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.
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?