London Museums

The British Museum

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The British Museum is a public institution dedicated to human history, art and culture. Its permanent collection of some eight million works is among the largest and most comprehensive in existence, having been widely sourced during the era of the British Empire. It documents the story of human culture from its beginnings to the present.

When it was established in 1753, it was the first public national museum in the world, and was largely based on the collections of the Irish physician and scientist Sir Hans Sloane.

Its ownership of some of its most famous objects originating in foreign countries is disputed and remains the subject of international controversy, most notably in the case of the Elgin Marbles.

The British Museum website

Featured image: © 2020 Google

The Natural History Museum

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The Natural History Museum is one of three major museums situated on  Exhibition Road, the others being the Science Museum and the Victoria and Albert Museum. Its main frontage is on Cromwell Road.

The museum is home to life and earth science specimens comprising some 80 million items within five main collections: Botany, Entomology, Mineralogy, Paleontology and Zoology. 

Click on the image to take 360° tour

The 3D scan of the Hintze Hall produced by Sketchfab is an excellent online experience. With multiple focus points, the VR visitor can quickly get up close to some of the amazing exhibits, each accompanied by annotations to share more information. These short text overviews are accompanied by hyperlinks to additional detail about the chosen focal point from the museum’s website.

Natural History Museum on Google Arts and Culture

Featured image: © Sketchfab

The Science Museum

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The Science Museum on Exhibition Road in South Kensington was founded in 1857 and is one of London’s major tourist attractions, attracting 3.3 million visitors annually.

It holds a collection of over 300,000 items, including such famous items as Stephenson’s Rocket, Puffing Billy (the oldest surviving steam locomotive), the first jet engine, the Apollo 10 command module, a reconstruction of Francis Crick and James Watson’s model of DNA, a working example of Charles Babbage’s Difference engine, and documentation of the first typewriter. It also contains hundreds of interactive exhibits. A recent addition is the IMAX 3D Cinema showing science and nature documentaries, most of them in 3-D, and the Wellcome Wing which focuses on digital technology.

The Science Museum website

Explore 3D models of a selection of exhibits

The Victoria and Albert Museum

Victoria and Albert Museum

Click on the image to visit the V&A on Google Arts and Culture

The Victoria and Albert Museum, (or V&A for short), can be found in South Kensington. It is the world’s largest museum of applied and decorative arts and design, as well as sculpture, housing a permanent collection of over 2.27 million objects. Named after Queen Victoria and Prince Albert, it had its origins in the Great Exhibition of 1851.

Its 145 galleries house a collection spanning 5,000 years of art, from ancient times to the present day. The holdings of ceramics, glass, textiles, costumes, silver, ironwork, jewellery, furniture, medieval objects, sculpture, prints and printmaking, drawings and photographs are among the largest and most comprehensive in the world.

The V&A website

The Museum of London

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The main galleries of the Museum of London on the Barbican site closed as a visitor attraction in 2022, pending a move to swanky new premises at Smithfield Market, due to open in 2026.

In the meantime, the Museum of London Docklands remains open. Details can be found on the Museum of London website.

The Museum of London website

London Transport Museum

The London Transport Museum is based in two sites, one in Covent Garden, the other in Acton, and its role is to conserve and explain the transport heritage of Britain’s capital city. The majority of the museum’s exhibits originated in the collection of London Transport, but its remit has recently expanded to cover all aspects of transportation in the city.

The Covent Garden building is located in a Victorian iron and glass structure that was designed as a dedicated flower market by William Rogers in 1871. The entrance is from the Covent Garden Piazza. On display are many examples of buses, trams, trolleybuses and rail vehicles from 19th and 20th centuries, as well as artefacts and exhibits related to the operation and marketing of passenger services, and the impact that the developing transport network had on the city and its population.

The other site, located in Acton, is known as the London Transport Museum Depot and is principally a storage site that is open on regular visitor days throughout the year. Larger exhibits held here, include a complete 1938 stock tube train, as well as early locomotives from the first sub-surface and first deep-level lines.

London Transport Museum website

London Transport Museum on Google Arts and Culture

The Imperial War Museum

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The Imperial War Museum is housed in a building which was previously the Bethlem Royal Hospital in Southwark. It is part of an organisation with branches at five locations in England, three of which are in London, collectively called Imperial War Museums. 

Founded in 1917, the museum was intended to record the civil and military war effort and sacrifice of Britain and its Empire during the First World War. The museum’s remit has since expanded to include all conflicts in which British or Commonwealth forces have been involved since 1914.

The 1960s saw the museum redevelop its Southwark building, now referred to as Imperial War Museum London. During the 1970s, the museum began to expand onto other sites. The first, in 1976, was a historic airfield in Cambridgeshire now referred to as IWM Duxford. In 1978, the Royal Navy cruiser HMS Belfast became a branch of the museum, having previously been preserved for the nation by a private trust. In 1984, the Cabinet War Rooms, an underground wartime command centre, was opened to the public.

Finally, 2002 saw the opening of IWM North in Trafford, Greater Manchester, the fifth branch of the museum and the first in the north of England.

The museum’s collections include archives of personal and official documents, photographs, film and video material, and oral history recordings, an extensive library, a large art collection, and examples of military vehicles and aircraft, equipment, and other artefacts.

Imperial War Museum website

The Museum of Brands

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The Museum of Brands in London’s Notting Hill  is dedicated to the history of consumer culture from Victorian times to the present day. It is based around over 12,000 original items which include domestic everyday products, packaging, posters, toys and games.

Set out in chronological order in the form of a ‘Time Tunnel’, the museum gives visitors a trip down memory lane, showing how the brands around us have evolved from the naïve charm of Victorian times to the greater sophistication of today. It also reflects the change in shopping habits, the impact of transportation, media, the effects of two world wars and the gradual emancipation of women.

The Museum of Brands website

Featured image: © 2020 Google