Last Wednesday we went to the Museum of London. I've been reading to the kids about the city, but seeing it's history is much more fun.
A lot of the big museums in London are free, which has been a great boon, and this is one of them. Unfortunately, many parts of the museum are closed, because they are expanding the exhibits, but what we could see made a big impression on the kids. The museum also lends out family activity bags which give the kids more to do, which helped make the tour even more interesting, although I did get rather tired of being left holding the bag, when the kidlets inevitably left it lying somewhere.
We began with a trip through prehistoric London. The kids were impressed by all the tools and animal bones, but even more impressed by the skeleton and reconstruction of the face of the young woman who had been found there.
The next section was a big exhibit on the Great Fire. Judging by how much they wrote in their journals and talked about long there after, this section made the biggest impression. There was a lot to take in, but it was well presented for children the ages of my older two (5 and 8), included things to see, read, touch and do (as well as some fire safety lessons) and the red glow of the walls did much to enhance the atmosphere of the fire section.
We then moved into the Roman times. I was probably more fascinated by this section than the kids, though they did like seeing the wall of the old city (just outside the windows of the museum) and the golden coins interested them a great deal.
The family activities did help draw them in and all of them practiced their Roman numerals a bit and learned quite a lot about Roman kitchens.
The next stop was the Medieval Area, which is rather a lot to take in, since it heads from the early Anglo-Saxons pell mell all the way to Cromwell. They begin with a recreation of an Anglo-Saxon house, which you can sit in and touch the belongings in, but after that the space is less well organized. You can hop right over the a model of Old St. Paul's and then back to runic burial tablets and then into a movie on the Black Death and out again to a little exhibit on Thomas Beckett and slide over to some costumes the kids can try on and play at being medieval characters. There was a lot to like and a lot to do, but it became overwhelming -- or else the fact that my fifteen month old decided to wake up and want out of the stroller was overwhelming.
Either way, I was not really sorry that Cromwell was the end of the road. The rest of the museum isn't due to reopen until 2009, so I suppose we'll just have to read up on later London history, because a repeat visit at a later date seems unlikely at this time.