New Year’s Resolutions: The London Museum Challenge, 2013

January 1, 2013 § 8 Comments

Hi, my name is Mademoiselle Rêves and I have a confession to make.

I am a curator who is terrible at visiting museums.

This probably comes as a surprise to anyone who knows me and/or reads this blog, but it is actually, and ironically, a little-known occupational hazard of being a curator. (When I was a student I used to regularly express shock at the tendency of my boyfriend, also a curator, to miss major exhibitions – I think he has the last laugh now!) It’s also a statement that needs to be qualified. I definitely visit more museums, on a more regular basis, than the average Joe, no question about that. The problem is museums in London. 2013 marks the start of my ninth year in London, and when I consider the length of time I’ve lived here in proportion to the number of museums I’ve visited, it’s more than a little embarrassing. Sure, I’m on familiar (in lots of cases very familiar) terms with most of the ones you’d expect someone who works on Western art, with an emphasis on prints and drawings to be. But there are so many more I’ve yet to discover, and as is often the case, the longer you live in one place, the easier it becomes to ignore or put off what’s in your own garden.

So I’ve decided to change this unfortunate state of affairs. Like 99.9% of people, I’m normally rubbish at keeping New Year’s resolutions – however, this blog is the result of one, so I think it’s safe to say that I am in fact capable of keeping one or two. So here’s my resolution for 2013: I will attempt to fill these shameful gaps in my cultural knowledge.

When I first started thinking about this, my original idea was to visit every single museum in London I’d never been to. Then I discovered that London has over 240 museums. (Yes, you read that right. And that doesn’t take into account the defunct ones I’ll never be able to visit, some of which I feel quite sad about. It appears I’ve missed my chance to visit the world’s only museum devoted to my two favourite drugs, the Bramah Tea and Coffee Museum, and I curse the closure of the short-lived Museum of the Moving Image, not least because I will now never get to play with a real Dalek.) Even if I subtracted from that number the ones I’ve already visited, visiting so many in the space of a year isn’t a tenable proposition. And even if it were, do I really want to visit the Anaesthesia Heritage Centre or the British Dental Association Museum? I think you know the answer to that.

Instead, I’ve come up with a more realistic list of places that correspond more closely to my own interests, most of which I’ve been meaning to visit for years anyway. Some of them are traditional museums, some of them historic houses, and one is actually a garden.

The list:

Apsley House

Banqueting House, Whitehall

Ben Uri Gallery

Chelsea Physic Garden

Chiswick House

De Morgan Foundation

Dennis Severs’ House

Design Museum

Dr Johnson’s House

Eltham Palace

Fan Museum

Fenton House

Garden Museum

Geffrye Museum

Horniman Museum

Kelmscott House

Linley Sambourne House

Museum of London

National Maritime Museum

Osterley Park

Red House

Strawberry Hill

Syon Park


In hopes of keeping myself honest, I’ll be posting about them as I visit them. Will I make it to all twenty-three? We’ll see…


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