The Transport Museum's Director, Sam Mullins, drives a WWI omnibus out of the museum. © London's Transport Museum.
A World War One omnibus hit the streets of Covent Garden on September 5 2005 as the first of the exhibits from London’s Transport Museum were cleared out for a major refurbishment.
The museum will be closed until the spring of 2007 while major improvements are made in a £18.6 million project, mostly funded by the lottery and Transport for London.
“We’re closing to give a very popular museum another 20 years of life,” Sam Mullins, the museum’s director, told the 24 Hour Museum.
Exhibits such as the omnibus, which carried troops on the Western Front in the Great War (1914-1918), will be stored at the museum’s Acton depot. In the meantime, the museum will have a new floor added; a lecture theatre built and vital environmental improvements will be made.
'Heave...' staff at the museum help to move the omnibus onto a low loader. © London's Transport Museum.
The benefits of having an extra floor are obvious. As Mr Mullins explained: “More space means more of the collection on show.” But the environmental improvements will deal with a problem unique to London’s Transport Museum and its Covent Garden HQ: it’s just like a giant greenhouse.
In fact, the building used to be a Victorian flower market and was therefore designed to catch as much light and heat as possible. This was great for flowers but less useful for showing delicate exhibits like posters, photographs, drawings and maps.
The improvements will control the amount of sunlight that gets in so that vehicles can be displayed along with their old tickets and the drivers’ uniforms for the first time.
All change - this service is now going to the depot. © London's Transport Museum.
The building may be closed for the next 18 months but Director Sam Mullins is keen to keep the museum alive for its regular visitors and the museum shop will stay open in a new location.
Housing 4000 pieces of the museum’s collection, the Acton depot will be more accessible than ever with more guided tours, more open weekends and school visits running three days a week.
For now, that’s where you will have to go to visit the omnibus, now diverted back to the end of its old Shepherd’s Bush to Liverpool Street route.
For more information about the London's Transport Museum and the Acton depot, please go to www.ltmuseum.co.uk (link launches in a new window).