Tuesday, December 30, 2014

behind the scenes and after hours

...at the museum?

The London HQ of wonder | wander | women works at a quirky little wonderland of a museum called the Wellcome Collection. This museum of science and medicine is funded by the Wellcome Trust, founded by pharmaceutical entrepreneur Sir Henry Wellcome in 1938. There are several floors of exhibitions, plus a museum shop and an organic cafe.

The Wellcome Collection is famous for its odd and wide-ranging displays of (mostly medicine-related) artefacts from all over the world, most of them personally chosen by Sir Henry. Over time the museum grew enough to exhibit limited shows that tickle scientific curiosity, such as the body's relationship to death and the science of sleeping and dreaming. All of these shows are completely free to the public, as is the library and its gorgeous reading room on the first floor.

Like many of London's museums, the Wellcome Collection is funded by the state, but it's also backed by the Wellcome Trust. Most of the Trust's fundraising work goes to funding research into human and animal health, biomedical grants, the 'medical humanities' and other interesting topics for the evolution of humankind.

Equally interesting is the building complex that houses the Wellcome Trust and its museum, and the hard work that goes on to fund it. A suitably imposing Neoclassical stone building houses the collection, but the Trust headquarters is all modern architecture, shiny glass and steel offices.

Behind card-activated security doors, you step into the corridor known as the Street, which is lined with cafes serving incredibly cheap organic food and Costa coffee for the hardworking staff of the Trust. Real trees, well-maintained and provided with lots of natural light, keep the glassed-in centre from becoming too stuffy or severe. 

Restaurants on the top floor provide great British food on a cycling menu and a beautiful view of the city, as well as natural light much needed by office dwellers, especially in the winter.

The Museum of London is another institution that loves to let its hair down after hours.

The historic building is a popular site for seasonal parties. After the tourists have been ushered out and the main exhibits closed, another crowd filters in for cocktails and canap├ęs among the approving mannequins of Old London.

Some exhibits remain open, offering historical education as an extra spice to the evening. We walked in Regency 'pleasure gardens'...

...and listened to carollers on the Victorian Walk.

We ate vegetable lasagna, seafood, and salmon rolls by the Paddington Bear exhibit...

...and tried our hand at pulling an old-fashioned pint of ale (from the wrong side of the bar).

The unusual lateness and strange lighting of the exhibits made us feel like a nocturnal, long-lived species of aristocrat, going from rich Victorian study...

to elegant Art Deco hotel setting...

...to today's exclusive cosmopolitan club life.

Happy Holidays, night creatures!

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