The Museum of Fabulousness

On Friday I made the trip back into London from the city’s Western Reaches, headed this time to my favorite non-grandmother’s-attic museum, the Museum of London.  photo 1

From the Stone Age river-side village to Roman Londinium to Victoria’s smoke-choked London, the museum uncovers the city’s layers as archaeological digs have done–

Excavations at Bloomberg Place

Excavations at Bloomberg Place

brilliantly presented to prove that history is NOT boring.  photo 2

I could spend all day here, among the chattering school groups, the tourists, the pensioners, and the fanatics.  (Friday’s example of such was a gent who took up a position at the tobacconist’s shop in the “Victorian Street”, and any unsuspecting passer-by who paused to look at the display of match-boxes was delivered a lecture on the same, complete with proud fetching of examples of Swan Vestas and enameled boxes from his inner pocket, competing with the lesser models locked away behind the museum’s glass.  I rather expected his counterpart over at the Roman exhibit to pull a bit of bone or worn sandal from HIS coat pocket, but there the gent just pressed his nose to the sarcophagus.

One unsolved mystery, in the “grocer” diorama in that Victorian Street, a peculiar mechanism overhead that went unlabeled and unexplained, and since I had time constraints, I could not pursue it. Anyone know what it is?

photo 3

photo 4






And I’m no great fan of city life, but I will admit, the Barbican flats that rise up behind the Museum of London are immensely appealing. Look at the hanging-gardens effect of all those balconies:photoI had to pull myself away so my British publishers could take me to lunch and discuss the oddities of British publishing and bookselling while tucking into nice Sardinian food served by suitably swarthy and handsome young people. (I, noting the Italian-esque offerings on the menu but overlooking the name of the restaurant–Sardo Cucina–innocently inquired if they had any Italian beer.  The young man, one eyebrow eloquently arched, replied, “No.”  And after a pause brief enough to preserve manners but long enough to indicate a point was being made, he continued, “We have Sardinian beer.”  I assured the young man that Sardinian beer was much to be preferred, and indeed, it was very nice.)

Following lunch, an attempt was made to visit an antiquarian bookseller I like, but since my publishers had well-meaningly summoned a mini-cab, and since mini-cab drivers do NOT have “The Knowledge” of real cab drivers (a course of brute memorization that takes at least two years to absorb) this one’s attempt at finding the place based on an inadequately entered Sat Nav (ie, GPS) location brought me to Baker Street instead of Mayfair, I briskly exited and made for the nearest Tube stop.

Please note: a mini-cab is not a proper London Taxi, no matter what it looks like.London cab

Posted in ,


  1. Affenschmidt on May 25, 2015 at 6:31 am

    The mysterious mechanism transports money between the clerk and the office (I see there are actually two of them, so clearly there are two different destinations in this display). Not visible is the part that travels along the wire. Attached to it would be a wooden cup with a clip on its bottom. The clerk would detach the cup, put coins in it, attach paper money to the clip on the bottom and put it back in place. He would then pull down sharply on the wooden handle, shoving the container on its carrier along the wire to the office. I remember seeing one of these in action in Coiner’s Department Store in Berryville, VA, about 40 years ago.

    • Laurie King on May 25, 2015 at 9:03 am

      Ah, thanks for enlightening my darkness.

      • TheMadLibrarian on May 26, 2015 at 11:22 am

        I had been wondering about that; it appears to have been taken from its original context and placed in about the right location, but without the network of wires that direct the money to the appropriate spot. I had seen one of them previously, in a largish department store in a small Ohio town (Garver’s); the money went up to the ceiling, thence to the clerk’s office on the second floor balcony. It is the predecessor of pneumatic tubes as used in banks and Costco.

  2. Janice MacDonald on May 25, 2015 at 6:47 am

    So glad you enjoyed and are promoting the Museum of London. My daughter did her PhD research there, and the scientists she worked with (Jelana and Becky) were so kind to her. The museum itself is wonderful, and often overlooked, I think.

    Favourite moment in a tour we did: walking past a school group — “I knew someone who died of the Black Death!” uh, no you didn’t, nine-year old boy.

    • Laurie King on May 25, 2015 at 7:16 am

      Hmm, well, we have many wild creatures in California that carry the bubonic plague, and can pass it on to people, so I suppose it’s possible…

  3. dave on May 25, 2015 at 8:14 am

    Laurie, your link to “Knowledge Taxi” is missing the final “.uk” in the url and won’t resolve. Hard to diagnose, too.:

  4. Margaret Wood on May 25, 2015 at 8:21 am

    Affenschmit’s description of the money carrier made me chuckle with the memories of shopping at Penney’s store in Los Angeles in my childhood. My last memory is of the one still being used in Penney’s in Fresno, California about 1960 (?).

  5. Lois Simpson on May 25, 2015 at 9:25 am

    Plague is alive and well throughout the world. It infests mainly rodent populations, many of which are resistant, but carry it to other wildlife and humans. The CDC reported a case cluster this spring in Colorado. A pet dog apparently caught it from a praire dog. It was transmitted to the owner, a close acquaintance, and two vet techs. An alert vet notified the CDC of the suspected case before the humans became critically ill. They survived, due to rapid treatment, but the dog died. Climate change of 1 degree Celcius is expected to increase the host population by 50%. Between 1987 and 2001 there have been nearly 30,000 reported cases worlwide, with over 2800 deaths. In the 1300s, the bodies of plague victims were catapulted over city walls in one of the first recorded incidents biological warfare. More recently, bombs of infected fleas were dropped on the Chinese in the Sino-Japanese war in the 20th century.
    This is a disease with a fascinating history. It could be used in any number of books…

  6. K on May 25, 2015 at 11:38 am

    How perfect that even by mistake you ended up on Baker Street!

  7. Merrily Taylor on May 25, 2015 at 4:40 pm

    That’s just about my favorite museum in London. It’s been renovated in part since I was last there and I’m planning to make a return visit in September. (I still love the Great Fire of London exhibit!)

Leave a Comment