There are over 250 museums in London — the staid British Museum, the innovative Tate Modern, and the excellent National Portrait Gallery, etc. They house some of the world’s greatest (and often plundered) treasures, from the Arnolfini Wedding Portrait to the Rosetta Stone and, of course, the crown jewels. But there is a whole other group of truly wacky London museums befitting the land of Churchill and Amy Winehouse.
Sir John Sloane’s Museum: A hoarder’s dream, this packed neo-classical townhouse was once home to the 18th century architect, Sir John Sloane (…hence the name). An obsessive collector of art, classical architectural figures and furniture, Sir Sloane set his home up as a museum for students and novices alike through an actual act of parliament. Oddities abound, including a basement cell for a pretend monk named Padre Giovani and the stories-high Monumental Court, which is jammed with huge chunks of ancient and medieval buildings from all over Europe. A brilliant example to those TV doctors that sometimes, hoarders are best left alone.
Sloane’s Museum, 13 Lincoln’s Inn Fields, London, WC2A 3BP
The Fan Museum: Once the ultimate courtier’s accessory, the fan has sadly lost its place as the sexiest way to lure a man or tell a delightful secret, never mind actually keeping you cool. But the fan lives on at this museum, the only one in the world devoted to this ancient craftwork. The collection of almost 3,000 fans, dating back to the 11th century, is housed in an elegant Georgian townhouse with a secret garden featuring a fan shaped pond. And while you’re there, be sure to pick up a limited edition royal wedding fan for only 19 pounds.
Fan Museum, 12 Crooms Hill, London, SE10 8ER
Horniman Museum: Sixteen acres of beautiful gardens, one giant stuffed walrus and huge anthropological, natural history and interactive musical instrument collections, make this one of the most diverse museums you will ever care to encounter (plus, the name is good for a session of the church giggles). There is also a basement aquarium, extensive scholar’s library, an African art gallery, an ethnography gallery … the list goes on and on.
Horniman Museum, 100 London Rd., Forest Hill, London, SE23 3PQ
Geffrye Museum: A personal favorite of this amateur interior designer and self admitted busy-body, the Geffrye explores the history of the British middle-class by expertly recreating living rooms and gardens from the 1600’s to the modern day. A current special exhibit explores the design of the home in modern day Japan. Truly a tasteful treat.
Geffrye Museum, 136 Kingsland Road, London E2 8EA
Pollock’s Toy Museum: With each pokey room dedicated to a specific toy, this collection of antique dolls, mechanical toys, board games and toy theaters will delight the 19th century child in all of us. Highlights include a 4,000 year old Egyptian mouse and the world’s oldest teddy bear from 1905. The creaky, winding staircases of this Georgian house are filled with artifacts. It is a child’s slightly creepy but fascinating dream come to life.
Pollock’s, 1 Scala Street, London W1T 2HL