Looking for Londoners and Show Space

1 April 2015

Today, the Museum of London outlines its commitment to reacting more quickly to what’s happening in the capital, with the opening of two new purpose-built display spaces – Looking for Londoners and Show Space. The contents of these new, free displays will change regularly and will include recent archaeological discoveries; reveal the relevance of what’s held in the museum’s collections to what’s happening in London and provide access to objects that are not normally on display.

Looking for Londoners showcases tantalising archaeological discoveries within the collections, as well as those coming out of the ground, as London continues its bumper phase of construction. As new railways are tunnelled beneath us and buildings spring up across the capital, these discoveries are changing perspectives of the city and its people. Current exhibits include those uncovered during recent excavations at Dickens Square in Southwark, revealing that the Baitul Aziz Mosque is the latest chapter in the story of a place where Londoners have been living and working for 2,000 years.

The museum is continually adding new objects to its collections and making discoveries about the things it already has. Show Space presents some of the museum’s more recent arrivals, as well as objects from existing collections that make connections with what’s happening in London right now. Exhibits illustrating popular culture and social and political change will feature and we will also occasionally throw a more irreverent eye on the museum’s collections. The current display focuses on the theme of Spring and Londoners’ attempts to introduce nature into the capital. Exhibits include a ‘Spring’ fancy dress outfit worn in the late 1890s to a ball in the Portman Rooms in Baker Street, cup-cake coloured porcelain figurines featuring various embodiments of Spring, as well as a mystery gnome.

Finbarr Whooley, Director of Content at the Museum of London, said:

“Like London itself, the Museum of London is constantly transforming. The museum has been making new acquisitions and collecting history as it happens for over a century. As major moments unfold in the capital, we have been on the scene, building our collections to shed new light on this amazing city and its people. We want to open up our collections and get more of our fantastic stuff out there for people to enjoy. Looking for Londoners and Show Space, allow us to do just that. Provocative, surprising and at times, irreverent, not only will these displays allow us to re-examine our existing collections, but also show new acquisitions and incredible archaeological discoveries being unearthed around the capital today.”

Contemporary collecting is not a new phenomenon at the Museum of London. A century ago, the London Museum – predecessor of the Museum of London – collected objects tracing the impact of the First World War on the city as it happened. These included fragments of a zeppelin, art, ephemera and female uniforms revealing more about gender politics during this time of turbulence on the home front. In the 1970s, Colin Sorenson, the first Keeper of the modern history collections at the Museum of London, also made the case for allocating space to contemporary material at the museum’s London Wall site:

“If you haven’t got an object, you either go out and get one, or you find another way of dealing with the subject – you do not just ignore or exclude it”

Recorded in Sheppard, F. (1999), The Treasury of London’s Past, Museum of LondonBut there is always new ground to break and Looking for Londoners and Show Space are just two in a series of projects designed to reflect on new findings, and identify where future collecting might go beyond the surface, to reveal more about the museum and its collections, as well as the changing face of London.

Looking for Londoners and Show Space complement the museum’s permanent galleries, with a roster of frequently changing exhibits that tell stories about the evolution of London and its people.

The first Looking for Londoners display is curated by Caroline McDonald, the Museum of London’s Senior Curator of Prehistory and Roman. Show Space’s initial display is curated by Beatrice Behlen, the Museum of London’s Senior Curator of Fashion and Decorative Arts. Exhibits in both display areas will be changed regularly by different members of the museum’s curatorial team.

-ENDS-

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About The Museum of London

The Museum of London tells the ever-changing story of this great world city and its people, from 450,000 BC to the present day. Our galleries, exhibitions, displays and activities seek to inspire a passion for London and provide a sense of the vibrancy that makes the city such a unique place.

The museum is open daily 10am – 6pm and is FREE to all, and you can explore the Museum of London with collections online – home to 80,000 objects with more being added. www.museumoflondon.org.uk