London stories to go online
The Museum of London has announced it will transform digital access to the London Collection, making it easier for more people to engage with the museum online, bringing them closer to human stories behind the fascinating objects spanning thousands of years of history in the capital.
Developed with the support of Bloomberg Philanthropies’ Digital Accelerator for Arts and Culture, this project will see 5,000 first-hand audio recorded stories in the museum’s collection made publicly available to search and access for the first time. This represents the largest oral history collection focussed on the people and history of London.
These personal perspectives highlight the diverse and colourful experiences that make up London. These include an interview with Edith Poulson, who was born in 1918 to a Jewish family in Vienna. Edith came to the UK in 1938 to avoid Nazi persecution and later became a teacher at the Open University.
Another account is that of Fylaktis Philippou, who worked as a barber in Briggs Gentleman’s Hairdressers in St James – a traditional shop with fixtures and fittings dating back to 1937. Fylaktis, known as Philip, worked at the barbers from 1949, and owned it from 1958 onwards. At the time of the interview, Philip was still working, alone, at the age of 84.
As well as making these extraordinary stories of London life accessible to the public, anyone visiting the museum’s website will be able to explore the London Collection in a new way. History buffs and academics will still be able to explore the Museum of London’s objects in detail, but for casual and curious browsers, the museum’s collections will be presented through a ‘stories-first’ approach – bringing to life some of the remarkable stories behind objects that might seem unremarkable at first glance.
Objects that belong to the museum’s unique collection include 350-year-old burnt bricks from the cellar floor of a shop which stood close to Thomas Farriner’s bakery on Pudding Lane where the Great Fire of London started and an innocuous looking 17th century hand bell that was used to warn passers-by of approaching plague corpses.
The reimagined website will allow users to explore the museum’s collections online in new and more user-friendly ways from 2024, alongside resources developed to ensure every London schoolchild has access to the stories in the collection.
Trish Thomas, Head of Digital Innovation, Museum of London, said: “As a social history museum we are in a unique position to present our collections’ human stories first, offering new ways in – especially for underrepresented audiences who often tell us they find museum collections stuffy and inaccessible.
“As we move towards the opening of our world-class new museum, we want to revolutionise our digital offer, adding new layers of interpretation, connecting online and offline journeys seamlessly and allowing users to personalise their experiences wherever possible. I am delighted that this project will enable us to bring London’s stories to life for millions more people in the capital and around the world.”
This project was developed with the support of Bloomberg Philanthropies’ Digital Accelerator for Arts and Culture. Launched in 2021, the Digital Accelerator programme was initially designed to help arts organisations stabilise during the pandemic and now supports the long-term development of strategic priorities through improvements to technology infrastructure.
The Museum of London recently closed its main site at London Wall in preparation for its move to West Smithfield, where it will reopen as The London Museum in 2026.
The opening of the new museum will see the historic General Market at West Smithfield brought back to life for all Londoners to enjoy within Culture Mile, the City’s cultural district. As a result of the move to Smithfield, The London Museum will welcome millions more visitors and showcase more of The London Collection than ever before, giving Londoners and visitors to the capital the opportunity to explore London’s story.
The Museum of London tells the ever-changing story of this great world city and its people, from 450,000 BC to the present day. Our galleries, exhibitions, displays and activities seek to inspire a passion for London and provide a sense of the vibrancy that makes the city such a unique place.
The Museum of London Docklands is open Monday - Sunday 10am – 5pm and is FREE to all. You can explore the Museum of London with collections online – home to 90,000 objects with morebeing addedregularly.www.museumoflondon.org.uk.
A fixture on London’s cultural scene since first opening in 1976, the museum is moving house. It has now closed doors at its London Wall site in preparation for its relocation to a new home at West Smithfield, where it will occupy historic market buildings and open up to millions more visitors. The new museum will reopen in 2026 under a new name: The London Museum. The Museum of London Docklands remains open and will become The London Museum Docklands in 2023.
Recognising that digital adaptation is critical for the non-profit cultural sector to remain competitive and fulfil its potential, the Digital Accelerator Programme provides $43 million to help more than 100 arts organisations in the U.S. and U.K. invest in strategic improvements to their technology infrastructure. This includes tools to enhance core operations, such as integrated marketing and fundraising systems, as well as bold projects with the potential to benefit the broader cultural sector. A Bloomberg Tech Fellow, designated by each participating organisation from existing staff, will drive the development and implementation of their digital project. Bloomberg Philanthropies works with technology experts who will provide strategic assessment and implementation guidance to the Bloomberg Tech Fellows. In the UK, these services will be provided by the Arts Council’s Digital Culture Network, and in the US, by the Lapine Group. The organisations selected to participate in the Digital Accelerator program reach and represent a broad spectrum of creative endeavour, and a deep commitment to serving audiences.