Sunday, November 1, 2015

The Charles Dickens Museum, The Foundling Museum & The Museum of London

I managed to squeeze in a second Nice Day Out last week, which was rather lovely! I have to say that the prospect of a nice day out doing interesting things is proving to be an excellent incentive for me to knuckle down and get certain projects finished (hello accounts, I am talking about you).

For this day out, I decided to make use of my Art Pass and picked out a couple of free-with-your-Art-Pass places from the London section of the guide.

I got the Tube to Russell Square and had a little wander round the area, looking at the architecture and taking a few snaps from the shelter of my umbrella.


I totally fell in love with this awesome modernist / brutalist housing complex (The Brunswick). I know buildings like this are not everyone's cup of tea but I really adore them.


First stop for the day was the Charles Dickens Museum. This is, as you have probably guessed, a museum about Charles Dickens! (He wrote Oliver Twist and Nicholas Nickleby while living here)

The house is set up to look how it might have looked when he lived there, as if the family have just popped out - the dining table is laid for a dinner party, there's food being prepared in the kitchen, etc, and lots of the furniture in the house was once owned by Dickens.

There's lots of Dickens memorabilia dotted throughout the rooms (pictures and documents on the walls, special objects displayed in cabinets), everything from his will and a flower that was placed on his grave (rather moving), to the window frame from a house he lived in as a child and a lemon squeezer he is known to have used (slightly bonkers).

There are little booklets (handed out by friendly volunteers) that tell you about how the things in each room relate to his life and work, how families of the time lived and how Dickens' life experiences (like his father's imprisonment and the death of a young relative) can be seen in his writing.

Oh and there's also a lovely cafe which sells some seriously tasty cake. Om nom nom.

I really enjoyed my visit to this museum - I came away with a much more full sense of Dickens as a person, and a rather strong urge to re-read some of his books!

Next up was the Foundling Museum, which is just a couple of streets away. The Foundling Hospital was a home for abandoned children, which opened its doors in the 1700s.

The museum tells the story of the Hospital, its founders, and the children who lived there. There are also some fancy interiors transplanted from the original Hospital building, galleries of paintings donated to the hospital (many of which depict scenes from the Hospital's life, like children at prayer) and a collection of Handel manuscripts and memorablia (the composer was a Governor & benefactor of the Foundling Hospital and many of his works were performed as benefit concerts for the Hospital).

The displays about the history of the Hospital were fascinating, although rather sad - the display of tokens left by parents (so they could identify their child if they were able to return for them) is especially touching.

I didn't think I'd be at all interested in the Handel collection but it was fascinating to learn about his connection with the Foundling Hospital and I loved the way that his music is included in the room where the collection is displayed: there are armchairs with speakers at ear-height so you can sit and relax and listen to bits of his music. 

Finally I hopped on the Tube & headed to the Museum of London for lunch and a look round the modern galleries (I only got up to the Great Fire of London on my earlier visit).

I love the Museum of London. There's a ton of really interesting stuff to see, with lots of interactive elements (games to play, objects to touch, even smells to smell) that complement the display cases full of objects. There are also some great displays that bring historical objects to life by showing them "in situ", like the Victorian Walk (with lots of shops) and the rooms that show how Roman Londoners would have lived. And it's free to visit, which is always awesome.

I met up with Katie from What Katie Does & What Katie Sews for a cuppa in the cafe and then we wandered round looking at the displays. It was lovely to meet Katie after enjoying her blog posts, to have a good chat about stuff like blogging, and to have some company while exploring the museum.

Three museums in one day = a long and busy day! But a very nice one :)

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