Saturday 3 December 2011

London's Lost Museums

I'm always fascinated by London's lost Victorian museums, which have either disappeared entirely or been snaffled up by the gaping maws of the V&A and Science Museum, or other big beasts. Coming across the 'Parkes Museum of Hygiene' which once dwelt at UCL (ok, not very interesting - might even still be there, for all I know), I then stumbled upon this article from the Times of March 11, 1936:-


Since his appointment as Organizer of Museum Services to the L.C.C. Dr. L. W. G. Malcolm has been engaged in making a survey of these institutions, as well as of the art galleries, and has prepared a report, which should be a revelation to Londoners of their numbers, variety, and value as educative factors, supplementary to class and book work in the schools.
    In a foreword to the report Mr. E. M. Rich, the Education Officer, states that while the contents of the museums of London, apart front their intrinsic worth, are of immense value as potential teaching material, a teacher, who wishes to make the be use of the exhibits for teaching purposes is at present faced with certain difficulties. It was with a realization of these difficulties that the L.C.C., which already has a system of educational visits to museums, recently set up a Museums Advisory Committee on which teachers of all types are serving; and at the same time appointed Dr. Malcolm as organizer. It is hoped that, by these measures, the difficulties confronting teachers will be solved.


Dr_ Malcolm gives a list of 60 museums and galleries, some of which must be unknown to Londoners, even by name. There is, for instance, the Institute of Hygiene at 28, Portland Place; Dr_ Malcolm thus describes its contents:" Exhibits connected with food,clothing, and the house. In the clothing section are cases of Victorian and Egyptian clothing, pieces of cloth found during excavations in London, and a chart of historical clothing." A similar institulion, the Parkes Museum of the Royal Sanitary Institute, is also on Dr. Malcolm's list. It is at 90, Buckingham Palace Road, and its exhibits' are summarized as " A great variety of approved forms of apparatus and appliances relating to health."
    Another little-known institution is St. George's Nature Study Museum, in Cable Street, Stepney, which is open from noon to dusk and on Sundays from 3 p.m. to dusk in the summer. Dr. Malcolm describes the exhibits as "Living specimens, consisting of birds, mammals (chiefly British), reptiles, fishes, batrachians, molluscs, and insects, both terrestrial and fresh water; an observatory bee-hive, aquaria, a collection of living tropical fresh-water fish; and special seasonal exhibits."
    Perhaps London's smallest museum is Battersea Museum and Art Gallery, in the Central Library, Lavender Hill- The exhibits are housed in one room on the first floor, and consist of  Battersea enamels, prints, and engravings of Battersea and the locality, china, carvings of  local interest, and curios. 
    Relics relating to the Crusades are to be seen in the Museum of the Grand Priory of the Order of the Hospital of St. John, at St. John's Gate, Clerkenwell; and at the Rotunda Museum, on Woolwich Common, there is a collection of artillery exhibits, representative types of armour, firearms, swords, native weapons, and models of bridges.
    A different type or museum is the Horniman, at Forest Hill, where there is an unrivalled collection of ethnological exhibits, including sections and series illustrating the ancestry of man and the classification of human races.
    An institution that occupies a place by itself is the Museum of Blindiana, Armitage Hall, Great Portland Street. "It contains," says Dr. Malcolm, " a comprehensive collection of books in raised types, apparatus and appliances for teaching the blind and for meeting their recreational, social, and industrial needs." Then there  is the Donaldson Museum of the Royal College of Music, in Prince Consort Road, which houses a small collection of rare musical instruments. The Geffrye Museum, in Kingsland Road,  Shoreditch, is well known to the general public. it was designed to assist the local furniture and wood-working industries, and among its treasures is the Wren Room from the Pewterers' Hall in the City.
    The Home Office has its own Industrial Museum in Horseferry Road, Westminster, where  may be seen a permanent exhibition of safety, health, and social welfare methods and  appliances. In the Jewish Museum, Upper Woburn Place, there is a collection of antiquities, illustrating Jewish religious practice, family Iife, and history, among which Anglo-Jewish objects predominate.
    Museums with personal associations are Carlyle's House, 24, Cheyne Row, Chelxca, in which the exhibits occupy 10 rooms; Dickens's House, Doughty Street, with many interesting  relics of the famous Victorian novelist; Hogarth's House, Hogarth Lane, Chiswick, in which there :ire numerous prints and other objects relating to the artist; Johnson's House in Gough Square, with many relics of Dr. Johnson and his circle; the Keats Memorial House and Museum, Wentworth Place, Keats Grove, Hampstead, which has been organized on the same lines as the others ; Wesley's House in City Road, which was built by John Wesley in 1779, and in which he lived till his death 12 years later. This house has recently been restored to its eighteenth-century condition, and it contains, among other exhibits, old furniture of the period.  . . . . The report may be purchased, price 4d., through any bookseller.

Has anyone ever come across this LCC report? What were the 60 museums listed?

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