The Museum of London is located at the outskirts of the rather grim Barbican complex in the City of London. My guess was this was built in an area ruined by the blitz was correct, and Wikipedia states that the complex is architecturally important as it's one of London's principal examples of concrete Brutalist architecture. My business there was to have a look at the recently opened Medevial Gallery, as editor Alan had picked out, that beer and brewing figured prominently in the gallery. Actually it doesn't, but one of the first features I came across was an interactive display showing modern fast food and inviting the visitors, presumably kids, to guess what the equivalents were in the middle ages. To some extent the English eat their meat pies and their jellied eels as they did a thousand years ago, but when you pushed the button for cola, the answer is:
Sorry, cola wasn't invented until the late 1800s. People, even children, drank ale instead.These words are presumably of some comfort for today's lager louts, showing that they are genetically inclined to drink wast quantities of beer.
I joined the first guided tour of the gallery, which was interesting enough, but there is not much emphasis on food and drink I'm afraid. Some rude remarks about Vikings, including my namesake Cnut, and an impressive collection of archeological findings. The Medieval town was actually forgotten for many centuries, it is only the archeology of the last few decades that have given new knowledge on the period. For those interested in glassware and pottery, be it for beer drinking or other purposes, the web site of the Museum of London is filled with treasures. There is a huge online catalogue with photos that you can explore at your leisure, with far more objects than a physical museum could ever display. I was visiting the museum a year ago, so I did not linger long in the rest of the building. There are no displays giving any coverage of pubs as such. The bookshop, though, is very good for browsing, including several pub books.
The very moment Knut thought of the pub museum
My conclusion is that the Museum of London is well suited for students of all ages who, with a guide or teacher, want to look at aspects of London history. For pub and beer devotees it is not the place. And that leaves a hole in the market. I want to raise one modest proposal: what about establishing a London Pub Museum? This could be done in connection to the Museum of London, but, as this is located in an area that is uninhabited in the evenings and at weekends, it is not the best solution. I would suggest that the starting point should be a well preserved gin palace – 1890s – expanding into other premises showing the history of beer, brewing and pubs with interactive displays and artifacts. It should of course be a live museum selling beer, like a never ending beer festival focusing on beer types out of fashion, mostly from small breweries. This would obviously be a splendid venue for corporate events – I culd not think of a better place to wrap up a conference! A bookshop – and a beer shop – should be on the premises, and a taxi rank right outside would be most helpful, too. I am sure there are pub interiors, pub signs, pump clips, photos and memorabilia readily available. And with London already hosting Vinopolis, a wine "museum", I think a pub museum is long overdue. The idea is free for anyone to take up, as long as I am invited as a VIP to the opening and get a free pint!
[Ed.: I'm with Knut...as I would like to say on VIP night.]