Museum of London New Site: Where History Meets the Future

Posted on Museums
Posted on Museums

Museum of London is getting a new home, even though it's less than a mile away from their current location it will be a massive change for the museum and for London. The Museum of London invited the Vastari team to explore their new space, currently under construction. This opportunity allowed us to learn about the new site, see what they have uncovered during the demo, and find out what the museum has in store for the public when it opens in 2023.

Founded in 1976, the museum highlights the rich and diverse history of London since 450,000 BCE. It is currently located in a busy roundabout and is often criticized for being difficult to find unless you already know where you are going. The new light, open space will be much more accessible to anyone visiting whether they live in London or are just in town for a few days. The site, Smithfield Market, has roots in the 11th century and the structure of the current buildings, designed by Sir Horace Jones, are great examples of Victorian engineering and construction. The museum intends to incorporate the history of the site and it’s rich architectural elements within the new museum.

This includes the structure which had to withstand moving trains running underneath the buildings when they were built in 1865. Since the underground is still present the Museum of London will cleverly highlight this quintessential London experience by incorporating the trains into the design of the new space. Visitors will be able to see trains as they go by bringing movement and energy into the space. At the same time, those on the train will be able to see in the museum. Wishing they were inside, they will be enticed to find out more about the museum, and be able to jump off at the stop and visit.

Finding out more and getting to the new space will be even easier with the new location. It is directly across the street from Farringdon station where the Crossrail project is currently underway. At the completion of this project, it is said approximately a hundred and forty trains will travel through the station per hour making it one of the busiest stations in the country. A stop like this next to the Museum makes it accessible from virtually anywhere in London.

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The new site is on the Smithfield Market grounds which experienced rich history from peasant rebellions right around the corner to the Bartholomew Fair, a three-day extravaganza which lasted for over 900 years. The Museum of London intends to incorporate this history in its programming for Londoners and visitors alike and hinted at an event which will do just that later this year.

The museum much like Smithfield Market in its heyday will work as a network of buildings including the General Market, Meat Market, Poultry Market, and the Fish Market. The staff described these buildings working with each other in the new museum much like a campus, all individually accessible and interconnected. The permanent collection and temporary gallery spaces, as well as storage space for the museum, will increase exponentially from the old location. Additionally, although the exact plans have not been decided the museum has plans to allow works not on display (in storage) to be visible to the public. This is something many visitors will appreciate since a significant criticism of museums is how much is hidden. The Museum of London is working to bring more accessibility and transparency to their visitor experience.

The new space will feature storefronts with London based products. Allowing local businesses to get involved and flourish in the Culture Mile. The Culture Mile is a network of local businesses and organizations including the 5 major partners- the Barbican, the City of London, the Guildhall School, London Symphony Orchestra, and the Museum of London. This network seeks to make the Culture Mile a destination for Londoners and visitors, all day, every day. Currently, the Culture Mile is in the middle of a busy business district which is buzzing during the weekdays but after 6pm and on the weekends doesn't reach that same level of energy and excitement. Within the next several years the plan is to implement events and activities to highlight all the Culture Mile has to offer.

We at Vastari think the Museum of London's new location will be a beacon for the Culture Mile. In addition to being a cultural and historical center, the museum plans to make the site accessible more than any other museum in London. Although the plans are still in the development stage, the staff expressed the exciting prospect of the new location being open 24-7. The idea of a museum full of cultural history being open earlier than 10 and after 6 on a weekday is every museum lover's dream. How much of the exhibitions will actually be available 24-7 is still up in the air, but the idea has the Vastari team eagerly anticipating what the Museum of London has in store.