United Kingdom

Museum of London reopens modern galleries

In its largest development since it opened at the Barbican in 1976, the museum unveils some 7,000 objects tracing the city's history, from the Great Fire of 1666 to the present

The Lord Mayor's Coach, a highlight of the collection, is visible from the street

The Museum of London opens its modern galleries on 28 May, following a £20.5m refurbishment. These cover the period from the Great Fire of 1666 to the present. It is the largest development since the museum opened at the Barbican in 1976.

The modern galleries, which closed three years ago, are on the lower level of the museum. The collection covering the 1789-1914 period was redisplayed in 2000, but the remainder dated back to 1976.

Altogether 7,000 objects will be presented in the modern galleries. These are in three main rooms, covering successive periods: Expanding City (1666-1850), People’s City (1850-1950) and World City (1950-today). In addition, the Lord Mayor’s Coach, a highlight of the collection, is being displayed in a new space that is visible from the street through a large window. There will also be an area for changing displays of contemporary art.

Although it has taken three years, at a considerable cost, director Jack Lohman stresses that the modern galleries cover half the museum. It has been “a major development, dealing with a 1970s building and redisplaying a very large number of objects”.

The main backer has been the Heritage Lottery Fund, which provided £11.5m. Three funders gave £1m each: the Department for Culture, Media and Sport, the Corporation of London and the Mortimer and Theresa Sackler Foundation (Mortimer Sackler died on 24 March). The Clore Duffield Foundation provided £900,000. The museum’s running costs (£26m a year) are provided by the City of London and the Greater London Authority.

Visitors will be able to see the cells of Wellclose Prison
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