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Britons seem to be a nation of collectors. For centuries, those who could, have been making collections of anything which took their fancy. Eventually many of these collections found their way into pubic buildings and became the basis for the vast choice of museums (and art galleries) around the country.  More recently, there has been an upsurge of pride and interest in our national history and achievements. This has spawned a further selection of museums and heritage centres. The major museums are, of course, in London. Many are rightly famous at home and abroad. So, let us begin our museum visiting in the capital.

The British Museum is the obvious starting point. One of the largest museums in the world, the collections housed here cover the history of mankind from its very beginnings. With about 9 million items in its collection, not everything is on view all the time, but there is quite enough to fill an entire day’s visit. 

Equally famous are the side-by-side Victoria and Albert Museum and the Natural History Museum, in Kensington. The V & A (as it is often called) has a phenomenal collection of materials and artefacts, charting British social history. The Natural History museum covers all matters biological from dinosaurs (very popular) to how the human body works.  

Popular UK Museums

Beamish Open Air Museum
Coventry Transport Museum 
Discovery Museum
Museum Of London 
National Roman Legion Museum
People's History Museum
The Beatles Story
Victoria and Albert Museum of Childhood
York Castle Museum

All three of these museums, and most others in London, are free. There are approximately 120 museums of various sizes in London; some specialise in a specific topic or theme. For example, the Museum of London takes visitors right through the history of the city from earliest times. 

The Museum of Garden History, at Lambeth, covers the history of formal gardening and plant collecting. Its premises are interesting too – it is in an old church. The Geffrye Museum is housed in a row of old almshouses. It displays the history of textiles and decorative arts. 

The Dungeon is for those with a taste for the gruesome. The Imperial War Museum covers military history. The Museum of Childhood is not just for children. And there are displays of fans, money (Bank of England), magic tricks, Sherlock Holmes, cartoons, Arsenal FC, Churchill (in his underground bunker) and oodles more. You choose!

Go Roman at Vindolanda on Hadrian’s Wall. Near Corbridge, Northumberland, there is the fort itself to explore, a museum and at weekends and holidays re-enactments of Roman military life by the Ermine Street Guard. 

Go Viking in York. The Jorvik Centre was purpose-built to house the many Viking artefacts found in the city. There is a Viking street and houses and many demonstrations of life at that time. 

Go WW11 at Bletchley Park, where the secret war work was undertaken. Recently opened it is a fascinating insight into intelligence and code work. Climb on a tank at the Tank Museum at Wareham in Dorset; admire the old aeroplanes at RAF Cosford in the West Midlands. 

Silk in Macclesfield; Paperweights in Yelverton, Devon; Garden gnomes near Bideford;

Photography in Bradford; Gaol in Kings Lynn, Norfolk.  

Wherever you visit in Britain there is likely to be a local museum; all are worth a look, especially the small, quirky ones.


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