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Visit the Museum of London before it closes for four years

It’s reopening in a former meat market in 2026

Chris Waywell
Written by
Chris Waywell

The biggest collection in the world of objects and images devoted to a single city is undergoing a massive move this year, and you’ve only got until December to go and see it. 

The Museum of London was opened in 1976 adjacent to the Barbican Estate. It was a symbolic regeneration project in an area of the city that had undergone extensive bomb damage in WWII and subsequent neglect and deprivation. The museum was intended to champion the history of the city and be a resource to document its future. But it’s outgrown its home and is moving half a mile down the road.

In 2026, its fiftieth birthday, the MoL will reopen in a site at West Smithfield, in a building that once formed part of Smithfield meat market. It too has stood derelict for many years, so there’s another chapter of regeneration right there.

Museum of London entrance
Image: Secchi Smith

Such a huge move, and given the extreme fragility and cultural significance of much of the collection, is no man-with-a-van weekend gig. Quite apart from the pandemic mucking up everything, the new site is massively complex and has all sorts of problems associated with its redevelopment, It is, as one person involved put it, the ‘last ruin in London’.

The museum is also changing its name to mark its next chapter, becoming… wait for it… The London Museum. The Museum of London Docklands will also change its name to match (though it will remain open as usual).

Anyway, until it closes its doors in December 2022, the Museum of London is hosting a series of retrospectives highlighting significant objects from its vaults and moments from its last 46 years. Don’t miss this chance to check them out.

Museum of London, 150 London Wall, EC2Y 5HN.

The Imperial War Museum has had a huge donation from the UK’s richest man.

There’s a great-looking immersive theatre show at the Churchill War Rooms.

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