An illustration of the London Museum © Asif Khan Studio/MIR
The Museum of London has announced that it will close its doors later this year in preparation for a long-planned move to new premises not far away from its current site. The museum is expected to shut in December this year and not reopen until 2025 at the earliest. The institution has been situated in the middle of an iconic roundabout location on London Wall in the City of London since it was first established as part of the wider Barbican redevelopment in the 1970s. However, it is due to move to the former wholesale meat market site in Smithfield, a move that has been in the planning stages for some time.
Nevertheless, such a prolonged closure has surprised some. The Museum of London said that once it closes its main museum site on London Wall, its other site to the east – in Docklands – will remain open. However, the main premises will be shut while the necessary redevelopment work at Smithfield is carried out. Some of the historic market buildings have been derelict for many years and need to undergo some significant changes to bring them up to the standard required of a cultural institution that serves the public. The multi-million-pound redevelopment project will also include enhanced public transport links with Thameslink trains passing through the site.
A Museum and More
The museum’s director, Sharon Ament, said that when the new building is fully prepared at the Smithfield site it will host a festival to mark not just the museum’s new home but to announce its new name to the world. The London Museum, as the Museum of London will become, will constitute a new civic space for millions to enjoy, according to Ament. She said that, once it opens, it will be available for visitors to enjoy round the clock, 24 hours a day. “The new site will serve as more than just a museum,” Ament said. The director went on to state that the new museum will be curated to tell the story of all Londoners. “ It will be a living, breathing space that buzzes with the energy of the people of London – past, present and future,” she added.
The planned festival in 2025 will coincide with the reopening of the museum after its long closure. It is set to feature a number of artwork commissions and new music to mark the occasion. Indeed, the management team at the Museum of London, also expect the new site to allow them to display more of their collection than is possible at the current one. Plans have already been put together to display the famous Cheapside Hoard, for example, a collection of Elizabethan and Jacobean jewellery that is considered to be among the very finest in the world.
Other future exhibitions that the museum has planned for the larger site it will occupy in Smithfield include one that will focus on the history of protest in the city. The Trump Baby blimp that was used by protestors to object to the visit to London of the former US president, Donald Trump, is in the museum’s collection and will feature in this exhibition. It will float above as visitors explore the gallery space beneath. Another planned-for exhibition will delve into the life of Fortunata, a young slave who was discovered by archaeologists working the River Walbrook in the 1990s. Fortunata’s story is one that has not been told as much as it might have been because of the space constraints at the museum’s London Wall site. Whether Londoners will return to the museum in large numbers after such a long closure remains to be seen, however.
About the author – Manuel Charr
Manuel Charr is a journalist working in the arts and cultural sectors. With a background in marketing, Manuel is drawn to arts organizations which are prepared to try inventive ways to reach new audiences.