Museums at Night 2012: A night of art, books and music at London Transport Museum

By Rosie Clarke | 19 May 2012
a photo of visitors at London Transport Museum
© Culture24 Photo Rosie Clarke
Culture24 on the road for Museums at Night 2012: Rosie Clarke visits London Transport Museum

Stepping inside London Transport Museum last night felt more like entering a performance art nightclub than a museum: walking under red neon-striped displays, numerous glamorously dressed people sipped drinks and lurched in and out of historic buses and trains, while Saint Etienne’s Bob Stanley acted as the DJ and filled the space with uplifting music.

Everyone loved the opportunity to turn a steering wheel while sitting in a bus driver’s seat – even me, while a cheery group of chaps gathered to cheer a friend’s attempts to drive a tube train simulator.

This evening was also the launch of the new Mind the Map exhibition, showing the creativity behind historic London transport maps. Visitors were transfixed, getting close up to point out places of significance to them, tracing journeys across old and new maps.

One interactive artwork invited visitors to tag Tube stations and areas of London with their emotions – a common theme seemed to be a sense of pride in visitors’ workplaces.

Writer Sabina Czajkowska pointed out the comments people shared from near to her South London home.

Czajkowska’s favourite artworks in the exhibition were MacDonald Gill’s maps, particularly an elaborate decorative map inspired by JM Barrie’s Peter Pan in Kensington Gardens, which was reproduced for schools and nurseries from the 1920s onwards.

Characters in the park narrated their stories with speech bubbles, simultaneously echoing 18th century political cartoons, and reminiscent of Grayson Perry’s mind maps today.

Author Craig Taylor read excerpts from his book Londoners to an interested crowd who laughed appreciatively. Among his interviewees was Emma Clarke, the voice of the London Underground: it was easy to sympathise with her London-dwelling ex-boyfriend who couldn’t avoid being reminded of her with every "mind the gap" announcement.

Christine Smith chuckled at her granddaughter pretending to drive a bus, and reminisced about the trolleybuses which she used to ride.

"They were so quiet, and so smooth – I think London should bring them back. But then, you have to have the electric wires running overhead.” Her highlight of the evening was seeing her granddaughter skilfully piloting the Jubilee Line tube driver simulation.

Resident cartographer Emily Wilkinson mapped the evening, creating a mind-map style artwork based on comments visitors made to her throughout the night. “The museum is magnificent,” one commenter enthused – and it was easy to see why.
 
  • Culture24's Museums at Night 2012 continues through Saturday and Sunday May 19 and 20. See the full listings and refine your search by place, subject or theme.

More pictures:

a photo of a man, woman and a child at London Transport Museum
Christine Smith and Family
© Culture24. Photo Rosie Clarke
a photo of people at London Transport Museum
© Culture24. Photo Rosie Clarke
Emily Wilkinson does some impromptu mapping.
Photo of a man holding a book and speaking
Craig Taylor's reading was a highlight of the evening.
© Culture24. Photo Rosie Clarke
The Transport Museum's maps exhibition was another highlight.
The mapping exhibition was a highlight of the evening.
© Culture24. Photo Rosie Clarke
a drawing of buses with the words this museum is magnificent
© Culture24. Photo Rosie Clarke
  • Culture24's Museums at Night 2012 continues through Saturday and Sunday May 19 and 20. See the full listings and refine your search by place, subject or theme.

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