London 2015: Small Museums (July - December)

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Alice in Cartoonland

Freeman Moxy - (c) Martin Rowson

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Alice in Cartoonland
The Crime Museum Uncovered
Chinese Export Fans
Christmas Past
Lee Miller: A Woman's War


London has so many smaller museums you can visit half-a-dozen in a day if you know what you are doing. This is a city that contains museums for almost anything you can think of - sewing machines, spectacles, banknotes, teeth - along with numerous local history museums. Some of these only take up a single room, others are contained inside huge buildings. Many are too small to have anything other than a single unchanging gallery, but others have a rotating series of exhibitions, some of which Peter Watts highlights here.

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Central: Bloomsbury, Mayfair, Marylebone and Covent Garden


There are several museums and galleries around the university area of Bloomsbury. University College London has the Petrie Museum of Egyptian Archaeology and the Grant Museum of Zoology, while SOAS has the Brunei Gallery, celebrating culture from around the world, with a forthcoming exhibition on Missionaries and Idols in Polynesia (July - September).

The Cartoon Museum near the British Museum has a vibrant exhibitions programme. Alice In Cartoonland (15 July - 1 November) marks the 150th anniversary of Alice's Adventures in Wonderland by looking at how artists have portrayed the heroine and her strange friends, while Gillray's Ghost: James Gillray And His Followers (4 November - January 2016), looks at the work and influence of this Georgian caricaturist. The nearby Foundling Museum will have The Fallen Woman (25 Sept 2015 - 3 Jan 2016), exploring the myth and reality of the 'fallen woman' in Victorian Britain through paintings and popular media of the period.

In Mayfair, Handel House Museum will be holding Handel: A Life With Friends (1 July 2015 - 10 January 2016), examining the domestic life of the composer at his former home in Mayfair. Nearby, the gallery at RIBA - the Royal Institute of British Architecture - will show Virtual Control - Security And The Urban Imagination (July 9 - August 25), a photography exhibition exploring surveillance technology and the ownership of public space. Architecture will feature in a display at the ICA, where Everything Is Architecture: Bau Magazine From The 60s And 70s (29 July - 27 September) looks at the importance of Austrian Bau Magazine among UK planners. Covent Garden's London Transport Museum will launch a London By Design season, featuring a new gallery - London By Design (opens 23rd October) exploring how London's transport is one of the world's most enduring examples of successful brand identity and a world leader in transport design. They will also hold an exhibition, The Night Shift (11 October 2015 to April 2016), celebrating the nocturnal side of transport in London over the last century.


City: Crime And Design


One of the most exciting exhibitions at any museum this year is the Museum Of London's The Crime Museum Uncovered (9 October 2015 - 10 April 2016). This will display - for the first time - items from the Metropolitan Police's infamous Crime Museum, better known as the Black Museum, which contains objects taken from real crime scenes in London. The museum is only open to police professionals, but artefacts related to Jack The Ripper, Dr Crippen, the Krays and the Great Train Robbery will be on display at the Museum of London in a landmark exhibition.

A short walk away at the Barbican Centre, The World Of Charles And Ray Eames (21 October 2015 - 14 February 2016) will cover Charles and Ray Eames, pioneering architects, designers and filmmakers. It will explore how their work was driven by philosophical ideals and feature objects and projects produced during their lifetime including film, multi-channel slideshows, photography, furniture, products, drawings, sculpture, painting, graphic design, models, props, and exhibition and installation artefacts.


Greenwich: Stars And Fans


Greenwich is a great spot for tourists, with amazing riverside views, a great park and several museums and galleries. The Royal Observatory's annual Astronomy Photographer Of The Year exhibition (18th September 2015 - August 2016) makes the trip up the hill to the observatory worthwhile, featuring as it does numerous amazing images of planets and solar systems. On a very different level, Greenwich also houses the specialist Fan Museum, which will have a display of Chinese Export Fans (5 September - 31 December), featuring some of the museum's rich collection of Chinese fans as well as some from the private collection of Hong Kong-based author, collector and philanthropist, Edwin Mok.


Deep South: War, Plants, Fashion and Bicycles


London has a stack of great museums south of the river. One of the biggest is the Imperial War Museum in Waterloo, where Lee Miller: A Woman's War (from 15 October) will look at the astonishing life of Lee Miller, a model, artist and photographer who socialised with Man Ray, Jean Cocteau and Pablo Picasso in the 1920s before moving to London and becoming a photographer during WWII, capturing images of the Blitz, the liberation of Paris and concentration camps. She also played a role in the development of camouflage.

At the Design Museum in Shad Thames, Cycle Revolution (18 November 2015 - 30 June 2016) will look at cycling, and examine how this has changed the way we use the city as well as recent developments in bike technology. At the nearby Fashion & Textile Museum in Bermondsey, Liberty In Fashion (9 October 2015 - 28 February 2016) will look at the role of the Liberty department store in design and the decorative arts since 1875. The exhibition explores Liberty's impact on British fashion, from Orientalism and Aesthetic dress in the 19th century, through Art Nouveau and Art Deco in the early 20th century, and the revival of these styles since the 1950s.

Down in Forest Hill's Horniman Museum, Bloom (11 July - 6 December) will feature painted plant silhouettes by artist Edward Chell inspired by plants, and images of plants from the Horniman's Gardens and historic collection. The images will be shown alongside some of the artefacts that inspired them in a new display space.


East And North: Christmas, Weavers And Sacrifice


In East London, the Geffrye Museum will be celebrating Christmas with its annual treat, Christmas Past: 400 Years of Seasonal Traditions in English Homes (24 November 2015 - 3 January 2016). The Geffrye is dedicated to changing tastes in interior design, and over Christmas festive decorations, lighting, music and greenery will transform the Geffrye's period rooms, giving visitors an evocative insight into how Christmas has been celebrated in middle-class homes in England over the past 400 years. Before that, Whitechapel's The Cass at London Metropolitan University will feature Fabric of the City (10 - 31 July), a textile exhibition inspired by the legacy of the Huguenot weavers - French refugees from the 18th century - of Spitalfields. In Camden's superb Jewish Museum, Sacrifice (from 16 September) is a crowd-sourced exhibition that will feature personal mementoes, historic artefacts and fine art, on the theme of sacrifice.

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