Monday, 20 July 2009

Museum of London - 7/15/09

On Wednesday, the 15th of July, we visited The Museum of London. We sat down for a presentation with Mr. Joe Cotton before being able to walk the museum. Mr. Cotton is a Senior Curator (Prehistory) in the Early London History and Collections department of the Museum of London and he gave us some insight as to what the museum is all about and what it took to create the exhibits.

The Museum of London is an urban history museum that opened in 1976. It encompasses the archeology of the early history of greater London. Located near the Barbican Library which we visited the day before, it is easily accessible from two underground (tube) stations. They have three sites and employ 150 archaeologists. Annually they welcome 4,000,000 visitors, half of them being Londoners, and the other half consisting of students and tourists.

The exhibits are in chronological order and start from prehistoric London leading up to Medieval London in the 1550’s. They are currently constructing an exhibit which will encompass that time period through to the present. They also have a wonderful exhibit that teaches Museum patrons about The Great Fire of London in 1666.

The Great Fire of London began on September 2, 1666 during the night. A small fire broke out in a bakeshop on Pudding Lane. At this period in time, most London houses were dangerously flammable as they were constructed of wood and pitch. There happened to be a strong wind that night sending sparks to neighbouring buildings. The citizen fire fighting brigades attempted without success to contain the fire with their buckets of water from the river. By 8:00 am the next morning the fire had spread halfway across London Bridge. Only sixteen people were said to be lost in the four day blaze, but the property loss was great. Some 430 acres, as much as 80% of the city proper was destroyed, including 13,000 houses, 89 churches, and 52 Guild Halls. Thousands of citizens found themselves homeless and financially ruined. The Great Fire changed the face of London forever.

Joe Cotton was in charge of the prehistoric London exhibit which was fascinating. According to a general public survey of about 2000 patrons conducted by the museum, Londoners had no knowledge of Pre-Roman London. It just wasn’t in their curriculum. His job was to make the general public aware of the prehistoric existence in London. He did this by using four ideas that surmise prehistoric life. First is the Climate. The museum examined what climate change had to do with the backdrop of a pre-roman world. Next we look at the river Thames., They have some spectacular finds on display that were pulled out of the river from flint arrowheads to weapons and pots. Patrons are then meant to look at the people who existed in London before the Roman empire. By examining the evidence on display, patrons will be able to see them as really existing and how they lived. Lastly, we can examine the legacy that these people left behind by seeing the history beneath London, the archaeological finds that proved prehistoric existence in this area.

Link to the Museum of London

The London Museum
*photo courtesy of

Painting depicting the Great Fire of London in 1666
*Photo courtesy of

1 comment:

  1. sorry i was confused about the first line of the 2nd paragraph, was the museum opened in 1976 ? this building is reminiscent of the Barbican centre i think.