A quick roundup of some of the most unconventional and bizarre museums from London that often go overlooked but are a real gem and worth paying a visit.
Calling London the home to the world’s best museums won’t be an exaggeration. To name a few, Science Museum, British Museum, Design Museum, and Victoria and British Museum are unarguably the best ones out there and some are even free. But among these much-famed museums that attract the attention of tourists, one might miss out on London’s lesser-known gems.
So here’s a quick list of London’s best unconventional museums for those who seek to explore the out-of-the-ordinary, fascinating, and lesser-known stuff.
Started by consumer historian Robert Opie, the Museum of Brands, Packaging, and Advertising has a wide collection of familiar household products that we buy every week. It has a collection of more than 12,000 original items from as early as the 1800s to this day.
This may include packets of cereal, sachets of custard powder, or tins of baked beans. Delve through this unusually well-stocked larder and encounter a great deal of decommissioned products that your family’s kitchen table once held with pride.
Opened in 1988, the Guards Museum near the Buckingham Palace is dedicated to the five regiments of Foot Guards (the Irish, Grenadier, Scots, Welsh, and Coldstream Guards). From the 17th century to the present day, it chronicles the history of the regiments it represents through paintings, sculptures, artifacts, models, and weapons. Moreover, it explains what it is like to be a soldier in the Guards. (3.1)
South Kensington-based V&A Museum is globally famed as being one of the greatest museums of art and design in the world but the Museum of Childhood in Bethnal Green is less known. This V&A has a collection of childhood-related objects and displayed objects that date back to decades or even centuries.
It is worth visiting regardless of your age; it might leave your grandma and grandpa nostalgic. The curators admirably provide a complementary program of free daily drop-in activities for children, all designed to entertain and educate young minds.
The Grant Museum of Zoology in Euston exhibits a maze of animal oddities, filled with skeletons, extinct specimens, and species preserved in vials. The museum is not only quite popular among students but also attracts visitors from the outside. The admission is free here and innovative temporary exhibitions such as the one showcasing animal-made artworks make the complex scientific and academic debate accessible and engaging.
If you find freemasonry puzzling or intriguing, you’re most welcome to visit the library and museum inside the Freemasons’ Hall for edification. The collection at the museum provides an insight into the freemason's existence including several prints, photographs, artifacts from famous freemasons such as Winston Churchill. Displaying detailed freemason hierarchy and everyday practices, touring this arcane museum will be worth your time.
The Magic Circle Museum lies along the Euston Station is a space that reveals how the world’s greatest illusionists operate and Magic Circle is a private club where magicians unite. Ushered by guides, the visitors get to view props used by the likes of Harry Houdini and Chung Ling Soo, the rifles used for Maurice Fogel’s ‘bullet catch,’ and tons of rare posters.
London has many macabre museums but the most dreadful of all is located at New Scotland Yard and is called The Crime Museum or The Black Museum. It has numerous weapons that have been used for committing murders or serious attacks in London including items used by Jack the Ripper and Charlie Peace.
The cases referenced here continue to be shocking and sensitive. And maybe, for this reason, the museum is not open to the general public. However, the members of the police forces or associated bodies sometimes make their way here for attending lectures on forensic science, pathology, law, and investigative techniques.
The Cartoon Museum can be easily overlooked but worth seeking out. It aims to preserve and promote British cartoon art, comic art, and caricature. Housing a collection dating back to the 18th century until the present day, visitors of all ages get to discover cartoons that fascinate them or bring back their childhood memory. Playful and popular cartoon strips are shown along with unusual and more politically-minded works. (3.2)
The diminutive Petrie Museum of Egyptian Archaeology houses a collection of around 80,000 objects making it one of the greatest museums of its kind anywhere in the world. The ancient Egyptian artifacts include sculptures of lions from the temple of Min at Koptos dating from around 3000 BC, the oldest wills on papyrus paper, several ancient costumes, and a series of Roman-period mummy portraits.
Inside the Royal London Hospital, there’s Royal London Museum that records the hospital’s history and the most notable treatment cases here. Surgical instruments, old uniforms, and assorted trinkets are atmospheric displays, but it is best known for its showcase on forensic medicine that includes the original material associated with the murders by notorious serial killer ‘Jack the Ripper’ and its connection with Joseph Merrick, the ‘Elephant Man’.
He spent the last four years of his life in a specially adapted room inside the hospital and some of his personal effects such as his hat and veil continue to be on display.
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