Access to Art tour

On Wednesday 30th November one of our esteemed volunteers, John Campbell, gave a tour of the museum’s Depot in Acton.  The tour was given to a group of students who are using our collection as a starting point for learning English and improving their confidence with travelling on London Transport.  Having given tours on the museum’s collection for a number of years, this was the first time John had given a tour to a group to whom the majority had English as a second language.  This made the tour quite different from the usual, as John became quite animated in describing the history of some of the vehicles, and regularly asked questions to the group to keep them engaged.  The group became so comfortable with the tour that it turned very quickly into a Q&A session led by the group!

John also spent time showing the group our extensive art and poster collection, which everyone was very keen to see.  As part of their course the group were studying a number of our posters, so it was a great opportunity for them to get a first-hand view of the works whilst being able to ask their guide any questions they had about the collection.

Depot Discoveries

The Museum’s depot in Acton Town is a brilliant place. It’s full of fantastic objects, from trains to hat badges, posters to taxis. The Depot is a working museum store housing over 370,000 objects, and as such the number of labels and text panels we have on display needs to be limited. Objects are moved in and out of the store on an almost daily basis, and work is done by the Museum’s curators and volunteers throughout the year, resulting in objects changing their location regularly.

The Museum opens the Depot up to visitors for guided tours on a monthly basis, and twice a year we open the entire space up to the public during our Open Weekends. At present there are only a few pieces of interpretation around the store, so often visitors are left to guess what some of the items they are looking at are, or reply on staff and volunteers to advise them.

At London Transport Museum we have a fantastic group of Museum Friends and volunteers, each with their own incredible knowledge and opinions on items in our care. Some are involved with heritage outings, and others spend many hours carefully restoring objects to their former glory. Many of the Friends have a history of working for London Transport in some way, and as such can offer invaluable insight into the history of an object – how it worked, what it was used for, and why it was eventually decommissioned.

In the summer of 2011, a new trial project was launched in partnership with some Friends and volunteers. Called Depot Discoveries, this is a film based project which involves capturing the knowledge and stories the Friends have about objects in our collection on camera. The volunteers were trained in how to make films, so work both behind and in front of the camera, and so far seven short films have been made (they are in the editing process at the moment). One of these features our volunteers Dilwyn speaking about the vast ticket collection we have at our store. The films are all shot in situ with the objects they are referring to, allowing for viewers to gain an insight into how they work, what they represent and when they were used.

The plan is for new labels to be created in the coming months, each featuring a link to the films on YouTube. Visitors to the Depot will then be able to access these stories on their smart phone devices, using the Depot’s wifi network, thus bringing these objects to life. If it’s a success, we may even look to getting some devices for people to borrow, but we shall see!

It’s early days at the moment, but there has been a lot of enthusiasm for the project so far. Are you a Museum Friend or volunteer? Would you like to speak on camera about an object at our Depot? Please contact Jen Kavanagh at if so!

For more information about visiting our Depot, head to

Collecting for 2013 – Unofficial Underground

You see it all over the city – key rings, tea towels, bookmarks, piggy banks, pens, t-shirts, postcards. You name it, there’s a piece of merchandise out there with the Underground plastered all over it. For a number of years, Transport for London has been cracking down on how the famous roundel, font and colours are used on souvenirs and signage. But if you dig deep enough you will still find all sorts of bits and pieces that have not been licenced.

As part of the Museum’s curatorial team Christmas day out, I set my colleagues the task of collecting as much of this unofficial Underground material as they could. In an ‘Apprentice’ style challenge, two teams were given 3 hours and £50 each, and were sent out onto the tourist streets of London to collect what they could. The results were pretty amazing – dodgy pink i-Phone covers, dubious key rings, odd postcards and even a risqué calling card or two!

For the Museum’s LU150 celebrations, we are going to accession some of these finds into the collection as a record of how the roundel is used around the anniversary in 2013. And if any of you see anything you think we should collect, please let us know – maybe take a photo and post it up on here. The weirder the better!

Poster of the Week #18

No need to ask a p'liceman, by John Hassall, 1908

This week’s poster is a Museum classic. It has been selected by a group of ESOL learners as part of London Transport Museum’s Access to Art project in partnership with Ealing Libraries. For the past three weeks 16 individuals from countries including Egypt, Iraq, Syria, Sri Lanka and Yemen have been meeting with ESOL tutor Susan Smith at Acton library and learning how to navigate their way around the London using different types of transport. Under investigation have been tube maps, bus maps and tickets as well as giving and receiving directions for travel.

Now in the fourth week of the project, today has been particularly special as the group got the chance to visit the Museum Depot and were led on a tour by the fact-fuelled volunteer John Campbell. The group responded wonderfully to the historical objects and to John peppering him with lots of inquisitive and funny questions. After a break for tea and biscuits the group headed into the art store to view a number of artworks including Fougasse’s humorous wartime tube etiquette posters. The artwork that drew much comment is the 1908 poster No need to ask a P’liceman. The group noted the difference between the artwork and the London Underground poster such as the appearance of a ticket office that was absent in the original artwork and how different the geographical tube map looked in comparison to the schematic tube map we use today.

There was a bit of confusion amongst the group as to why you would ask a policeman for directions on the tube. “Won’t you upset him?” one person asked. We’re going to discuss this in more detail in our penultimate session next week but we’re also curious to hear your thoughts about the poster. So, what do you think?

To see photos of the learners in action at the Depot on 30 November 2011, click on the link for the Flickr blog and select Access to Art ESOL project:

Collecting for 2013 – World in Motion video on YouTube

Back in October, the Museum worked in partnership with Transport for London’s Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic staff network group to collect new staff stories as part of Black History Month.

The brilliant contribution from staff on the day means that our finished edited film is now ready to showcase. Thank you so much to all involved, and to Geoff Marshall for his ever talented film making. Enjoy!

Volunteers launch tours on the Art and Poster collection

On Saturday 19th November two of our volunteers, Tom Cavanagh and John Dodd, delivered the first official tours to the public on the museum’s art and poster collection at the Acton Depot.  Visitors had the opportunity to take a peek at the extensive collection of works held in the art and poster stores, and learn all about how many of the works were made, why they were commissioned and how they came to be in the London Transport Museum’s collection.  The art and poster stores are usually closed off to the public, and can only be accessed whilst either being supervised by staff or as part of a tour.  Access to the Museum’s art and poster collection has been growing steadily this year, with a number of Poster Parade exhibitions at the museum in Covent Garden and regular features on the museum’s blog.  And now we have tours of the collection too!

Throughout this year a number of our volunteers have spent many days being trained by our Safety and Citizenship, Visitor Services and Curatorial staff.  One of the great things about volunteering with London Transport Museum is that our staff have a very hands on attitude, which allows our volunteers the opportunity to work closely alongside staff giving them a great insight into any tasks and projects they get involved with.  Our volunteers have worked very hard researching their content, practising delivering and ironing out any small creases to the point they are feeling very comfortable with giving tours to willing visitors.  Our next scheduled tours will be in January 2012, so make sure to book a ticket while you still can!

Poster of the Week #17

Secure Beneath the Watchful Eyes, by Mark Thomas, 2003

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This week we’re showing the film Erasing David at the museum as part of our events for the Sense and the City exhibition. The documentary explores the use of surveillance technology in modern Britain, so volunteer Jon Burdett has picked out ‘Secure Beneath the Watchful Eyes’ by Mark Thomas. He explains: ‘The movie is about documentary maker David Bond’s attempts to disappear from Britain’s ubiquitous CCTV cameras, challenging two private detectives to track him down whilst he goes on the run. Can he manage it? This poster from 2002 was made to reassure the public that the use of surveillance helps to keep the transport system a safer place. The text says: ‘CCTV & METROPOLITAN POLICE ON BUSES ARE JUST TWO WAYS WE’RE MAKING YOUR JOURNEY MORE SECURE’. There was also a leaflet done explaining the measures being taken to improve security. To me, those eyes in the sky are a bit Big Brother and bring George Orwell’s famous novel 1984 to mind!

What do you think?

Erasing David will be shown on Friday 9th December 2011 18.30 – 20.00.

Christmas travel tickets – Mind the Map Artwork

We’re still busy working on some great new content for next year’s exhibition, ‘Mind the Map‘.

I recently put a call out for used transport tickets that may be used by artist Susan Stockwell to create a large-scale world map. Contributions have been pouring in – thank you! – and we’ve received a huge range of tickets from both the UK and from overseas.

But of course we’re always on the lookout for more! Along with UK tickets we’re really keen to receive travel tickets you may have from cities featured in the Museum’s World City Walk gallery – New Delhi, Shanghai, Tokyo, New York and Paris. But don’t let that limit you – we’re keen to include tickets from all over.

A definite highlight so far was a collection of old London bus tickets from the mid-1900s that were slipped, along with letters and other treasures, through the floorboards of a house by three young children, only to be discovered by subsequent residents years later.

Susan has been busy sorting the tickets and is finalising the design of the artwork, but is eagerly awaiting further contributions before she commits to sticking them down.

If you’re planning any trips over Christmas then we’d love to receive any travel tickets from your journeys. Once again, you can post your tickets and stories to:
Michelle Brown
London Transport museum
39 Wellington St