London is brimming with some of the world’s best museums.
We have iconic historical wonders such as the British Museum and Natural History Museum standing tall and mighty in the heart of central London. We also have some of the greatest art galleries in the world such as the National Gallery, its sister gallery the National Portrait Gallery and the Tate Modern on London’s Southbank.
If you’re looking for museums off the beaten track, you’ll find small, quirky museums around every corner and down every street in the city of London. Are you looking for a Jack the Ripper walk-through adventure through the ghoulish streets Victorian London? Or would you rather delve headfirst into a replica reconstruction of the home of Sherlock Holmes? No matter what kind of museum you’re after – London will have the answer. All the hotels in London city will have a unique and informative museum nearby for you to explore.
A lot of London’s larger museums have been around for centuries and certainly have a few stories up their sleeves. They’ve seen the ups and downs of London throughout the years; they have seen the reign of corrupt Kings, the entire city at war, the comings and goings of fashions and styles (some more ridiculous than others), the birth of the automobile and the takeover of 21st century technology and sensibilities. They can tell us a lot about this city to say the least!
We have compiled a list of our favourite museum facts. After reading them, we guarantee that you’ll feel inspired to check out the wealth of museums London has to offer.
So, without further ado, here are our top 11 museum facts:
1. In 1857 the V&A (Victoria and Albert Museum. A museum dedicated to the preservation and showcasing of decorative arts) had a fig leaf made to cover up certain parts of Michelangelo’s iconic statue of ‘David’. Why? It is reported that Queen Victoria was shocked and appalled by its nudity when she first saw it. She immediately requested that David’s modesty would be politely covered from the public.
2. If you’ve ever visited the Natural History Museum, you will know who ‘Dippy’ is. ‘Dippy’ is the friendly nickname given to the Diplodocus skeleton cast that stands in the Central Hall of the Natural History Museum. Dippy is 108 years old and was first unveiled to the world in 1905. What makes Dippy so special is that he (or…she?) was the first sauropod dinosaur to be displayed to the world.
3. The British Museum is big. And when we say big, we mean The British Museum is home to other 8 million pieces all dedicated to the preservation of thousands of years of human history. Although there are 8 million pieces inside the walls of the British Museum, they only display around 80,000 pieces at a time. Exhibitions are constantly shifting and changing at the British Museum, so make sure you keep your eyes peeled for exciting new displays throughout the year!
4. The Royal Academy of Arts accepted its first woman artist, Annie Swynnerton, in 1922… that’s 154 years after it was first opened. Oh, how the times have changed! The Royal Academy of Arts is one of the best art museums in the country, and is still home to a couple of Annie Swynnerton paintings. Check out the Royal Academy of Arts for incredible exhibitions curated by some of the biggest names in art, eye-opening lectures and other art related events.
5. If you’re curious about where one of your family heirlooms may have originated from, why not take it to the Museum of London to be identified? A team of specialists are available to decipher and discuss the historical origins of whatever item you please. They will not value it however.
6. London has over 200 museums! 3 of which are world heritage sites, which are; the Tower of London, Westminster, and Greenwich Maritime.
7. The Natural History Museum was opened to the public in 1881. Its first exhibition was a collection of human and animal skeletons that belonged to the physician and naturalist Sir Hans Sloane – who was also, funnily enough, the inventor of hot chocolate!
8. The first Director of the Victoria and Albert Museum, Sir Henry Cole, labeled the Museum in 1857 as 'a refuge for destitute collections'. And that’s not the only time the V&A got a bad review, a century later the esteemed Sir Roy Strong called it 'an extremely capacious handbag'.
9. Another fact about the V&A, it was the first ever museum to have a restaurant!
10. In the 19th century, the suffrage movement were getting more and more frustrated with the Parliament’s lack of action that some of the members turned to violence to get their voice heard. Famous suffragette Mary Richardson, snuck a meat cleaver into the National Gallery and sliced Diego Valesquez’s painting Rokeby Venus. The painting, of a languid Venus reclining on her bed, was said to objectify women. Looking at the painting, it’s perspective from behind that denies the viewer Venus’s face - but more than makes up for it with Venus’s body – does question Mary Richardson’s raised issues with the painting.
11. Quirky museums in London include:
• Leighton House Museum: This West London museum is dedicated to pre-Raphaelite artist Frederic Sir Leighton and is set in his home near Hammersmith. Beautiful, decadent and unmissable.
• Cartoon Museum: Whilst exploring central London, make sure to stop by at the Cartoon Museum. Discover the evolution of cartoons, comic books, caricatures and art at this incredible quirky museum.
• Freud Museum: What used to be the home of famous psychologist Sigmund Freud is now a museum devoted to his life. Him and his family ran away to London to escape the Nazis, they lived in the city for several years.
• Sherlock Holmes Museum: Take a trip to 22 Baker Street and discover all the mysterious and stories of the world’s most famous literary detective.
• Madame Tussuads: One of the world’s most famous wax museums. Meet all of your favourite celebrities in the flesh! Well, in the…wax. These impressive wax sculptures of famous people will knock your socks off!
And there you have it!
Our top 11 fantastic facts about all the incredible museums London has to offer. Are you feeling inspired to go on an educational quest of London’s top museums and galleries? What are you waiting for! Go and explore this remarkable cultural capital and soak up as much art and history as you can. London is your oyster. If you’re not into traditional museums, never fear, London is filled with exciting historical tours of London (eg. Jack the Ripper Tours around the Thames) or historical attractions such as the London Dungeons that will spook and excite!
Are you looking for somewhere to stay during your cultural escapades around London? Look no further, Montcalm hotels is the perfect place for you. Montcalm is like an oasis of serenity amidst the hub-bub and urban buzz of London life. With exceptional customer care, a central location and unique holiday experiences at the centre of its heart… Montcalm is the place to be. For more information, check out the rest of our blog or check out our website!