diamond geezer

 Tuesday, January 13, 2009

An alphabetical journey through the capital's museums
Arsenal Museum

Location: Drayton Park, London, N5 [map]
Open: Daily from 10am (closes early on matchdays)
Admission: £6 (or free as part of Stadium tour)
Website: www.arsenal.com/emirates-stadium/arsenal-museum
Time to set aside: up to an hour

Only a handful of English football clubs merit their own museum, and only one of these is worth visiting. Which one that is is a matter of personal choice. But if you don't choose the Arsenal Museum, obviously you're wrong.

Arsenal MuseumThe Arsenal Museum is located in a basement beneath Key Worker housing at the apex of the Ashburton Triangle. A less historic spot it would be hard to find. Handing over the entrance fee is also astonishingly difficult. The bloke on the door refused to take my £6, directing me instead to the Box Office (across a bridge, down some steps, wait). The bloke at the Box Office also refused to take my £6, directing me instead back to the Museum (up some steps, across a bridge, embarrassed return). The bloke on the door finally accepted my £6 only grudgingly, and even then solely on the understanding that I had the exact money in cash. It seems that 99% of the Museum's trade comes from fans who've been on the official Stadium tour and who get directed here at the end as a free afterthought, so my unexpected arrival proved unexpectedly challenging.

At last, down the stairs to the collection proper. This is a museum of two halves - the first half devoted to the people who made Arsenal great and the second given over to their finest achievements. Everything kicks off with a display about Woolwich. Look, there's a fibreglass Dial Square, as well as a listing of the very first team to play under the name of Royal Arsenal (a 6-1 home win against Erith, for what it's worth). If it's in-depth history you want, lift the telephone handset and soak in the details. I suspect most visitors don't bother, they just speed by to the interactive video exhibits further on. But I learnt plenty, not least that my favourite football club owes its early prominence to an evil conniving property developer chairman who schemed, manoeuvred and cheated his team across the Thames and into the top flight.

Arsenal MuseumA brighter future was to be had at Highbury Stadium (look, the original plans), at least for as long as the place lasted (look, there's the centre spot, a rectangle of turf preserved forever inside a glass block). A central display case contains artefacts belonging to god-like chairman Herbert Chapman who guided the club to Thirties supremacy, while another contains such goodies as the Women's FA Cup and Will Copping's barometer. But who's looking there? Not when there are buttons to press and dials to spin and dream teams to select and a giant wall-length screen cycling the exploits of notable Arsenal legends.

Up the other end, reminders that Arsenal have won an awful lot of stuff over the years. International excellence, record-breaking unbeaten league records, FA Cup triumphs, it's all desperately impressive. And terribly selective, of course. No mention of the times Spurs have embarrassingly thrashed us, nothing about going out in the Cup in the first round, and not a word about the criminally lacklustre 2008/9 season. But some appropriate crowing about the three times we've won the Double, including the 10p programme for the 1971 Cup Final (which was the very day my footballing loyalties were first forged). Not that the nylon-suited tourists wandering to and fro are interested in the words. They just want to photograph each other next to Thierry Henry's shirt and extremely large pieces of silverware, and then get out. You may want to linger a little longer. Or maybe not.
by tube: Arsenal (obviously)

A is also for...
» Alexander Fleming Laboratory Museum (I turned up specially last week but they were unexpectedly closed, so no can do)
» Anaesthesia Heritage Centre (appointment recommended, and I don't do 'appointment recommended')
» Apsley House (I've been, and you should)

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