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Inquisitive Londoners

In mid-May we told you how the Archives & Museum’s Registrar uses her spare time: studying for a degree in Museum Studies, and curating a student exhibition. That exhibition passed off successfully, as did another the Registrar developed for the Bethlem Gallery. She is now working on a new one.

Not to be outdone, last month the Archivist made a bid to comprehend the world of museums from the sister world of archives by participating in a two-week seminar on London museums, co-ordinated by Johns Hopkins University and hosted by the University of Westminster. The seminar comprised visits to many of London’s major museums and galleries, discussions with professional colleagues concerning various aspects of museum practice, and collaborative project work.

While impressed by the scope and reach of the museums surveyed, the Archivist was curiously reassured to find evidence of problems as well as successes there, and was moved to write in retrospect: ‘I have not lost my belief in all that small museums in general, and my museum in particular, are positioned to do in a way the big nationals cannot.’ It appears that the Archivist is not alone in this. When readers of the Evening Standard were recently asked to choose a favourite London attraction, one response read as follows: ‘My nomination goes to the museum at Bethlem Royal Hospital, the original Bedlam, south of Beckenham, which holds a magnificent collection of art and artefacts. Realistically, I can't imagine Visit London bothering to promote such a remote attraction; but inquisitive Londoners will be glad they made the effort.'

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Photo by Marilyn Sklar