Whenever we think of museum dates, we think of the Tate Modern, the V&A or the British Museum. I am scoping out the more niche museums in the city. The next time you go to the the Natural History Museum or Science Museum for the tenth time, give one of these museums a go, they are not to be missed out on.
- Old Operating Theatre Museum (Borough and London Bridge)
Back in the 1800s, the Old Operating Theatre Museum was genuinely used as an operating space for the sick at St. Thomas’s Hospital. Unfortunately, the medical equipment was not the greatest and effective anaesthesia was not available, in turn invasive surgeries were rather intense for the patients under the knife. Now in the twenty-first century, it has been restored with its original fixtures and surgical instruments, so that the country’s oldest operating theatre remains for viewing in the attic of a Southwark church.
- Cinema Museum (Elephant & Castle, Kennington)
This is for the film fanatics who want to journey through a celebration of all areas of cinema. This museum focuses on the pre-digital movies where you could escape the world through the cinema screen. You need to book in advance as it only hosts guided tours, but it is worth the extra effort, to explore all the former posters, cinema memorabilia and projectors. A guide through the extensive collection is led by volunteers. The museum even hosts complementary programmes of talks and screenings that is brilliant for any film industry enthusiast.
2. Two Temple Place (Victoria, Embankment)
Remember William Waldorf Astor? No? Okay, well he was one of the richest men in the world when he emigrated to England in 1891. Two Temple Place features this beautiful and historic Victorian mansion and was his former home. It is only available for viewing during its annual exhibition period from January to April, so be quick to visit the one, as the house will put publicly owned art collections from around the world on display.
3. The Magic Circle (Euston)
A more unusual museum is the Magic Circle which is dedicated to magic. You will find this private club by Euston Station and it’s a place where magicians can congregate. It is a must-see because you are offered an insight into how some of the greatest illusionists execute their tricks. In there, you will find possessions from Harry Houdini, Maurice Fogel and Chung Lin Soo. Just remember to book a slot to visit in advance because you can’t just walk in to this magical museum.
4. Leighton House Museum (Holland Park)
Another lesser known gem in a city filled with great museums, the Leighton House Museum showcases the home and studio of Victorian artist, Lord Frederic Leighton. The interior of this museum is not to be missed. You will be amazed by the ornate rooms, the Islamic tiling and the contemporary art displays. They have free tours at certain times on Wednesdays and Sundays.
5. William Morris Gallery (Walthamstow)
This was William Morris’ family home, when he was a child, and it has been transformed into this museum dedicated to the artists creations. You’ll find some great pieces of furniture, wallpaper, fabrics and prints. They even have a programme of late events, including workshops and poetry readings.
6. Museum of the Royal Pharmaceutical Society (Wapping)
Yes, this was the first place for medical students to look at, but the institute was transformed into a public museum by the 1930s. There are so many objects and artefacts to look at, somewhere over 45,000 according to the museum, and you will find yourself in awe of the long story of medicine and pharmacy.
7. Cartoon Museum (Holborn)
I know you’ll be tempted to walk into the British Museum, but if you venture around Holborn a little bit more, you’ll find the unmissable Cartoon Museum. It showcases and preserves comic art and British cartoon art, all the way back from the eighteenth century to contemporary works, and I can guarantee you will feel all the nostalgia and childhood memories flooding back.
8. Brunel Museum (Rotherhithe)
The Thames Tunnel is an underwater tunnel built beneath the River Thames in the city connecting Rotherhithe and Wapping. The museum commemorates Isambard Kingdom Brunel’s first but final project and the birthplace of the tube system. Visit this museum to find out about this Victorian feat of engineering. The tunnel might be used for the Overground, but guided tours will take you into the huge entrance of the chamber, and you might find yourself at one of the screenings or gigs hosted by the museum.
9. John Keats House (Hampstead)
A must-visit museum for any bibliophile or reader obsessed with poetry. Keats lived in the house shortly before his death from tuberculosis at the age of twenty-five. The museum hosts some of his most famous paintings, books and keepsakes. This might be a house filled with sad moments, but it is also filled with romance, thanks to his love with his neighbour Fanny Brawne.