Many of the best ideas, and often many of the worst, start in a pub. Thus it was a surprise to me that following a Friday evening conversation in London Transport Museum’s Upper Deck cafe bar, the team at this organisation agreed to give me access to some of its many assets, including objects, staff, storage facilities, events – and even disused Tube stations.
Why did I ask for access? Well:
- I like interesting things, particularly if they’re about:
(a) London or
(b) Transport, especially old tube trains (spoiler: I do like trains. Quite a lot.)
(c) Historic design
- I enjoy discovering the stories behind interesting things
The opportunity here is vast, because London Transport Museum has so much stuff. Incredible, remarkable, interesting stuff. It has steam locomotives that careered about underground and it has whole electric tube trains which enabled suburbia; it has trams that surfed London’s streets and it has buses that plied the Chiltern Hills. It has Tube station roundels and tube maps, failed experimental technology and staff uniforms of fashions long past, engineering diagrams and trolleybus bits, architectural models and WW2 shelter signs, and literally millions of records, paintings, tickets and photographs. Oh, and then there’s everything that’s stored at Acton Depot and isn’t listed online.
But London Transport Museum isn’t just a collection of stuff: it’s a collection of objects that tells us stories. Stories about who we were, what we are, what London is, and where we might be going.
Over the coming months I’ll be writing about some of the interesting stories that I find whilst rummaging around in that vast collection, visiting a site or talking to a person much cleverer than me. I’m doing that because I’d like you to be able to get to see things that are normally hidden away, in a box, on a platform, in an archive box or behind a slightly odd search query, and also because I’m an over-enthusiastic, nosy amateur historian and transport nerd who enjoys finding weird things. It is time for us to go exploring.
To get me started, later this week I’ll be visiting the launch of the Museum’s Designology exhibition. The last time your correspondent went to a museum launch I accidentally spilled a drink over the great-great-grandson of the builder of one of the world’s oldest railway locomotives, so it’s quite possible that this is both my first and my last blog for the Museum. [There is probably concern in the Press Office now].
Thanks for reading; I hope you enjoy our occasional ride and mixed metaphor together through the Museum’s collection as much as I probably will.
See you soon!