London trip — day three: Science Museum; London Transport Museum

This entry is part [part not set] of 4 in the series London trip (February 2012)

Day three map:

London day three map

Science Museum

My original tentative schedule saw me planning to visit the Science Museum, the Natural History Museum and the V&A in one day. But some last-minute chopping and changing of my schedule saw me eventually trying to squeeze the Science Museum into a 90 minute visit.

It didn’t take me long to realise that 90 minutes was nowhere near long enough to take in the Science Museum, which was much larger than I was anticipating. I remember wanting to visit the Science Museum as a kid, and in the end it is such a shame that I ended up spending so little time here! This is the main reason why I feel like I need to go back to London again.

I saw maybe about two thirds of the ground floor, where I spent a fascinating hour. But with an eye on my watch, I decided I had to make a beeline for the second floor to see Oramics to Electronica, an exhibition about electronic music.

The centrepiece of the exhibition is the incredible Oramics machine. The Oramics machine was invented in 1959 by the pioneering Daphne Oram. The concept is almost implausible: “drawn sound”. The musician painted shapes on strips of 35mm film and glass slides. These shapes controlled the pitch, volume and waveform of the sounds.

Oramics Machine

The machine is incredibly complex and fragile-looking. A spaghetti morass of wires dangles across rustic metal frames. The strips of 35mm film stretch across the top of the contraption. Only the speakers provide the clue that this might be some form of musical instrument. Fantastic.

Delia Derbyshire's green lampshade

There were also displays about EMS, the British synthesiser manufacturers, and the BBC Radiophonic Workshop. Here, Delia Derbyshire’s famous green lampshade was on display. (Apologies — my photograph was dreadfully out-of-focus due to my crappy camera focusing on the glass case.)

I was very sad to leave the Science Museum having seen so little of it. I reckon in 90 minutes I was lucky if I saw a quarter of it. I will definitely have to go again!

London Transport Museum

In the afternoon I made my way to the London Transport Museum. In a way, this was the worst value part of the trip. Admission costs £13.50, and while you can use the ticket for up to a year, the likelihood of someone like me being able to go again is slim. Mind you, I had to queue for a very long time to get in, so it’s impossible to imagine how busy it would be if entry was free.

It is a brilliant museum, and I probably spent about two hours there. As you might imagine, my favourite part of the museum was the section dedicated to design. This covers architecture, print materials, information about the development of the tube map and the Johnston typeface.

Dotted around the museum are posters from throughout the history of the London Underground. It has always had such a strong and striking visual identity, and it’s amazing just how modern some posters from as far back as the 1930s can look.

The price would put me off going again too soon, but this is a brilliant museum that I would happily visit again a few years down the line.

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