Monday 9th December 2019
The latest exhibition at Clerkenwell's London Metropolitan Archives deals with images of the capital from the 11th century to the present day.
From wax seals to digital photographs, images of London and Londoners are displayed on the walls and in glass cases of the small exhibition space and the stairs.
There are drawings, paintings, and prints, along with film and sound from the LMA's extensive archives. They are displayed by image-making technique with explanations of how the different technologies work. That's something that you don't usually get at an art gallery and it makes this an informative exhibition well worth visiting.
The LMA is a slightly odd place to visit. It's very low-key, the entrance in Northampton Road opposite Spa Fields is an unobtrusive doorway into what looks like just another office block save for a couple of vertical banners o the wall above and discreet "City of London" and "London Metropolitan Archives" signs over the door. On entry there's just a small reception/security desk where people coming in to access original material from the archives sign in but visitors to the exhibition are allowed through unmolested. I was asked if I'd visited before, which I had, once, and that was it. If you've not been before it might not be obvious where to go next - there's no big "To the exhibition" sign that you might expect. Take the stairs (or lift if you can't do stairs although some of the exhibits are on the walls in the stairwell). There's a Visitor Lounge n the mezzanine floor where you are able to leave coats and bags in free lockers. The rules say you must do this if going into the study areas but it's not clear if that applies to the exhibition as well. Do it anyway, it doesn't cost anything and you'll be more comfortable.
Most of the exhibition is on the first floor outside the doors to the information area and is well laid out if not particularly well lit. There are paper exhibition guides in standard and large print varieties which replicate the information in the displays but also contain a little map of the exhibition area. The toilets are adjacent to the exhibition area, should you need them.
I reckon you should allow an hour to study the pictures and read the words, and there is a short film to watch and some audio too. This is I have to point out not the sort of exhibition which is going to excite small children. As a somewhat older child I found it interesting and informative. If you're interested in London's history in pictorial form go and take a look. You've got until July the 8th when no doubt it will be replaced by something new and probably equally excellent. You'll be too late to get your name on the first line of the visitor comments book though cos' I've already done that 😀
London - Portrait Of A City
London Metropolitan Archives, 40 Northampton Rd, Farringdon, London EC1R 0HB
9th December 2019 to 8th July 2020
020 7332 3820