Bloomsbury Museums (Self Guided), London

There are over 240 museums in London and each year they welcome about 42 million visitors from all over the world. The Bloomsbury area features some of the world-famous and unique exhibitions the city has to offer, so whether you are a history buff or into arts, photography or cartoons, you will find something to suit your taste on this self-guided walk of London museums.
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Bloomsbury Museums Map

Guide Name: Bloomsbury Museums
Guide Location: England » London (See other walking tours in London)
Guide Type: Self-guided Walking Tour (Sightseeing)
# of Attractions: 9
Tour Duration: 3 hour(s)
Travel Distance: 5.8 km
Author: Xena
1
British Museum

1) British Museum (must see)

The British Museum is a public institution dedicated to human history, art and culture. Its permanent collection of some eight million works is among the largest and most comprehensive in existence, having been widely sourced during the era of the British Empire. It documents the story of human culture from its beginnings to the present. It was the first public national museum in the world.

The British Museum was established in 1753, largely based on the collections of the Irish physician and scientist Sir Hans Sloane. It first opened to the public in 1759, in Montagu House, on the site of the current building. Its expansion over the following 250 years was largely a result of expanding British colonization and has resulted in the creation of several branch institutions, the first being the Natural History Museum in 1881.

The British Museum charges no admission fee.

Why You Should Visit:
Home of the Rosetta Stone, ancient Egyptian artifacts, Roman statuary and much, much more.

Tip:
Go early to avoid the crowds at the key famous items.
There are two entrances: the main front one and there other at the back which is often less busy.
Exhibits are paid-for, while admission to the museum is free.

Opening Hours:
Fri: 10am-8:20pm; Sat-Thu: 10am-5:20pm
Sight description based on wikipedia
2
Charles Dickens Museum

2) Charles Dickens Museum

Spread over the four floors of a typical Georgian terraced house on a private street in an affluent part of London, this museum holds the world's grandest collection of letters, paintings, rare editions, manuscripts, original furniture and other items relating to the life and work of Charles Dickens. Being the last standing London residence of the Dickens family, the property escaped demolition courtesy of the Dickens Fellowship which renovated it and set up in its quarters a museum in 1925.

Dickens and his wife Catherine moved into this house in April 1837, just a year after their marriage, together with their baby son Charley. Over the next two years, the Dickenses had two daughters born here: Mary in March 1838 and Katey in October 1839. It was also here that in May 1837 the author's beloved sister-in-law, Mary Hogarth, passed away, following a brief illness, at the age of 17. The girl inspired many characters in Dickens's books, and her death was also fictionalized as the death of Little Nell in “The Old Curiosity Shop” novel.

Dickens resided in this place until December 1839, during which time he had completed "The Pickwick Papers" (1836), "Oliver Twist" (1838) and "Nicholas Nickleby" (1838–39), and begun work on "Barnaby Rudge" (1840–41).

Perhaps the best-known item on display in the museum is the portrait of Dickens, known as Dickens' Dream, created by R.W. Buss, an original illustrator of "The Pickwick Papers". This unfinished portrait shows Dickens in his study at Gads Hill Place surrounded by the many characters that he created. Another key exhibit is the desk Dickens used at public readings of his works. Several days a week, visitors are allowed to physically handle the displayed items.

Operation hours: Monday - Sunday: 10:00 am - 4:00 pm
Sight description based on wikipedia
3
British Library

3) British Library

The British Library is the national library of the United Kingdom. It is a major research library, holding over 150 million items from many countries, in many languages and in many formats, both print and digital: books, manuscripts, journals, newspapers, magazines, sound and music recordings, videos, play-scripts, patents, databases, maps, stamps, prints, drawings. The Library's collections include around 14 million books, along with substantial holdings of manuscripts and historical items dating back as far as 2000 BC. As a legal deposit library, the British Library receives copies of all books produced in the United Kingdom and Ireland, including a significant proportion of overseas titles distributed in the UK. It also has a programme for content acquisitions. The British Library adds some three million items every year, occupying 9.6 kilometres of new shelf space. The library was originally a department of the British Museum and from the mid-19th century occupied the famous circular British Museum Reading Room. It became legally separate in 1973, and by 1997 had moved into its new purpose-built building at St Pancras, London.

A number of books and manuscripts are on display to the general public in the Sir John Ritblat Gallery which is open seven days a week at no charge. Some of the manuscripts in the exhibition include Beowulf, the Lindisfarne Gospels and St Cuthbert Gospel, a Gutenberg Bible, Geoffrey Chaucer's Canterbury Tales, Thomas Malory's Le Morte d'Arthur (King Arthur), Captain Cook's journal, Jane Austen's History of England, Charlotte Brontë's Jane Eyre, Lewis Carroll's Alice's Adventures Under Ground, Rudyard Kipling's Just So Stories, Charles Dickens's Nicholas Nickleby, Virginia Woolf's Mrs Dalloway and a room devoted solely to Magna Carta, as well as several Qu'rans and Asian items. In addition to the permanent exhibition, there are frequent thematic exhibitions which have covered maps, sacred texts and the history of the English language.

In its Treasures Room, the British Library has some exceptionally rare Beatles artifacts on permanent display, including John Lennon's hand-written lyrics for “In My Life”, “Strawberry Fields Forever” and “She Said She Said” as well as Paul McCartney’s handwritten draft on “Yesterday”, as well as a hand-written letter from Lennon to Stuart Sutcliffe, the band's original bassist who passed away suddenly in 1962, aged only 21.
Sight description based on wikipedia
4
Grant Museum of Zoology and Comparative Anatomy

4) Grant Museum of Zoology and Comparative Anatomy

The Grant Museum of Zoology and Comparative Anatomy is a natural history museum that is part of University College London. It was established by Robert Edmond Grant in 1828 as a teaching collection of zoological specimens and material for dissection. On his death Grant left his own collection to the museum. In 1875 Edwin Ray Lankester added to the museum collection. After 1948 the museum was under the care of professional curators. The museum conserves around 67,000 specimens, many of which are very rare and several have been rediscovered only recently in storage. In 2011, the museum moved from its previous location on the UCL campus to new quarters in Rockefeller Hall.

The collection includes such rare showpieces as Megaloceros giganteus which was discovered hanging in an Irish pub and then bought by the museum; Dodo bones which had been stored away for a century until being rediscovered in 2011 while the collection was moved to a new building, Quagga skeleton which was not identified as such until recently, Rhamphorhynchus fossil which was assumed to be a plaster cast, but turned out to be a real fossil.

Museum is open to the public from Monday to Saturday: 1 pm – 5 pm. Admission to the Museum is free.
Sight description based on wikipedia
5
Petrie Museum of Egyptian Archaeology

5) Petrie Museum of Egyptian Archaeology

The Petrie Museum of Egyptian Archaeology in London is part of University College London Museums & Collections. The museum contains over 80,000 objects and ranks among some of the world's leading collections of Egyptian and Sudanese material. It ranks behind only the collections of the Cairo Museum, The British Museum and the Ägyptisches Museum, Berlin in number of items.

The museum was established as a teaching resource for the Department of Egyptian Archaeology and Philology at University College at the same time as the department was established in 1892. The initial collection was donated by the writer Amelia Edwards. The first Edwards Professor, William Flinders Petrie conducted many important excavations, and in 1913 he sold his collections of Egyptian antiquities to University College, transforming the museum into one of the leading collections outside Egypt. Petrie excavated dozens of major sites in the course of his career, including the Roman Period cemeteries at Hawara, famous for the beautiful mummy portraits in classical Roman style; Amarna, the city of king Akhenaten, known as the first king to believe in one God; and the first true pyramid, at Meydum, where he uncovered some of the earliest evidence for mummification.

The collection is full of “firsts”: one of the earliest pieces of linen from Egypt (about 5000 BC); two lions from the temple of Min at Koptos, from the first group of monumental sculptures (about 3000 BC); a fragment from the first king list or calendar (about 2900 BC); the earliest example of metal from Egypt, the first worked iron beads; the earliest example of glazing; the earliest “cylinder seal” in Egypt (about 3500 BC); the oldest wills on papyrus paper; the oldest gynaecological papyrus; the only veterinary papyrus from ancient Egypt; and the largest architectural drawing, showing a shrine (about 1300 BC). Costume is another strength of the collection. In addition to the “oldest dress” there is a unique beadnet dress of a dancer from the Pyramid Age (about 2400 BC), two long sleeved robes of the same period, a suit of armour from the palace of Memphis, as well as socks and sandals from the Roman period. The collection contains works of art from Akhenaten’s city at Amarna: colourful tiles, carvings and frescoes, from many other important Egyptian and Nubian settlements and burial sites. The museum houses the world’s largest collection of Roman period mummy portraits (first to second centuries AD).

The Museum is located in Malet Place, near the UCL science library and Gower Street. Some parts of the collection are not lit (for preservation reasons) and torches are supplied to see inside the cases. The museum is open Tuesday to Saturday, 1 pm - 5 pm, and admission is free.
Sight description based on wikipedia
6
Pollock's Toy Museum

6) Pollock's Toy Museum

Pollock’s Toy Museum, named after Benjamin Pollock, the last of the Victorian Toy Theatre printers, was started in 1956 in a single attic room at 44 Monmouth Street, near Covent Garden, where Pollock's Toy Theatres were also sold. As the enterprise flourished, other rooms were taken over for the museum and the ground floor became a toyshop.

By 1969 the collection had outgrown the Monmouth Street premises and Pollock's Toy Museum moved to 1 Scala Street, with a museum shop on the ground floor to contribute to its support. Inside the museum can be seen toys from all over the world and from different time periods, including teddy bears, wax and china dolls, board games, optical toys, folk toys, nursery furniture, mechanical toys and doll’s houses.

If you want to step back in time and visit your parent's or grandparent's childhood, this quirky and delightful museum is the place to be. The six rooms and staircases are packed with all kinds of toys, not just from Britain but from across the globe, primarily Victorian and first half of the 20th century, but some much older ones include a 4,000 year-old Egyptian clay mouse.

Operation hours: Monday - Saturday: 10:00 am - 5:00 pm
Sight description based on wikipedia
7
The Cartoon Museum

7) The Cartoon Museum

The Cartoon Museum is a London museum for British cartoons, caricatures, comic strips and animation. It has a library of over 5,000 books and 4,000 comics relating to the subject. The museum issues catalogues and features a changing display of over 250 exhibits from its collection of over 1,700 original cartoons and prints.

It was opened February 23, 2006 by the Duke of Edinburgh. The museum runs a Learning Programme for primary and secondary schools in a range of subjects, including art, media, history, English and animation. With workshops for children during half-term and holidays, it also features adult courses in cartooning and graphic novels in collaboration with London's Birkbeck College.

Opening times: Monday to Saturday 10.30 am – 5.30 pm, Sunday noon – 5.30 pm.
Sight description based on wikipedia
8
Photographers' Gallery

8) Photographers' Gallery

The Photographers' Gallery was founded in London in 1971 and was the first independent gallery in Britain devoted entirely to photography. Exhibitions in the gallery have included one-person displays of work by André Kertész, Danny Treacy, Taryn Simon, Ori Gersht, Cuny Janssen, and David King. The Gallery hosts the annual Deutsche Börse Photography Prize. Originally based in Great Newport Street near Leicester Square, The Photographers' Gallery moved to Ramillies Street Soho, in December 2008.

Since its actual establishment in 1971, The Photographers' Gallery has become a place to witness photography in all its forms: from the latest emerging talents to historical archives. Today the gallery is deservedly recognized as the trendsetter of UK photography, establishing its important role in culture and society. Being one of Europe's most visited galleries dedicated to photography, The Photographers' Gallery continues to encourage and support young talents.

After total renovation of its premises on Ramillies Street in May 2012, the gallery has reopened featuring three exhibition floors, a studio floor for education activities, a Bookshop, Café, and Print Sales space.

Why You Should Visit:
London's finest dedicated photography gallery in a newly-designed building.

Tip:
Free admission before 12 at noon!
Bring headphones with you (there is a code you can scan on your smartphone to listen to an audio-guide)...

Opening Hours:
Daily: 10am-6pm
Sight description based on wikipedia
9
Handel and Hendrix Museum

9) Handel and Hendrix Museum

Handel & Hendrix in London (previously known as Handel House Museum) is a museum in Mayfair, London dedicated to the lives and works of the German-born British baroque composer George Frideric Handel and the rock guitarist Jimi Hendrix, who lived at 25 and 23 Brook Street respectively.

Handel made his home in London in 1712 and eventually became a British citizen in 1727. Handel was the first occupant of 25 Brook Street, which he rented from 1723 until his death there in 1759. Almost all his works after 1723, amongst them many of his best-known operas, oratorios and ceremonial music, were composed and partially rehearsed in the house, which contained a variety of keyboard instruments, including harpsichords, a clavichord and a small chamber organ.

The museum was opened in 2001 by the Handel House Trust in 1959. It comprises a carefully restored set of period rooms on the first and second floors of 25 Brook Street together with exhibition rooms in number 23, the adjacent house on the terrace. In 2016 the museum expanded to incorporate the upper floors of 23 Brook Street, home of Jimi Hendrix in the late 1960s.

Both the homes of Handel and Hendrix are brilliantly presented giving one a fascinating insight to these very different composers and musicians.

Opening times: Tuesday to Saturday 10 am – 6 pm (until 8 pm on Thursday); Sunday 12 noon – 6 pm. Closed Mondays, including bank holidays.
Sight description based on wikipedia

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