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London Museums: a handbook
by Andrew Wylie

London's museums have publicly accessible collections that cover a multitude of subjects. From art to sport to medicine to the city itself, the breadth of the material available covers a lifetime of collecting and learning. Museum visitors will find many curatorial approaches, from the traditional labeled displays in glass boxes to contemporary multi-media experiences.

Since London has more than 200 museums it is fair to ask how the author established which ones to include in the book. The author's introduction states that choices were made first on the fact that the museum must have a permanent collection. The second criterion for inclusion was location, with most of the museums located in zone 1-the circle described by the North and South Circular Roads. Regular opening hours were a priority for listing in the book. Museums that required an appointment to view were not included.

Local authority museums were left out as a group because of their sheer numbers. Finally, and unfortunately, personal prejudice was used to include/exclude some museums in order to bring the number in the book to manageable levels. And that is the one major fault of this otherwise information packed and useful book. While one can understand personal prejudice entering at some level-perhaps the one of excluding/including, it is also a very strong presence in the write-up of each museum. A more objective approach to the chosen museums and their contents would be welcome, letting the museum goer make up his own mind about such things as the sincerity of William Morris's political views.

The book is divided by the locations of the museums (west London, central London, etc.), rather than museums being listed alphabetically-that list is provided in an index. Grouping the museums in this manner is helpful for planning museum days out.

The book describes some 70 of London's museums, from the internationally famous such as the British Museum, the Victoria & Albert and the National Gallery to the less known that includes the Guildhall Art Gallery, the Fan Museum, and Fenton House.

This book provides the details of each museum: the address, map location, transportation (mostly underground stations), opening hours and days, admission prices, and eating facilities. The author includes considerable information and minute details to improve your experience of visiting such museums as the British Museum, the V&A, and the British Library.

There are a number of charming pen and ink drawings in the guidebook. The author mentions in some cases that a particular museum is difficult to find or, in other cases, highlights the architecture of the building. Photographs would add helpful impact in both cases. Floor plans of such intricate museums as the V&A would be a useful addition.

Full details of what to expect in the way of exhibits, this book is helpful in weeding out the museums you don't want to see and zeroing in on particular ones you fancy, especially if your time in London is limited. It's a handy size for fitting in a pocket or purse. I would definitely make this book a 'must have' when planning visits to London's museums.

The author is writing a PhD on post-war British drama and teaches at the University of London.

Ellipsis Press
2 Rufus Street
London N1 6PE
Tel. 020 7 739 3157
ISBN: 1 84166 049 3

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