London has some of the greatest museums in the world, and there are literally hundreds to choose from. In fact, a London Museums list would be about thirty pages long.
Most of the best museums in London have brilliant permanent collections. But they also have temporary exhibitions done in cooperation with other collections from around the world.
In 2011, London Museum exhibitions offer something for everyone – from children to history buffs, Victorian art lovers to dinosaur fans.
Arguably the greatest repository of human history, The British Museum has priceless treasures like the Rosetta Stone, the Elgin Marbles, the Magna Carta, and more. Millions of artifacts from virtually every era are displayed in nearly 100 galleries.
Two impressive exhibits will be at the British Museum this year. Afghanistan: Crossroads of the Ancient World shows how ancient culture has been influenced by its neighbors, China, India, Pakistan, and Iran. More than 200 objects gathered for the show are divided into four sections. The oldest dates from 2000 BC and many survived centuries of political turmoil only by being hidden away.
The second show – Treasures of Heaven: Saints, Relics, and Devotion in Medieval Europe – brings together drawings and religious objects from Britain, Cleveland, Baltimore, and the Vatican. Ornate, bejeweled reliquaries were borrowed from churches throughout Europe.
One of London’s hidden gems, The Courtauld Gallery has one of the best collections of French Impressionist paintings outside of Paris. Their show, Life, Legend, Landscape: Victorian Drawings and Watercolours presents several never-before-displayed works from noted artists. The Pre-Raphaelites, Whistler, and Aubrey Beardsley are represented, as are Frederick Walker, J.M.W. Turner, and William Etty.
Once Upon a War Time: Classic War Stories for Children at the Imperial War Museum brings some best-loved children’s tales to life in imaginative displays. For “The Silver Sword” a room becomes the map of the children’s journey from Warsaw to Switzerland at the end of World War II. There’s a large wooden horse, a fortress, recordings from the authors, manuscripts, and a library where children can explore the books they’ve just experienced in three dimensions.
Photography fans shouldn’t miss London Street Photography at the Museum of London. Dating from the 19th century to the present day, this collection of photographs shows everyday London life at street level. It’s a great way to see the passage of time and the changing fashions of the capitol city.
The Natural History Museum is presenting Sexual Nature, an examination of the sex lives, reproductive habits, and seduction techniques of various members of the animal kingdom. Apparently, even museums have to drum up business. This one’s not for the kids, but Age of the Dinosaur this summer will be a boffo exploration of the Jurassic world – Velociraptors and all.
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One of our favorite London Museums, Victoria & Albert, is presenting The Cult of Beauty: The Aesthetic Movement in Britain, 1860 – 1900. The Aesthetic Movement combined art, science, and philosophy to create a holistic lifestyle. Those who love the Pre-Raphaelites can see more paintings by Rossetti, Burne-Jones, and Whistler. Crafts and furniture by William Morris, Walter Crane, and others are also on display. Fans of the genre should combine this with the show at the Courtauld Gallery.