diamond geezer

 Wednesday, January 04, 2006

  I SPY LONDON
  the definitive DG guide to London's sights-worth-seeing
  Part 2: The Museum in Docklands

Location: West India Quay, E14 4AL [map]
Open: 10am - 6pm
Admission: £5 (ticket valid for one year)
5-word summary: Docklands, from dockers to yuppies
Website: www.museumindocklands.org.uk
Time to set aside: an afternoon

The Museum in Docklands is the (much) younger sibling of the Museum of London, opened to the public in the summer of 2003. It's housed in a rather impressive Georgian warehouse, used formerly for the storage of molasses, tea, spices and other exotic cargoes but now home to an extensive collection of wharf-related exhibits. Wander along the cafe-strewn quayside and you'll find the entrance to the museum hidden between two lost buoys. The staff at the admissions desk welcome you with bubbling enthusiasm, as if every visitor were a rare delight, then direct you towards the lift up to the third floor. You can either cope with Tony Robinson or you can't - if not, don't hang around for the opening film, just step through into the first gallery. The Thames's prehistoric and medieval past is dealt with pretty quickly, although there is a marvellous double-sided scale model of London Bridge (complete with the centre-span chapel where Thomas a Becket was baptised). Round the corner is the astonishingly detailed Rhinebeck panorama, a balloon's-eye view across the Pool of London as it might have appeared two hundred years ago. Downstairs the dark riverside alleyways of Sailortown have been lovingly recreated (even the smell is worryingly authentic). The next series of exhibits celebrates the Empire-driven expansion of the Victorian docks and the increasingly tough lives of the local dockers. It was at this stage on my walkabout that several nearby toddlers had to be removed to the rather more interactive refuge of the Mudlarks Gallery by despairing parents. I continued to the final displays providing extensive coverage of the dockland war effort and the area's rather more recent economic renaissance. There are several reminders that local residents in the 1980s were less than impressed to find a new capitalist hub foisted on their neighbourhood, although whether later prosperity changed their minds is not recorded. Still, at least the 'new' DLR makes it dead easy to visit this unexpectedly fascinating museum.
by DLR: West India Quay  by tube: Canary Wharf  by bus: 277, D3, D7, D8


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