Museums in London

London is the capital of both England and the United Kingdom and has a history of influence and power that reaches back more than two thousand years. It’s no doubt then that a city with as much history as London is full of incredible museums that house relics of the past. The list of London museums below is an abbreviated list with a focus on the most popular ones, there are many more museums in London to explore.

Museum of London

The Museum of London is one of the world’s largest urban history museums and houses more than two million artifacts. The museum tracks the area’s past from prehistoric times all the way to today. The museum first opened in 1976 and was culled from a collection of other museums. The museum is designed so guests must follow the chronological order of events throughout the museum, being taken from the oldest galleries to the most modern exhibits. In addition to the overall Museum of London the museum also is connected to a couple other museums, the Museum of London Docklands which chronicles the history of London’s ports and the Museum of London Archaeology who carries out about two thirds of all excavations in the area. The Museum of London is free to the public.

British Museum

The British Museum began with the physician, naturalist and collector, Sir Hans Sloane. Sloane collected more than 71,000 objects during his lifetime and donated the collection (for a relatively small fee) to King George II to be displayed for the public. The original collection mainly consisted of books, natural specimens, antiquities and ethnographic material. The museum opened in 1759 and has grown in importance and significance since. Some of the highlights of the museum are the Rosetta Stone, the Townley collection of classical scripture and the Parthenon sculptures.

Science Museum

The Science Museum in London is one of the most popular stops for tourists. Founded in 1857 it was originally part of the South Kensington Museum but was broken off in 1958 and was then the Museum of Patents and then in 1863 the Patent Office Museum and finally in 1885 the Science Museum. The museum currently holds more than 300,000 items arranged thematically, some of which are permanent and some are temporary. The galleries include; Power: The East Hall, Exploring Space, Making the Modern World, Flight, Launchpad and a number of touring exhibits. In addition there is an IMAX theater and The Dana Centre bar and café.

Museum of Garden History

The Museum of Garden History in London was established to promote the understanding of the history and changes of gardens and gardening in the region. Founded in 1977 it’s the first museum of its kind in the world. In addition to the great work the museum does in educating the world about London’s gardening past it is also credited with saving the beautiful St. Mary-at-Lambeth from destruction. The church had fallen into disrepair but as the garden group’s founders traced the family tomb of two 17th plant hunters, the John Tradescants, they discovered the churchyard and it became an important part of the museum and its garden history.

Imperial War Museum

The Imperial War Museum covers Britain’s conflicts from the First World War to present day. The museum was founded in 1917 and has been housed in several different buildings. At present the Imperial War Museum has four branches in addition to the main building, the Churchill Museum and Cabinet War Rooms, HMS Belfast, Imperial War Museum Duxford, and Imperial War Museum North. The museum attempts to collect every type of evidence to document conflict times from works of art to aircrafts. The thorough collection of artifacts is an interesting trip through time.

Churchill Museum & Cabinet War Rooms

The Churchill Museum & Cabinet War Rooms is one branch of the Imperial War Museum. The Cabinet War Rooms are housed underground and served as the control center throughout World War II. The rooms were abandoned after Japan’s surrender in 1945 but weren’t opened to the public until 1984. The museum was expanded in 2003 and reopened in 2005 with the inclusion of the Winston Churchill exhibits which chronicle his life both public and private.

Sherlock Holmes Museum

Located in one of the world’s most famous addresses, 221B Baker Street, the Sherlock Holmes Museum celebrates the fictional life of one of the most beloved characters in modern literature, Sherlock Holmes. The home has been decorated to reflect how it was depicted in the books by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and can be toured every day of the year except Christmas. As an interesting side note Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s daughter who objected to a museum that supported the notion that Sherlock Holmes was an actual person and not just her father’s creation. She was asked if she wanted to donate artifacts to a room in honor of her father but she refused.

Design Museum

The Design Museum in London was founded in 1989 and is considered the first museum of modern design. The Design Museum explores design in products, industrial applications, graphics, fashion and architectural design. Not only does this museum seek to educate and enlighten the public on many different aspects of design, it also serves as a location for business meetings, lectures on or by designers, and it can be rented for events such as weddings.

National Maritime Museum

The National Maritime Museum in London officially opened to the public in 1937 and details the very long and storied history the region has with the sea. In fact the museum has the world’s largest maritime historical reference library with more than 100,000 volumes which date back to the 15th century. The museum building is located within the Greenwich Royal Park along with several other buildings including the Queen’s House and Royal Observatory Greenwich. In addition to all of the historical information you’ll gather are the maritime exploits of the region you can also learn a bit about the location and the other buildings housed there. As with many government run museums in London, admission is free.

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