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Little-Known Museums of London

One of the main contributing factors that make London a great city and has put the city on top of the list of most visited cities in the world is the abundance of world class museums and galleries in the city. Moreover, many of the top museums are free to enter although some temporary exhibitions might be ticketed. The city boasts of having more than 200 museums and 857 galleries that include three of the top ten museums of the world. The world famous museums include Natural History Museum, Science Museum, British Museum, Victoria and Albert Museum, Museum of London and many others that always feature on any tourist’s list of things to do in London.  However, apart from these famous museums, London is also home to less famous but equally great museums that are its hidden gems. Some of these little-known museums have been described here.

Leighton House Museum, Holland Park: Showcasing the spectacular artefacts collected by Victorian artist Lord Frederick Leighton, this museum is located in the building that was his home and studio. Its beautiful interior is opulent to the extent that it matches the most lavish private houses in Kensington although its exterior does not reflect the beauty and opulence inside. Leighton’s impressive collection of shining Islamic tiles is displayed in the central Arab Hall while the other rooms showcase impressive antique furniture and contemporary art displays. At certain times on Wednesdays and Sundays, free tours of the museum are offered.

Cartoon Museum, Holborn: Although this museum is strikingly smaller than the British Museum which is just a few streets away, it deserves to be seen mainly because of its endeavours to preserve and promote British cartoon art, comic art and caricature. It presents a collection dating back to the 18th century and till date and as such, people of all ages find something that holds their attention or leads them down memory lane. The collection includes both politically minded works and playful and popular cartoon strips. The museum’s library is easily accessible for those who wish to get more information or for studying the medium further.

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Old Operating Theatre, London Bridge: Operating techniques of the 1800s were quite primitive and terrifying at times because of the lack of effective anaesthesia. The Old Operating Theatre at St Thomas’s Hospital was used for operations with primitive medical equipment and without anaesthesia, even for invasive surgeries like amputations leading to excruciating pain suffered by patients, especially if the surgeon was a novice. These scenes are brought to life when weekly talks on the theatre procedures are held and are worth attending. Complementary medical displays can be seen at the adjacent herb garret exhibition space.

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Museum of Brands, Packaging and Advertising, Notting Hill: An unusual museum, it displays a collection that includes over 12,000 original items that are familiar to all of us being household items that we obtain from supermarkets such as packets of cereal, tins of baked beans or sachets of custard powder. However, the museum displays many decommissioned products that we were familiar with but have now been withdrawn by manufacturers.

British Dental Association Dental Museum, Marylebone: If you wish to see old instruments used for dental treatments, you must visit this museum that dates back almost 100 years. It was founded in 1919 by Lilian Lindsay who was the first female to qualify as a dentist in England. She donated a number of old dental instruments to the association and today the museum has a collection of over 20,000 items including dental instruments, furniture, photographs and art on display.

Pollock’s Toy Museum, Fitzrovia: It is an intriguing museum as it is cluttered with a collection of old, beady-eyed dolls and is housed in two conjoined houses near Goodge Street. A visit to the museum will take you down memory lane as you encounter toys that you probably played with in your childhood. Although it is basically meant for parents who want to provide their kids with distraction, other adults can also enjoy because of the nostalgic atmosphere of the museum.

The Crime Museum, New Scotland Yard: One of the most macabre museums of London, it is also known as The Black Museum and is located at New Scotland Yard. Its collection includes a wide range of weapons used for committing crimes or serious assaults such as items used by Jack the Ripper and Charlie Peace. It offers references to shocking and emotive cases due to which it is not open to the public but members of the police forces or associated bodies visit this space at times to attend lectures on forensic science, pathology, law and investigative techniques.

Geffrye Museum, Hackney: This museum in Hoxton is dedicated to displaying typical middle-class living quarters down memory lane from the early 17th century to the present day. It is ideal for people who are interested in interiors or design as it showcases, in a succession of period rooms, living spaces from the 17 century to contemporary times. The period gardens also do the same showcasing outdoors during various periods of time.

London Sewing Machine Museum, Balham: Charting the history and evolution of sewing machines, both domestic and industrial, and exhibiting about 700 different types, this museum is part of the Wimbledon Sewing Machine Company. Its collection includes the first Singer machine and a machine originally owned by Queen Victoria’s eldest daughter. It is usually open only on the first Saturday of each month.

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