Sartorial dissections: clothes in the photographs of Christina Broom

By beatrice behlen on 12 Oct 2015
Journalists at The Pageant of Women's Trades and Professions, 27 April 1909

Journalists at The Pageant of Women’s Trades and Professions, 27 April 1909 (detail)

My ideal job would give me licence to stare at people all day. Maybe I should have become a photographer, but while I get the depth of field thing (I think), I never really felt totally at one with a camera. Instead I have become the next best thing for a people-starer: a dress historian. My profession (no sniggering at the back!) provides me with a legitimate reason – or so I am telling myself – for gazing at others and for dissecting their appearance. I’m not too bothered whether someone is fashionably dressed or looks – or pretends to look – as if they don’t particularly care about their clothes. And when I say dissect I don’t mean judge. Whether the clothes are beautiful, ugly, boring or unremarkable (in my eyes or by general consent) is neither here nor there. I want to know why that particular person chose to wear that particular thing in combination with the other things they’ve put on. (Naturally my curiosity extends to accessories, jewellery, hair and make-up as well.)

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The Crime Museum Uncovered Reception

By blogadmin on 9 Oct 2015

On Thursday 8 October we welcomed guests to the private view of The Crime Museum Uncovered. The evening was opened by author and journalist Tony Parsons with speeches given by Sharon Ament, Director of The Museum of London, Clive Bannister, Chairman of The Museum of London and Sir Bernard Hogan-Howe, Metropolitan Police Commissioner and Helen Bailey, COO of MOPAC.

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Wild Beasts of Prehistoric London

By james read, guest blog author on 24 Sep 2015
3,000 year-old wolf skull from Shepperton in Surrey

3,000 year-old wolf skull from Shepperton in Surrey

While the most ferocious animal you’re likely to find within the M25 nowadays is probably an urban fox or a territorial chihuahua, London was once home to an abundance of enormous creatures – from wolves to hippos and rhinos to mammoths. The Museum of London has a selection of ancient animal remains from all around the capital.

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From fish market to red carpet: The evolution of London’s Docklands

By james read, guest blog author on 18 Sep 2015
An electric trolley carrying tobacco, 1925

A man with an electric trolley carrying tobacco, 1925

London’s Docklands have gone through huge change in the last 70 years – from being one of England’s primary ports, to falling into disuse as cargo ships outgrew the Thames. It has seen vast industries come and go – the same warehouse that once stored tonnes of tobacco is now a dance floor, and what was once a 900 year-old fish market now hosts film premieres.

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Rum, hospitals and insurance: London’s hidden slavery souvenirs

By james read, guest blog author on 11 Sep 2015
Pair of domestic sugar loaf cutters

Pair of domestic sugar loaf cutters used to break up sugar at home

The 1700s were a shameful time in London’s history. Although slavery was something that happened far away, on American cotton farms and West Indian sugar plantations, England had many critical, if slightly murkier, parts to play. From MPs owning Caribbean plantations to a newly-discovered British appetite for sugar, England was implicit in human slavery. This uncomfortable past touched much of British life, and was hidden in a great many everyday objects and institutions.

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Forgotten Thames Champions by Caitlin Davies

By jen kavanagh, senior curator of contemporary history on 9 Sep 2015

Three years ago, when I started researching Downstream: a history and celebration of swimming the River Thames, I thought it would be quite a short book. After all, how many people would want to swim in the Thames?

Margaret White – training in Leigh swimming pool, 1961 (Courtesy of Margaret White-Wrixon)

But I soon realised that bathing in London’s great waterway used to be the norm, that river racing reached its peak in Victorian times and that now, with the Thames the cleanest in living memory, there has been a real resurgence in ‘wild swimming’.

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Pilgrim badges and the birth of tourism

By james read, guest blog author on 26 Aug 2015
Curator looking at medieval Pilgrim Badges

Curator looking at medieval Pilgrim Badges

For centuries, tourism was a pursuit largely reserved for nobility. By the Middle Ages though, the rise of Christianity and success of the crusades saw a surge in pilgrimages across all classes, for religious salvation, to pray for relatives or simply to escape the misery of medieval life. This was the first time people were travelling en masse for reasons other than war, trade or industry – and was the beginning of tourism proper.

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The Great Fire of London and the invention of insurance

By james read, guest blog author on 21 Aug 2015
Woodcut from 'Shlohavot, or, The burning of London in the year 1666'

Woodcut from ‘Shlohavot, or, The burning of London in the year 1666′

The Great Fire devastated London. There were few recorded deaths, but estimates put the destroyed property value at £10,000,000 (£1.5 billion in today’s money). From the ashes rose an unlikely development: the world’s first property insurance policies.

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Wapping and the world’s biggest Victorian pet shop

By james read, guest blog author on 12 Aug 2015
baron rothschild zebra carriage

Lionel Walter Rothschild with his famed zebra carriage, which he frequently drove through London, 1895

The Ratcliff Highway, joining London’s Docklands to the City, was a wild place in the early 18th century. It was home to gin shops, shorebound sailors and Bengal tigers. The world’s biggest exotic pet shop, Jamrach’s Emporium, was located at number 164. The discerning collector could buy everything from lions for £100 to polar bears for just £25, and in the 1840s there was plenty of demand. Charles Darwin had just returned from his Galapagos-encompassing trip aboard HMS Beagle, the first touring circuses were travelling England, and advances in print technology meant zoological illustrations were the thing to have in one’s drawing room. It was the beginning of England’s great love of animals.

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