Tuesday, July 13, 2010

A Lazy Morning & A Trip to the London Transportation Museum

I had a hazy plan in mind for today as I went to bed last night: sleep in, take it easy, get some laundry done, and, if there was enough time after all of that, head over to Covent Garden and the London Transportation Museum. Well, I managed to sleep until about 8:30, then got up, took it relatively easy in that I did not allow myself to look at the clock or hurry myself too much, got all my laundry things together, and headed out the door. The laundry facilities are actually in the same building as our rooms are, except that to get in that area you must go out to the street and back in another door. To get in that door you must swipe your key, then you do a u-turn left and go through another door, then down a winding staircase and through a couple more doors. All in all, it feels like you might be descending to a dungeon. Except when you get there you pay, and at the end of it all you get to go out with clean clothes and (hopefully) all of the belongings you had brought in with you. I had a bit of trial-and-error the first time I did laundry here, in that I found out the wrong way that the washer requires exactly £1.20 and doesn't give any change back, but though the dryer may say "0.20" you can give it more and in fact should if you want to get more than about 10 minutes' worth of drying. This time, however, I came prepared with the exact change I needed, and was able to check email and a few other things online while everything was working as it should. I managed to finish my laundry and have it put up a little after 11:00, and then set out for the London Transportation Museum.

 I'd seen something about the London Transportation Museum before I came (I think it was in one of my guidebooks, or perhaps I saw something about it online?), and had seen where it was on one of our LondonAlive Orientation tours. A few friends had been in the building, but had only gone to the store--although they told me it was a very good one, and indeed it was. So I didn't really know too much of what to expect when I walked in the doors. It was the first venue that I have gone to that required buying a ticket, because so far it has either been something that's free and/or it's been a part of class and any fees have been paid for ahead of time. It was a well priced place, a student ticket only costs £6. A student could technically get in for £5, but if they pay £6 a certain amount of their ticket price counts as a charitable donation, which helps the museum get a certain amount of money in tax breaks. An adult ticket costs only a bit more, and I think I saw a poster that said kids got in free.
I highly recommend the museum. It had something for every age group, from young kids through adults. Once you have purchased your ticket you are also given a map and a large card that's titled "The Stamper Trail," and pointed to the automatic door you want to go through. Since the museum has many different levels which wind in and out of one another (you enter and exit through the same hallway), I decided to go on the Stamper Trail. This starts out simply in the entrance/exit hall with a tall green post marked "1." You put in your card and pressed down on a button on the top, and it either put a stamp on your card or stamped a silhouette into your card. Then all you had to do was follow the map on the back of the card, and not only do you get to see everything in the museum (although not neccesarily in chronological order) but also you collect all 13 stamps from the stations along the way. I saw a school group go through ahead of me, and the stamper trail kept them going throughout the entire museum while maintaining their levels of excitement and interest. There's areas strategically placed where you could sit and rest for a bit with a younger one, including one on the ground floor that looked like it was a coloring station. While adults may mosey along and read everything, and there were many intriguing surprises along the way for the slow-going (pull-out drawers of artifacts!), there were plenty of things to keep the high-energy crowd moving, such as several different train cars, carriages and other forms of transportation that you could climb right in, sometimes with models posed in costumes of the particular time period. I also saw an area that simulated driving the tube (metro). The actual history and learning experience was focused on the timeline of London's different means of transportation, from rowing boats and horse carriages to today's mix of the tube, coaches (buses), boats, taxis, etc. Along the way you see models of the Cut and Cover method which started the underground tube systems, digging by hand and then quickly as possible covering what had already been dug against the weather. Pull out a drawer and find examples of season passes for the tube from 1900 to 1950. Learn details about the first time elevators and escalators were used, as well as when electricity began to impact the transportation industry. Near the end, pick a number of options in an either/or fashion and you get an image of the transportation future you predicted, including pictures and details of what common issues would affect that world in 2025. Then, of course, walk through the marvelous store on your way out.
There's also a lot of fun to be had on the London Transportation Museum website, from shopping (all the goodness of the original, plus extra personalization options), to exploring the collections (there's some extra things which are only online, like a really neat film collection 1910-present), to curating your own exhibit with items from the museum.
Image courtesy of Microsoft Clipart.

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