.
3. Old Operating Theatre, London Bridge
In the 1800s, the Old Operating Theatre was used as an operating space for the deathly sick interned at St. Thomas’s Hospital. In those times medical equipment was primitive and effective anaesthesia unavailable so invasive surgeries such as amputations were terrifying ordeals for patients – although a skilled surgeon could perform the procedure in under a minute, novices would sometimes hack and chisel at mangled limbs for much longer.
Staff talks on the theatre bring the innocuous wood-panelled space to gruesome life so it’s worth timing your visit to coincide with one; the adjacent herb garret exhibition space has complementary medical displays.
4. Museum of Brands, Packaging and Advertising; Notting Hill
Those same household products that we retrieve from supermarket shelves week-in, week-out are so familiar that we may not consciously consider our relationships with them, but the Museum of Brands, Packaging and Advertising seeks to do just that. Started by consumer historian Robert Opie, the museum’s collection includes over 12,000 original items that should be familiar to all of us, be they packets of cereal, tins of baked beans or sachets of custard powder.
Consider an amble through the space (which will close temporarily before moving to a new location, also in Notting Hill, in late 2015) as a rummage through a particularly well-stocked larder and prepare to encounter plenty of decommissioned products that once held pride of place on your family’s kitchen table.
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5. The Vault at Hard Rock Café, Park Lane
With so many unique restaurants in London I despair when I see tourists queuing for a table at the Hard Rock Café but fans of music memorabilia will appreciate The Vault. So named because the space was once part of a Coutts bank and now holds valuable music mementos, the display area houses some impressive exhibits.
Items in the collection include the guitar used by Guns N’ Roses guitarist Slash in the November Rain video, a harpsichord frequently used by The Beatles and, strangely, one of Madonna’s old credit cards. Open seven days a week, The Vault’s hours are different from the main dining space (typically the musuem is open from 11am to 10.30pm) and admission is free.
6. British Dental Association Dental Museum, Marylebone
Its origins may date back almost 100 years but there are still plenty of lifelong Londoners oblivious to the existence of the BDA Dental Museum. Its foundations date back to 1919 when Lilian Lindsay, the first female to qualify as a dentist in the country, donated a number of old dental instruments to the association.
Today the museum’s collection includes some 20,000 items with dental instruments, furniture, photographs and art all on display. With few people enthusiastic about a trip to the dentist, going to the museum might be another way to pay your respects to this field of medicine.
7. Pollock’s Toy Museum, Fitzrovia
The space is cluttered and the collection of old, beady-eyed dolls could be considered somewhat creepy, but Pollock’s Toy Museum is an intriguing place. The museum itself occupies two conjoined houses near Goodge Street and when wandering from one small room to another prepare to encounter toys from your own childhood.
Despite the ostensibly juvenile subject matter this museum is possibly better suited to adults who want to wallow in nostalgia than parents who want to provide their kids with distraction.
8. The Crime Museum, New Scotland Yard
London has plenty of macabre museums, but perhaps the most morbid is The Crime Museum, better known as The Black Museum, at New Scotland Yard. Housing an extensive number of weapons which have been used to commit murders or serious assaults in London, its collection includes items used by Jack the Ripper and Charlie Peace.
The cases referenced remain shocking and emotive and it’s perhaps for that reason the museum isn’t open to the general public; however, members of the police forces or associated bodies sometimes access the space to attend lectures on forensic science, pathology, law and investigative techniques.
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9. Geffrye Museum, Hackney
Anyone with an interest in interiors or design will be charmed by the Geffrye Museum in Hoxton. Based in a series of connected 18th century almshouses, the museum shows typical middle-class living quarters in a succession of period rooms.
Visitors start their journey in a traditional 17th century living space and gradually work their way up to the present day. Period gardens in the grounds repeat the process so there’s even more to discover outdoors when weather permits.
10. Household Cavalry Museum
The imposing, Grade I-listed Horse Guards in Whitehall makes an impressive setting for the Household Cavalry Museum.
The Household Cavalry guards the Queen on ceremonial occasions and also forms an operational regiment that serves around the world; visitors to the museum can learn about its role in detail through interactive displays and can often see members of the cavalry tending to their duties and caring for their horses in the Horse Guards’ 18th-century stables.
We’ll show you more on our amazing UK News blog Decor and Style. Prepare yourself for the Part II of this incredible art, design and culture article of the London’s Most Unusual Museums.