This Week in London – JMW Turner’s world at the Tate; ‘Unknown Warrior’ centenary marked at National Army Museum; and, model making from the ‘age of railways’…

JMW Turner, ‘The Burning of the Houses of Parliament’ (c 1834-35), oil paint on canvas, Tate (accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856)

A landmark exhibition on the work – and times – of JMW Turner opens at the Tate Modern in Millbank today. Turner’s Modern World features some 160 works and attempts to show how the landscape painter found “new ways to capture the momentous events of his day, from technology’s impact on the natural world to the dizzying effects of modernisation on society”. Highlights include war paintings such as The Battle of Trafalgar (1806-8) and Field of Waterloo (1818), works capturing political events like The Burning of the Houses of Lords and Commons (1835) and maritime disasters like A Disaster at Sea (1835) and Wreck of a Transport Ship (c1801), as well as works related to the industrial advances taking place such as Snow Storm (1842), The Fighting ‘Téméraire’ (1839), and Rain, Steam and Speed (1844). Admission charge applies. Runs until 7th March (online booking required). For more, see www.tate.org.uk.

An exhibition at the National Army Museum in Chelsea marks the 100th anniversary of the Unknown Warrior being laid to rest in Westminster Abbey. Using objects, paintings, photography and personal testimony, Buried Among Kings: The Story of the Unknown Warrior tells the story of the creation of this symbolic memorial dedicated to the hundreds of thousands of British servicemen who died during World War I. Highlights include a union flag on loan from the Railton family (it was Chaplain David Railton who conceived the original idea for an Unknown Warrior following an encounter in 1916 with a wooden cross on the Western Front which was inscribed ‘An Unknown British Soldier’), a Bible carried by Chaplain George Kendall during the selection of the Unknown Warrior, a fragment of the original wooden Cenotaph erected in 1919-1920, and Frank O Salisbury’s large scale painting, The Passing of the Unknown Warrior, which depicts the procession of the Unknown Warrior from Victoria Station to Westminster Abbey. In connection with the exhibition, Victoria Station is hosting a pop-up display between 9th and 16th November on the journey of the Unknown Warrior from the Western Front to Westminster Abbey (the coffin actually arrived in London on 10th November, 1920). Admission charge applies (at Chelsea). Runs until 14th February (online booking required). For more, see www.nam.ac.uk.

Model steam locomotive, 1:12 scale, working, represents a standard passenger type locomotive c.1837, made by Mr. J. Dawson, District Superintendent at Southampton of the London & Southampton Railway.

Model making in the “age of the railways” is the subject of a free exhibition now on at the Science Museum in South Kensington. Brass, Steel and Fire features intricate models from the Science Museum Group Collection as well as stunning miniature locomotives and a display of almost 200 tools used by model-maker Keith Dodgson. Highlights include ‘Salamanca’, the world’s oldest model locomotive (on loan from Leeds Museums and Galleries), a model of ‘Fire King’ – made in the 1840s by apprentice Josiah Evans who used his experience to later build full size locomotives, and the world’s oldest working model steam engine, the Etherley winding engine model. The exhibition is free and runs until 3rd May. Online booking required. For more, see sciencemuseum.org.uk/see-and-do/brass-steel-and-fire.

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This Week in London – ‘Dub London’; exploring Sin; and, COVID-19 explored at Science Museum Late…

Channel One Sound System at Notting Hill Carnival 2019. PICTURE © Eddie Otchere / Museum of London

Dub music and the impact it’s had on London’s identity and people is the subject of a new, long delayed, exhibition which opened at the Museum of London late last week. Dub London: Bassline of a City, which had been postponed due to the coronavirus pandemic, charts how, from its roots in Jamaican reggae, dub music went on to influence multiple genres and played a key role in the development of punk bands like The Clash. The display includes the iconic speaker stack belonging to Channel One Sound System that has appeared yearly at Notting Hill Carnival since 1983 (pictured above) and a specially created bespoke record shop with a selection of 150 vinyl records chosen by 15 London based independent record shops which can be listened to. Runs until 31st January. Admission is free but must be booked in advance (and bring your own headphones). For more, see www.museumoflondon.org.uk/museum-london/whats-on/exhibitions/dub-london.

The concept of sin is at the heart of a new free exhibition at The National Gallery. Sin brings together 14 works dating from the 16th century to now by artists ranging from Jan Brueghel the Elder and William Hogarth to Andy Warhol and Ron Mueck. Among the paintings on show are Lucas Cranach the Elder’s Adam and Eve (1526), Hogarth’s The Tête à Tête and Marriage A-la-Mode, Diego Velázquez’s Immaculate Conception, William Holman Hunt’s The Scapegoat (1854-55), and Ron Mueck’s sculpture Youth (2009). The display can be seen in Room 1. For more, see nationalgallery.org.uk.

The science of the coronavirus is explored in a special night event at the Science Museum next Wednesday, 14th October. Staff from the Francis Crick Institute will be joining with those from the Science Museum in exploring how the immune system remembers and evolves and how the Crick was turned from a biomedical research centre into a COVID-19 testing facility. Visitors can also hear from NHS transplant surgeon Pankaj Chandak who has been using 3D printing tech to make life-saving PPE for frontline staff while the Leonard Cheshire charity shows how assistive eyegaze technology has played a vital role in helping to keep people with access needs connected. There will also be a chance to make a facemask as part of the museum’s #MaskSelfie campaign and the opportunity to explore the museum’s new Medicine: The Wellcome Galleries. Admission charge applies and pre-booking is essential. Head to sciencemuseum.org.uk/see-and-do/lates.

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This Week in London – Family fun at London Transport Museum Depot; and, Science Museum reopens…

The London Transport Museum Depot in Acton Town has flung its doors open for 10 days of “special family fun”. The depot, which houses more than 320,000 items from the city’s transport history including vintage London buses and classic Tube trains, now features a special family-friendly trail for the 10 day season which takes a look at historic vehicles from the past 200 years including a yellow 1881 horse drawn ‘garden seat’ bus and a red 1938 Stock Tube train. The London Transport Miniature Railway will be running and all children visiting will receive a special sealed pack including a craft kit. Admission charges apply and tickets must be prebooked for times between 11am and 6pm until Sunday, 23rd August, and from Wednesday, 26th to Sunday 30th August. For more, see www.ltmuseum.co.uk/whats-on/depot-summer.

The Science Museum in South Kensington reopened its doors this week after a closure of five months. As well as the innovative Wonderlab: The Equinor Gallery – which features interactive exhibits and live, socially-distanced science demonstrations – and the world’s largest medical galleries – Medicine: The Wellcome Galleries, visitors will be able to take in the temporary exhibition, Driverless: Who is in control?, the season of which has been extended to January next year. Tickets, which are free, must be pre-booked online and social distancing measures apply in the museum. For more, see www.sciencemuseum.org.uk.

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Treasures of London – One of the world’s first stethoscopes…

Now found in the newly opened Medicine: The Wellcome Galleries at the Science Museum in South Kensington, this stethoscope was made by the French physician René Laennec in about 1820.

Several years earlier, Laennec, working in a hospital in Paris, wanted to listen to a young woman’s heart beat but, for the sake of propriety he didn’t want to put his ear to her chest as was common practice. In sudden inspiration, he used a rolled up piece of paper with one end placed over her heart and his ear on the other open end.

It proved a good way to amplify sound and Laennec was so impressed he followed up by making brass and wooden versions like the one at the Science Museum., drawing on the skills he used, no doubt, he had previously used in making flutes.

Laennec called his invention the “stethoscope” (from the Greek word for chest, “stethos”). His invention was succeeded in the following decades by the creation of the modern binaural stethoscope with its two earpieces and dial for listening.

The Science Museum stethoscope is labelled. It reads: “This is one of Laennec’s original stethoscopes, and it was presented by him to Dr Bégin a French Army surgeon whose widow gave it to me in 1863.”

WHERE: Medicine: The Wellcome Galleries, Science Museum, Exhibition Road, South Kensington (nearest Tube is South Kensington); WHEN: 10am to 6pm daily; COST: Free; WEBSITE: www.sciencemuseum.org.uk.

PICTURE: Laennec stethoscope made by Laennec, c1820. Science Museum Group Collection
© The Board of Trustees of the Science Museum

This Week in London – The world’s largest medicine galleries; David Bomberg at the National Gallery; last NYE tickets…

The world’s largest museum galleries devoted to the history of medicine have opened at the Science Museum. The £24 million ‘Medicine: The Wellcome Galleries’ cover more than 3000 square metres across five galleries with exhibits all aimed at better understanding how the human body has transformed medicine. More than 3,000 artefacts from the collections of Henry Wellcome and the Science Museum Group are on display including 200-year-old wax anatomical models, the first stethoscope, lancets used by Edward Jenner in his smallpox vaccinations and medicine chests used on expeditions to Mount Everest and Antarctica. There’s also an intricate model of a 1930s hospital, a rare iron lung used by patients with polio and the world’s first MRI scanner, protein model and paramedic bicycle. Visitors also have the chance to step inside a Victorian-era pharmacy, discover what it takes to heart transplant surgery and treat a critically ill patient. There are also four specially commissioned artworks including life-sized portraits by Siân Davey presented along with the stories of individuals impacted by how medicine defines ‘normal’, Marc Quinn’s monumental bronze Self-Conscious Gene – inspired by inspired the tattooed body of model Rick Genest, Bloom – Studio Roso’s aerial sculpture representing the spread of diseases through populations and Santa Medicina, Eleanor Crook’s bronze sculpture of a figure that is both surgeon and saint and which encourages visitors to contemplate their relationship with mortality.  Entry is free. For more, see www.sciencemuseum.org.uk. PICTURE: The Medicine and Bodies gallery in Medicine: The Wellcome Galleries © Science Museum Group.  

Nine of British modernist artist David Bomberg’s key works are being shown alongside images that influenced him in a new exhibition at the National Gallery. Young Bomberg and the Old Masters showcases Bomberg’s works including The Mud Bath (1914), Vision of Ezekiel (1912) and the first version of his war painting Sappers at Work: A Canadian Tunnelling Company, Hill 60, St Eloi (c1918-19) alongside the likes of Botticelli’s Portrait of a Young Man and the studio of El Greco’s The Agony in the Garden of Gethsemane. The display can be seen in Room 1 until 1st March. Admission is free. For more, see www.nationalgallery.org.uk.

The final 20,000 tickets for London’s New Year’s Eve fireworks are being released from noon today. This year’s display features more than 12,000 fireworks and 2,000 lighting cues choreographed to music and will start with the sound of Big Ben’s chimes (despite them  being silent due to renovation works this year). Tickets, priced at £10, must be purchased in advance to attend the event and those who aren’t lucky enough to get one can watch live on BBC One. To purchase tickets, head to www.london.gov.uk/nye.

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This Week in London – Blake at the Tate; London’s scientific contributions explored; and, dining out in the Tower moat…

The largest survey of the work of visionary artist and poet William Blake to be seen in the UK in a generation has opened at the Tate Britain in Millbank. William Blake features more than 300 works with highlights including The Spiritual Form of Nelson Guiding Leviathan (c1805-9) and The Spiritual Form of Pitt Guiding Behemoth (c1805) which, in a bid to see them as Blake intended, have been digitally enlarged and projected onto the gallery’s wall, providing them with the sort of the scale he had envisaged for them but never realised. The actual works themselves are displayed nearby in a recreation of the artist’s only significant attempt to acquire a public reputation as a painter – his ill-fated exhibition of 1809 which took place in a room over his family’s hosiery shop. The exhibition also provides a focus on London, described as a “constant inspiration” for Blake, and highlights the vital role of his wife Catherine played in the creation of his engravings and illuminated books with illustrations to Pilgrim’s Progress (1824-27) and a copy of the book The complaint, and the consolation Night Thoughts (1797) on display, both of which are thought to have been coloured by Catherine. Other highlights include what is thought to be the only self-portrait of Blake – exhibited in the UK for the first time, the work Albion Rose (c1793) depicting the mythical founding of Britain, illuminated books such as Songs of Innocence and of Experience (1794) and some of his best-known paintings including Newton (1795-c1805 – pictured above) and Ghost of a Flea (c1819-20). The exhibition closes with The Ancient of Days (1827), a frontispiece for an edition of Europe: A Prophecy, which was completed only days before Blake’s death. Runs until 2nd February. Admission charge applies. For more, see www.tate.org.uk. PICTURE: William Blake (1757-1827) Newton 1795-c1805 (Colour print, ink and watercolour on paper, 460 x 600mm Tate).

A new gallery exploring how London’s scientists and artisans transformed our understanding of the world over 250 years spanning the period from the mid-16th century to the end of the 18th century opens at the Science Museum in South Kensington today. The 650 square metre gallery, known as ‘Science City 1550-1800: The Linbury Gallery’, features iconic objects such as Sir Isaac Newton’s famous work, Principia Mathematica, Robert Hooke’s microscope (pictured), and objects including an air pump and ‘Philosophical Table’ which were commissioned by King George III as the king conducted his own scientific investigations. There’s also a range of machine models including one of a pile driving machine used in the construction of Westminster Bridge in the 1740s. The gallery is free to visit. For more, see www.sciencemuseum.ac.uk. PICTURE: Microscope designed by Robert Hooke, 1671-1700 formerly in the George III collection, King’s College London © Science Museum Group

The Tower of London Food Festival is being held in the fortress’ dry moat this weekend. Culinary talents including Chris Bavin and Emily Roux are among those offering live cookery demonstrations while visitors can put their own skills to the test with masterclasses. There’s also wine and sherry tasting sessions, an expanded array of food and drink to sample, activities for kids including cookery classes, games and face painting, and the Bandstand is back with deckchairs to relax in. Admission is included with entry to the Tower. Closes on Sunday. For more, see www.hrpfoodfestivals.com.

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This Week in London – 16th century altar piece on display for first time in a century; Tudor sports at Hampton Court; and, the most expensive British-made watch…

One of the major surviving altarpieces created by Italian Renaissance painter and sculptor Giovanni Martini da Udine in the early 16th century has gone on display at The National Gallery. The Virgin and Child with Saints, said to date from about 1500–25, has undergone an extensive seven year conservation process – described as one of the longest and most complex in the gallery’s history – prior to going on show for the first time in 100 years. The process involved removing old varnish and repaints, dividing the altarpiece into its original three boards and cleaning and repairing them before putting them back together with an additional support and then finally filling and retouching the original paintwork and adding a frame to ensure it can be moved in the future. The painting depicts the Virgin and Child with St James on one side and St George on the other while a man, most likely the artist’s patron, kneels in front. Known as a ‘sacra conversazione’ (holy conversation), this type of painting become increasingly popular over the course of the 15th century. The work can be seen in Room 56. Admission is free. For more, see www.nationalgallery.org.uk. PICTURE: Installation of The Virgin and Child with Saints by Giovanni Martini da Udine in Room 56./©The National Gallery, London

Join in some Tudor sports this weekend at Hampton Court Palace. Until Sunday, families are invited to head to the East Front Gardens where they can try their hand at shooting a crossbow or a bow and arrow, practice some traditional sword fight, and watch demonstrations in hand to hand combat by King Henry VIII and his courtiers. There will also be some falconry displays. Admission to ‘Henry VIII’s Sporting Academy’ is included in general admission charge. For more, check out www.hrp.org.uk/hampton-court-palace/.

The most expensive British watch ever made has gone on show at the Science Museum in South Kensington. The 18ct gold-cased watch, known as the Space Traveller II, was handmade by George Daniels in 1982 and named in honour of the Moon landings. It sold for £3.2 million at auction in 2017. The watch, which has been loaned by a private donor, is being displayed in the Clockmakers’ Museum and sits in an exhibit about Daniels, a former master of the Worshipful Company of Clockmakers who is credited with helping to revive independent watchmaking in the late 20th century. While Space Traveller I was sold soon after its completion, Space Traveller II was used by Daniels until his death in 2011. It displays both solar and sidereal (star) time and also shows the phase of the Moon, an annular calendar, the equation of time and features a stopwatch which functions with either solar or sidereal time. Entry to the Clockmakers’ Museum is free. For more, see www.sciencemuseum.org.uk.

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This Week in London – Women in the British Army; communications secrets exposed; and, cinema at Somerset House…

An exhibition exploring the changing roles of women in the British Army from 1917 to the present day has opened at the National Army Museum in Chelsea. Rise of the Lionesses, which is being held in partnership with the WRAC Association, charts the major contributions women have made to the Army’s history as well as how perceptions of “appropriate” roles for females have affected these contributions and how women have fought to redefine those roles. Highlights include the combat shirt and medical kit belonging to Sergeant Chantelle Taylor – the first female British soldier to kill in combat, the first Army-issue bra, and the vehicle chassis used to train Princess Elizabeth (now Queen Elizabeth II) while she served in the Auxiliary Territorial Service during World War II (pictured above). The free display can be seen until 20th October and is accompanied by a programme of public events. For more, head to this link. PICTURE: Courtesy of National Army Museum.

• Communications intelligence and cyber security are explored in an exhibition at the Science Museum, making the centenary of UK intelligence, security and cyber agency,  GCHQ. Top Secret: From ciphers to cyber security features more than 100 objects including cipher machines used during World War II, secure telephones of the type used by British Prime Ministers, and an encryption key used by the Queen. There’s also encryption technology used by Peter and Helen Kroger who, until their arrest in the 1960s, were part of the most successful Soviet spy ring in Cold War Britain, and the remains of the crushed hard drive alleged to contain top secret information which was given by Edward Snowden to The Guardian in 2013 while the work of GCHQ’s National Cyber Security Centre is also explored with visitors able to see a computer infected with the WannaCry ransomware which, in 2017, affected thousands of people and organisations including the NHS. Runs until 23rd February. Admission is free. For more, head to www.sciencemuseum.org.uk.

The pioneering work of Hungarian avant garde artist Dóra Maurer goes on show at the Tate Modern on South Bank next Monday in the first UK exhibition celebrating her five decade career. The free display brings together 35 of her works – from conceptual photographic series and experimental films to colourful graphic works and striking geometric paintings – with highlights including Seven Foldings (1975), Triolets (1981), Timing (1973/1980) and the six-metre-long Stage II (2016). The year-long display is one of several free displays opening at the Tate Modern this month. Others include an exhibition of Sol LeWitt’s graphic woodcut prints, a show featuring photograms, films, painting and drawings by Polish émigré artists Franciszka Themerson and Stefan Themerson, and photography displays by Mitch Epstein, Naoya Hatakeyama and David Goldblatt. For more, see www.tate.org.uk.

Cinema is being celebrated at Somerset House this month with the launch of Film4 Summer Screen at Somerset House. The event includes courtyard screenings, specially curated DJ sets and live performances, and panel discussions from industry insiders. Actor Antonio Banderas will join Spanish director Pedro Almodóvar to introduce the festival’s opening night premiere, Pain and Glory, with other special guests including the cast of Shane Meadows’ BAFTA-award winning film This is England, Francis Lee, the director and writer of God’s Own Country, and  the film’s lead actor Josh O’Connor as well as Peter Webber, director of Inna de Yard. Runs from 8th to 21st August. For more, see www.somersethouse.org.uk.

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This Week in London – Self-driving vehicles; Sir Thomas Gresham explored; and, Spanish artist Bartolomé Bermejo…

Self-driving vehicles of all descriptions are under scrutiny in a new exhibition which opened at the Science Museum in South Kensington this week. Driverless: Who is in control? looks at the rise of self-driving cars alongside autonomous flying drones and underwater vehicles like the Natural Environment Research Council’s Autosub Long Range fleet (which includes the delightfully named Boaty McBoatface). There are three specific zones in the display – Land, Air and Water, with each section exploring the different technology solutions already available, the motivations of their developers, and their potential to transform a range of activities and industries. Among highlights are a 1960 Citroen DS19 which was modified in an early experiment in self-driving, autonomous flying drones being developed to clear minefields by the Mine Kafon project and prototype vessels designed to monitor ocean plankton and map the sea floor. The free display can be seen until October next year. For more, see www.sciencemuseum.ac.uk. PICTURE: Autosub Long Range (ALR) Boaty McBoatface © National Oceanography Centre (NOC).

Described as “one of the most over-looked 16th century merchants and financiers”, Sir Thomas Gresham is the subject of a new exhibition at the Guildhall LibrarySir Thomas Gresham (1519-1579): Tudor, Trader, Shipper, Spy, which marks the quincentenary of his birth and coincides with the release of a major new biography by Tudor historian Dr John Guy – Gresham’s Law: The Life And World Of Elizabeth I’s Banker. Gresham was a financial advisor to four Tudor monarchs, founder of the Royal Exchange, and, through a bequest left after his death, the founder of Gresham College. The free exhibition can be seen until mid-September. For more, head here.

Selected works of Spanish artist Bartolomé Bermejo (c1440–c1501) have gone on show at The National Gallery as part of its Spanish season. Bartolomé Bermejo, commonly known as Bermejo (which means ‘reddish’ in Spanish), was likely a converso (a Jew who converted to Christianity) and led an itinerant life, partnering with local artists to access painters’ guilds and obtain religious commissions as he visited cities in Aragon including Tous, Valencia, Daroca, Zaragoza, and Barcelona. The display includes six works never before seen outside of Spain including the masterpieces Triptych of the Virgin of Montserrat (probably 1470–75), and the recently restored Desplà Pietà (1490), as well as four panels depicting scenes from Christ the Redeemer – Descent of Christ into Limbo, Resurrection, Christ entering Paradise and Ascension. At the centre of exhibition is the National Gallery’s Saint Michael Triumphant over the Devil with the Donor Antoni Joan (1468) which is being displayed for the first time since a year long conservation. The free display can be seen in Room 1 until 29th September. For more, see www.nationalgallery.org.uk.

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This Week in London – ‘Beasts of London’; the Cold War remembered; Prince Albert and the V&A; and, ‘Power UP’ returns..

A state-of-the-art, multi-sensory experience focusing on the beasts, large and small, that have helped shaped London opens at the Museum of London tomorrow. Beasts of London, being run in conjunction with the Guildhall School and Music & Drama, tells the story of the capital from before London existed through to the city today, all through the perspective of animals. Inspired by objects in the museum’s collection, the nine “episodes” of the experience encompass subjects including the arrival of the Romans, the creation of the first menageries during the medieval period, the plague years of the 1600s, the first circuses in the late 1700s, the end of the animal-baiting period in the Victorian era and the role of animals in today’s contemporary city. There’s also a special episode on the contribution horses have made to the city. Well-known identities including Kate Moss, Brian Blessed, Pam Ferris, Nish Kumar, Stephen Mangan, Angellica Bell and Joe Pasquale provide voices for the animals alongside actors from the Guildhall School. The family-friendly experience can be enjoyed until 5th January, 2020. Admission charge applies. For more, see www.museumoflondon.org.uk/beastsoflondon. PICTURE: Lion sculpture; courtesy Museum of London.

A new exhibition about Britain’s role in the Cold War opens at the National Archives in Kew today – exactly 70 years since the formation of NATO. Protect and Survive: Britain’s Cold War Revealed features original documents including political memos, spy confessions, civil defence posters and even a letter from Winston Churchill to the Queen as it explores the complexities of government operations during a time of paranoia, secrets and infiltration. Other highlights include George Orwell’s infamous list of suspected communist sympathisers, Winston Churchill and Joseph Stalin’s ‘percentages agreement’, a plan of Lionel ‘Buster’ Crabb’s fateful spy mission, ‘Atom spy’ Klaus Fuchs’ confession and Civil Defence posters. There’s also a recreated government bunker and a 1980s living room showing the impact of the Cold War on both government and ordinary lives as well as digital screens on which Dame Stella Rimington, the first female Director General of MI5, shares her experiences along with insights from historian Dominic Sandbrook and curator Mark Dunton. The display is being accompanied by a series of events including night openings, film screening and talks. Runs until 9th November (30th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall). Admission charge applies. For more, see nationalarchives.gov.uk/coldwar.

Prince Albert’s personal contributions to the V&A’s Library collection are the subject of a new exhibition which opened this week as part of the South Kensington Institute’s celebration of the 200th anniversaries of the births of both the Prince and Queen Victoria. Prince Albert: Science & the Arts on the Page features books and photographs include one volume containing a letter written by the Prince’s librarian Ernst Becker highlighting Albert’s wish to promote knowledge and learning in science and the arts. There’s also a volume of songs written and set to music by Albert and his brother, featuring amendments in Albert’s own hand, as well as his signed season ticket to the Great Exhibition of 1851. Runs until 1st September on the Library Landing. Admission is free. Head here for more.

Forty years of computer game history is once again on show at the Science Museum from Saturday. Returning for its fourth year, Power UP features 160 consoles and hundreds of games, from retro classics like Space Invaders to the latest in VR technology. Special events include two adults-only evening sessions on 10th and 17th April. Runs until 22nd April. For more, see sciencemuseum.org.uk/power-up.

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LondonLife – Queen posts her first Instagram image from the Science Museum..

Queen Elizabeth II posted her first Instagram photo while visiting the Science Museum in South Kensington last Thursday in a promotion for its exhibition on computers. Under the account @theroyalfamily, the Queen posted two images of a letter at the museum which comes from the Royal Archives. It was written to Prince Albert and Queen Victoria by Charles Babbage and in it, the 19th century inventor and mathematician spoke of his invention of an “Analytical Machine” upon which the first computer programs were written by Ada Lovelace, daughter of Lord Byron. Having explained the origins of the letter, the Queen added: “Today, I had the pleasure of learning about children’s computer coding initiatives and it seems fitting to me that I publish this Instagram post, at the Science Museum which has long championed technology, innovation and inspired the next generation of inventors. Elizabeth R.” The Royal Family’s Instagram account has some 4.9 million followers. For more on the Science Museum, see www.sciencemuseum.org.uk.

 

What’s in a name?…Exhibition Road…

This important Kensington thoroughfare runs through the heart of South Kensington’s world-famous museum precinct from Thurloe Place, just south of Cromwell Road, all the way to Hyde Park.

Along its length, it takes in such important institutions as the Victoria & Albert Museum, the Natural History Museum, Science Museum and Imperial College London while Royal Albert Hall is only a stone’s throw to the west.

It was, as might be expected given the name, indeed laid out as part of Prince Albert’s grand scheme surrounding the Great Exhibition of 1851 as a means of accessing the vast Crystal Palace which was located in Hyde Park (before moving out to south London).

It wasn’t the only road in the area built specifically for that purpose – the transecting Cromwell Road and Queen’s Gate, which runs in parallel and, yes, is named for Queen Victoria, were also built for to provide access to the Great Exhibition.

After the exhibition was over, Exhibition Road formed part of the precinct known as “Albertopolis” in which, inspired by the Great Exhibition, became something of a knowledge and cultural centre featuring various museums and the great concert hall which sadly Albert didn’t live long enough to see.

In the 2000s, a scheme to give pedestrians greater priority along the road was realised (in time for the 2012 Olympics).

PICTURE: Looking north along Exhibition Road from the intersection with Cromwell Road (the Natural History Museum is on the left; the Victoria & Albert Museum – and the Aston Webb Screen – on the right)/Google Maps.

 

LondonLife – Scientific achievement celebrated in new Quentin Blake wall at the Science Museum

A new work by acclaimed illustrator Sir Quentin Blake has gone on show in the Science Museum in South Kensington. The work, which hangs on the external walls of Wonderlab: The Equinor Gallery, features five panels featuring some 20 women and men from the world of science of technology including the “enchantress of numbers”, mathematician Ada Lovelace (1815-1852 – pictured right; her ‘analytical machine’ is below), polymath Jagadis Chandra Bose (1858-1937) – the first scientist to use a semiconductor to detect radio waves, Sir Richard Arkwright (1732-1792) – pictured with his ground-breaking spinning machine, and pilot Amy Johnson (1903-1942) – pictured alongside the De Havilland Gipsy Moth in which she made the first solo flight from Britain to Australia. London-born Blake, who had his first cartoons published in Punch when just 16-years-old, is most famous for his illustrations in children’s books including in works by Roald Dahl and David Walliams. For more on the Science Museum, head to www.sciencemuseum.org.uk.

This Week in London – The Sun explored; Darwin’s story on stage; Freud meets Dali; and, medallic art in Britain…

• The biggest ever exhibition exploring the Sun opens at the Science Museum in South Kensington this Saturday. The Sun: Living With Our Star features everything from Nordic Bronze Age artefacts revealing ancient beliefs about how the Sun was transported across the sky to details of upcoming NASA and European Space Agency solar missions. Highlights include the original ‘orrery’ (pictured), an instrument made for the Earl of Orrery in 1712 to demonstrate the motions of the Earth and Moon around the Sun, a rare concave mirror known as a yang-sui which was used for lighting fires in China and dates to between 202 BCE and 9 CE, and a Tokomak ST25-HTS, a prototype nuclear fusion reactor which successfully created and sustained plasma for a record-breaking 29 hours in 2015. There’s also an astronomical spectroscope made for Norman Lockyer, founder of the Science Museum, who used it to identify the element helium in 1868 – the exhibition actually coincides with the 150th anniversary of Lockyer’s discovery, the first of an “extra-terrestrial” element. The exhibition also includes interactive experiences including a huge illuminated wall display allowing visitors to see the Sun rise in different seasons and locations and another in which visitors are able to bask in the sun while sitting in deck chairs under palm trees with sand at their feet. Runs until 6th May next year. Admission charge applies. The exhibition is being accompanied by a programme of events including “family festivals” in early November and early March. For more, see www.sciencemuseum.org.uk/see-and-do/the-sun-living-with-our-star. PICTURE: Science Museum Group Collection/© © The Board of Trustees of the Science Museum.

The story of Charles Darwin is told in a new two hour stage play featuring a cast of seven people and 30 hand-made puppets which opened at The Natural History Museum this week. The Wider Earth, which follows Darwin as he sets out on a daring five year journey aboard the HMS Beagle through uncharted landscapes, is being staged in the museum’s Jerwood Gallery following sold-out seasons in Australia and represents the first time a performance-based theatre has been constructed in the museum. Presented by Trish Wadley Productions and Dead Puppet Society in association with Glass Half Full Productions, the show runs until 30th December. To book tickets, head to www.thewiderearth.com.

This year marks 80 years since Sigmund Freud and Salvador Dalí famously met in London on 19th July, 1938 – a meeting at which Dalí revealed to Freud his recently completed painting The Metamorphosis of NarcissusThe Freud Museum has launched a new exhibition – Freud, Dalí and the Metamorphosis of Narcissus – which explores the extensive influence of Freud on Dalí and on Surrealism as well as Freud’s own reaction to the painting. The painting forms the centrepiece of the exhibition which also includes drawings, photographs and prints as well as documents including letters, manuscripts, books and Freud’s appointment diary. The display is accompanied by a programme of events. Runs until 24th February. Admission charge applies. For more, see www.freud.org.uk.

The “invaluable” role artists from abroad played in the development of British medallic art is the focus of a new display at the British Museum. Witnesses: émigré medallists in Britain features medals from six centuries documenting significant historical moments and commemorating famous British figures. The earliest objects date from Elizabethan England when Dutch artist Steven van Herwijck introduced the art of the medal to Britain’s cultural elite while ‘stars’ in the display include a spectacular Waterloo medal conceived by 19th century Italian gem engraver Benedetto Pistrucci which took 30 years to complete and bears the image of the four allied sovereigns – George, Prince Regent, Francis II of Austria, Alexander I of Russia and King Frederick William III of Prussia. The free display can be seen in Room 69a until 7th April next year. For more, see www.britishmuseum.org. PICTURE: Benedetto Pistrucci: Coronation of George IV, 1821, gold, 35mm. © the Trustees of the British Museum M5716. B, 1070. CME6436.

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This Week in London – It’s Open House weekend; World War I remembered; and, science and the Romanovs…


More than 800 buildings of all kinds open their doors to the public this weekend as part of the 26th Open House London. Highlights of this year’s event include new entries such as the US Embassy, the Royal Opera House and Bloomberg’s new HQ as well as returning favourites such as the BT Tower, The Shard and 10 Downing Street. There’s also a programme of activities “lifting the lid” of Old Oak and Park Royal – the heart of ‘making’ in London, explorations of new London districts such as Wembley Park, Hackney Wick and Barking Riverside, the chance to view RIBA Award-winners including the Belvue School Woodland Classrooms, Hackney Town Hall and No.1 New Oxford Street, the new COS HQ, and 100 “must-see” homes. The full programme of events – which also highlights the contribution women have made in shaping today’s London – can be found at www.openhouselondon.org.uk and there’s a free app to download. PICTURED: Top – Bloomberg European Headquarters (Nigel Young/Foster + Partners) and right – Valetta House (French & Tye) are among properties open to the public.

A multi-screen art installation remembering the millions of African men and women who served in World War I and an immersive sound installation featuring personal reflections on the Armistice are among four exhibitions opening at the Imperial War Museum in Lambeth on Friday. Projected onto three screens, African Soldier combines a powerful sound score, historic footage and newly created film which has been shot by artist John Akomfrah in various locations around the world to speak to the African experience of World War I while the sound installation, I Was There: Room of Voices, features 32 people who fought and lived through war sharing their personal stories of the Armistice. The exhibitions also include Renewal: Life after the First World War in Photographs – a display of more than 100 black and white photographs showing how lives, landscapes and national identities recovered, evolved and flourished after the war – and Moments of Silence, an immersive installation commissioned from 59 Productions. The exhibitions, which can be seen until 31st March, are part of the IWM’s Making A New World, “a season of art, photography, film, live music, dance and conversations exploring how the First World War has shaped today’s society”. For more see www.iwm.org.uk.

The role of science in the lives – and deaths – of the last Russian Tsar, Nicholas II, and his family is explored in a new exhibition opening at the Science Museum in South Kensington which marks 100 years since the end of the Romanov dynasty. The Last Tsar: Blood and Revolution explores the influence of medicine on the Imperial Family –  everything from how they treated conditions such as the heir Alexei’s haemophilia through to the Tsarina’s fertility and the Red Cross medical training the Tsar’s daughters received – as well as recent advances in medicine and forensic science which have been deployed to transform the investigation into their disappearance. Objects on show include personal diaries, an Imperial Fabergé Egg presented to the Tsar by his wife a year before the fall of the Imperial house and photograph albums created by an  English tutor to the Imperial Family. There’s also evidence from the scene of the family’s execution including the dentures of the Imperial physician, a diamond earring belonging to the Tsarina and an icon peppered with bullet holes. Opening on Friday, the exhibition runs until 24th March. For more, see www.sciencemuseum.org.uk/thelasttsar.

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This Week in London – Celebrating Antarctica through dance and science; and, the Freuds in exile…

A free dance and science festival celebrating Antarctica opens at the Science Museum in South Kensington on Tuesday. Antarctica Live features daily dance performances – including a newly devised performance by award-winning choreographer Corey Baker, workshops and hands-on experiences with real survival equipment to shed light on how the frozen continent is responding to increasing human activity and how its fate can affect us all. Visitors will also be able to see a scale model of the recently launched polar research vessel, the RRS Sir David Attenborough. A special “lates” event on 29th August in the museum’s IMAX Theatre will premiere the documentary film Dancing on Icebergs, which charts the two year making of the short film, Antarctica: The First Dance, featuring Madeleine Graham, star of the Royal New Zealand Ballet (pictured). The screening will be followed by a live Q&A with Corey Baker. Antarctica Live runs until 30th August. For more, see www.sciencemuseum.org.uk/see-and-do/antarctica-live. PICTURE: Madeleine Graham in Antarctica The First Dance © Jacob Bryant.

On Now: Leaving Today – the Freuds in Exile 1938. This exhibition at the Freud Museum London in Hampstead focuses on the flight and exile of Sigmund Freud, his wife Marta and daughter Anna as, following Hitler’s annexation of Austria, they left Vienna on 4th June, 1938, heading to a new life in London. It features original documents, letters and objects, many of which have never been on public display before. Highlights included the documents Freud and his family required to exit Austria and enter Britain, Freud’s personal correspondence with figures like Albert Einstein and HG Wells, and the first public display of Marie-Louise von Motesiczky’s painting The Psychoanalyst. The exhibition also features a series of works created by young people attending the Baobab Centre for Young Survivors in Exile in collaboration with Barnaby Barford. Runs until 30th September. Admission charge applies. For more, see www.freud.org.uk.

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This Week in London – 40 years of IVF; City Beerfest; and, ‘The Great British Seaside’…

The Science Museum is marking the 40th anniversary of IVF (in vitro fertilisation) with a special exhibition opening today. IVF: 6 Million Babies Later tells the story of the development of IVF from the work of early pioneers like Robert Edwards, Patrick Steptoe and Jean Purdy through to the birth of Louise Brown on 25th July, 1978, and on to the latest research in reproductive science. Items on show include one of the ‘Oldham Notebooks’ in which the scientific data collected by Purdy and Edwards between 1969 and 1978 was recorded along with examples of the equipment they used such as the glass desiccator used by Edwards to incubate embryos. The display also includes press coverage and personal correspondence and gifts received by Louise’s parents from around the world. A special late night opening will take place on 25th July. Runs at the South Kensington museum until November. Admission is free. For more, see www.sciencemuseum.org.uk/ivf.

The City of London Beerfest returns to Guildhall Yard today with musical performances and the chance to enjoy some of the UK’s finest ales, beers and ciders. Now in its sixth year, City Beerfest runs from 12.30pm to 9pm with proceeds going toward The Lord Mayor’s Appeal, which supports the Lord Mayor’s dedicated charities, and the City Music Foundation, which helps young musicians gain valuable entrepreneurial skills for successful careers. For more, see www.citybeerfest.org.

On Now: The Great British Seaside. This major exhibition of photography at the National Maritime Museum in Greenwich features more than 100 photographs taken by some of Britain’s most popular photographers, including Tony Ray-Jones, David Hurn and Simon Roberts, as well as new works by Martin Parr. Runs until 30th September. Admission charge applies. For more, see www.rmg.co.uk/see-do/Great-British-seaside.

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Treasures of London – BepiColombo model…


A full-sized engineering model of the BepiColombo, the first ever spacecraft created by the European Space Agency to explore Mercury which is slated to launch in October, went on display at the Science Museum in South Kensington last month.

The more than six metre tall model – officially known as a Structural Thermal Model – was used to test the spacecraft’s resilience to launch vibrations and temperature extremes – as low as -190 degrees Celsius and as high as 400 degrees – during its seven year journey to Mercury.

The Airbus-built model consists of four main parts: Lower Handling Adaptor, the Mercury Transfer Module, the Mercury Planetary Orbiter and the Sunshield.

The model features hand-stitched insulation blankets to protect the BepiColombo’s instruments and electronics from the Sun’s heat and a folded solar panel wing, one of three which will generate the craft’s electrical power.

The display also features an accompanying video with engineers and scientists talking about the craft.

The model is on show until after BepiColombo’s launch in October. The BepiColombo mission is a joint mission between the ESA and Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency.

The display can be seen in the Tomorrow’s World gallery. For more, see sciencemuseum.org.uk/BepiColombo.

PICTURE: Top – Artistic impression of BepiColombo at Mercury © ESA; Right – BepiColombo Structural Thermal Model 5 © Science Museum

This Week in London – Happy Easter!; Egg hunting at English Heritage properties; Peter Rabbit at Kew; and The Science Museum’s Frankenstein Festival…

Wishing all of our readers a very Happy Easter!

Six special eggs designed by six top children’s book illustrators have been hidden at English Heritage sites across the country for Easter. The illustrators – including Ian Beck, Polly Dunbar, Olivia Lomenech Gill, Trisha Kraus, Lydia Monks and Grahame Baker Smith – have all designed eggs inspired by English Heritage properties. Young visitors taking part in the Easter Adventure Quests – which will be held at 20 English Heritage properties including London’s Eltham Palace and Gardens and Down House – will need to hunt for a special “chicken token” hidden in the undergrowth with those who find one presented one of the six “eggsclusive” eggs. The tradition of decorating Easter eggs has been recorded as far back as 1290 in England when King Edward I purchased 450 of them to be decorated and covered in golf leaf for his courtiers. In the early 16th century, King Henry VIII received a silver-mounted egg as an Easter gift from the Pope. The Easter Egg Adventure Quest will be held from 30th March (Good Friday) through to 2nd April (Easter Monday). For more on what’s happening at Easter, see www.english-heritage.org.uk/easter/.

Peter Rabbit and his furry friends are visiting Kew Gardens this Easter. From tomorrow until 15th April, the Peter Rabbit themed festival – A big day out with Peter Rabbit – will see visitors presented with a copy of Mr McGregor’s garden notebook so they can follow a Peter Rabbit-themed trail to the Secluded Garden where they can find life-sized selfie boards of Peter and other characters and take part in a range of activities including games, craft activities and workshops (including how to build their own rabbit warren). The nearby Kitchen Garden will also be on display with mini-tours for families to show off the growing produce. Admission charge applies. For more, see www.kew.org.

An Easter Egg Hunt will take place at The Royal Mews, Buckingham Palace, on Saturday. Between 11am and 3pm, children are invited to hunt for pictures of Rex the corgi and the royal horses Majesty and Scout among the carriages as well as dress up as a footman, learn how to harness a horse, take part in art activities and find out what it’s like to ride in a royal carriage. Each child will be able to claim an Easter egg to take home. For more, see www.royalcollection.org.uk.

The Science Museum’s free Frankenstein Festival – celebrating the 200th anniversary of the publication of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein or the Modern Prometheus – kicks off on 3rd April. Featuring immersive theatre, experiential story-telling and hands-on activities, the festival will encourage visitors to examine the ethical scientific questions surrounding the artificial creation of life and allow them to step into Dr Frankenstein’s shoes and create a creature which they can bring to life using stop-motion animation. There’s puzzles and experiments to do, a Frankenstein-themed audio tour of the museum called It’s Alive, a choose-you-own-adventure experience – Pandemic – in which visitors decide how far Dr Frankenstein should go to tackle a virus sweeping across the world, and, Humanity 2.0, a play performed by Emily Carding which examines what could happen if a benevolent AI recreated humanity in an apocalyptic future world. There’s also the opportunity to meet researchers at the cutting edge of science including bio chemists who manipulate DNA and engineers creating artificial intelligence. The festival runs daily between 3rd and 8th April (some activities have limited availability so tickets can be found at sciencemuseum.org.uk/Frankenstein). A Promethean Tales Weekend will be held on 27th to 28th April, featuring panel discussions and special screenings of Terminator 2: Judgement Day and The Curse of Frankenstein in the IMAX cinema. For more, head to sciencemuseum.org.uk/Frankenstein.

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This Week in London – Celebrating India at the Science Museum; Opie and Van Dyck/Dali and Duchamp; and, first NYE tickets on sale…

The Science Museum is commemorating 70 years of India’s independence with Illuminating India, a season of exhibitions, specially commissioned artworks and events telling the stories of Indian innovators and thinkers who have often been overlooked or written out of Western versions of history. The exhibition Illuminating India: 5000 Years of Science and Innovation celebrates India’s central role in the history of science and tech by surveying its contributions to subjects ranging from space exploration to mathematics, communication and engineering while Photography 1857-2017 is the first exhibition to provide a survey of photography from its beginnings in India in the mid-19th century through to the present day and pivots around two key dates in India’s history – 1857 and 1947. Alongside the exhibitions, artist Chila Kumari Burman has been commissioned to create a special series of artworks and there is a comprehensive program of related public events, some of which are free. The Illuminating India season runs until 31st March. For the full programme of events, head to www.sciencemuseum.org.uk/indiaseason.

To mark the return of Sir Anthony van Dyck’s self-portrait (pictured) to the National Portrait Gallery after a three year nationwide tour, contemporary artist Julian Opie has been invited to present his works in dialogue with the painting. Julian Opie After Van Dyck features new and recent works including Faime (2016), Lucia, back 3 (2017) and Beach head, 6 (2017). The free display in the seventeenth century galleries opens tomorrow and runs until 7th January. It’s the final of three displays held in the gallery as part of the three year tour following the purchase of the Van Dyck self-portrait, painted in about 1640, in 2014. For more, see www.npg.org.uk. PICTURE: National Portrait Gallery.

The friendship and works of Salvador Dali and Marcel Duchamp are explored in a new exhibition opening at the Royal Academy tomorrow. Dali/Duchamp features more than 80 paintings, sculptures, “readymades”, photographs, drawings, films and archival material and is organised into three thematic sections – ‘Identities’, ‘The Body and the Object’ and, ‘Experimenting with Reality’. Among the highlights is Duchamp’s The King and Queen Surrounded by Swift Nudes (1912), Fountain (1917/1964), and The Bride Stripped Bare by her Bachelors, Even (The Large Glass) (1915), as well as Dali’s The First Days of Spring (1929), Lobster Telephone (1938) and Christ of Saint John of the Cross (c1951). Runs until 3rd January and then moves to The Dali Museum in St Petersburg, Florida. Admission charge applies. For more, see www.royalacademy.org.uk.

The first tranche of tickets to see this year’s New Years Eve fireworks event over the River Thames in central London were released late last week. The display will feature more than 12,000 fireworks, and involve 2,000 lighting cues and 30 tonnes of equipment on three barges (and, despite the renovation work, the New Year will still be rung in by the bongs of Big Ben!). The tickets, which are available for £10 each, provide access to a range of specific areas – some of these are already sold out. The full cost of the tickets goes towards costs associated with the ticketing system. People can book up to four tickets at www.london.gov.uk/nye.

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