Museums are full of amazing objects exhibited in the galleries, but unbeknown to many, they also house a number of archive collections — much of which are stored behind the scenes. These collections largely consist of records and documentary material which help us uncover hidden but fascinating stories buried deep in paperwork! Here we put the spotlight on some such documents that showcase interesting aspects of London’s docklands and its inner workings, ranging from clandestine wine tastings to a special female police force.
From Roman Londinium and 18th-century coffee houses to modern-day Tube stations, London has been home to a vibrant and varied ceramic tile industry for centuries. Here’s a reminder, as we walk the streets of London, to look up and around ourselves, and enjoy this city of tiles.
Long before Joseph Bazalgette delivered London City from the Great Stink, Londoners had to live through the stench of dung hills, cesspits and, eventually, the disposal of the contents of fancy-to-everyday chamber pots. So serious was the issue that matters were sometimes even taken to court! Through the museum’s collection, we explore the smelly aspects of early-modern London’s sewage issues.
Is your upper lip looking less than fan-tache-tic? Are your whiskers whispy? Your sideburns a burden? Your goatee gone wild? Seeking ideas for your Movember look? Well look no further. Here are nine remarkable beards and moustaches from the London Collection to inspire your facial hairstyles this November.
450,000 BC – AD 50
Discover the story of London before the city was even built
London before London explores the rich lives of the people living in the Lower Thames Valley from around 450,000 BC until the creation of the Roman city of Londinium around AD 50.
Around 200,000 years ago this giant, woolly mammoth walked across a cold landscape that would become modern day Ilford.
This is a fitting from an Iron Age chariot. It is decorated in the swirling stylised patterns of the period and, demonstrating that the chariot owner was a person of style and wealth.
Prehistoric hunters used every part of the animals they hunted. Deer antlers made tough tools.
This beautiful mace head was made of stone from the Orkneys. Carefully polished and shaped, it was thrown into the river as a sacrifice to the Thames.
For thousands of years people placed precious objects, including the bodies of the dead, into the Thames. This display showcases many of the treasures recovered from its waters.
The museum holds a nationally important collection of Bronze Age material. In the gallery you can see the wealth of objects, including stunning bronze weapons.
The person who made this bowl certainly left an impression. From casts of the finger indentations around the neck, we know its decorator had slender fingers and long nails.
This axehead was made to look beautiful, not to be used. The jadeite stone is from the Alps and it would have been considered a precious object amongst in the Thames Valley 6000 years ago.
The reconstructed head of one of London’s oldest residents is displayed next to her skeleton. This neolithic hunter-gatherer was buried in Shepperton between 5640 and 5100 years ago.
This young woman was a witness to history. She was alive at the time of the Roman invasion of Britain and may have been aware of the destruction of Londinium by Boudica. .
The gallery is open during the museum's normal hours:
The gallery is on the entrance floor and can be accessed by lift.
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Discover the prehistoric monsters that once roamed the lands of London.
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