Museum of London vaults win Guinness World Record for archaeological collections

By Culture24 Reporter | 18 April 2012
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A photo of a man looking at a museum brick wearing gloves in a laboratory
The Museum of London's archaeological collections have been hailed as the best in the world
© Museum of London
More than five million ancient artefacts lie in the vaults of the Museum of London. Records of 8,500 excavations – some from the early 19th century – take up 10 kilometres of shelving in 120,000 brown boxes full of mystery. So it’s no surprise that the judges of the Guinness World Records have officially declared it the largest archaeological archive in the world.

A photo of two experts in blue coats looking at a dinosaur skull inside a laboratory
Macabre coffin plates from cemeteries are among the artefacts
© Museum of London
“The World Record highlights an amazing museum,” says Gordon Innes, part of the group promoting London under the command of the Mayor as the world watches the city in the Olympic year.

“It demonstrates how the city changes and evolves and has been welcoming the world during its history. London has some of the world’s best museums.”

Roman shoes, 200-year-old false teeth, “witching bottles” holding teeth and toenails and exotic animal bones including whales, turtle shells and swordfish bills fill the corridors.

A photo of a woman standing on a mini-ladder to look at shelves containing boxes
Find sites range from Shakespeare's favourite theatres to Heathrow
© Museum of London
“The city’s water-logged environment is perfect for preserving organic objects,” explains Roy Stephenson, the Head of the Museum’s Archaeological Collection and Archives.

“One thing that makes London unique is its rich, complex archaeology, from leather clothes to wooden waterfronts, pottery, coins and bones.”

Stephenson picks a Maori war club as one of his favourites. “It must have been brought home from an epic journey to New Zealand in the 18th or 19th century,” he says.

“It is redolent of past people’s endeavours and the place of London on the past stage.” The future stage may hold more records this summer.
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