"Creaking" Museum of London could create "unrivalled experience" at Smithfield Market by 2021

By Culture24 Reporter | 27 March 2015

Museum hopes to attract more than two million annual visitors with plans backed by City of London Corporation

A photo of the ornate, triangular roof of a historic building under a bright blue sky
Could this be the future roof of the Museum of London?© Courtesy MoL
Hundreds of thousands of artefacts, kept in storage by space limitations, will go on public show if a plan to relocate the Museum of London to Smithfield Market, which planners expect to more than double the current number of visitors to the venue, goes ahead.

Sharon Ament, the director of the museum, said organisers had the backing of the Mayor of London and the Corporation of the City for proposals which could see it move to Smithfield, where a £160 million office and retail development was vetoed last year, by 2021.

“We need a new museum,” said Ament, who expects visitor numbers to soar to more than two million people if the idea goes ahead.

“We are creaking at the seams, we’ve been so successful.

A photo of a historic urban market with brick architecture
The General Market has been facing demolition since 2005© Courtesy MoL
“We do not currently have the space to present our collections properly or demonstrate the research behind them.

“Our visitor numbers have doubled in recent years and continue to grow; our schools programme is at capacity.

“We need to build a museum that has more gallery space so we can put our three million objects on display. We can’t think of a better place than Smithfield General Market.”

Launching a new public consultation website including the thoughts of chef Ainsley Harriott and England footballer Rachel Yankey, Ament said the museum hoped to “stand more firmly on our own two feet”, ensure its venue and galleries are “up to the challenge” and create an “unrivalled experience”. The mooted move is part of regeneration plans for the Smithfield area.

A photo of large brown brick buildings with a major street running through the centre
The market buildings are Grade II-listed© Courtesy MoL
“Of course there are many issues to be resolved before opening a new museum, not least of which is a proper negotiation on the price for the site, as well as a number of other conditions being met,” she cautioned.

“With this new ambition we enter the most exciting time so far in the Museum of London’s history.”

Boris Johnson was absent from the announcement. But the Mayor said the switch would allow the “cultural gem” to “unleash its full potential”.

The news is likely to please the squad of Lady Gaga impersonators who descended on Westminster to oppose plans for the site last summer.

Speaking as part of a campaign in which well-known figures nominated new objects for display in the expanded museum, artist Grayson Perry chose Westfield Shopping Centre, calling it an example of “everything that had gone wrong” at the start of the 21st century.

Ament picked a Marshall Amp, saluting its popularity across the world.

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A photo of large brown brick buildings with a major street running through the centre
Boris Johnson said the museum has a "unique and exceptional" collection© Courtesy MoL
A photo of a large ornate green design stone within a circular white building slab
© Courtesy MoL
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