Delights in Docklands

Joanna Green profiles a new project in association with the Museum of London, that provides a showcase for the history of London’s docklands.

In the shadow of Canary Wharf, nestled alongside the bustling wine bars and restaurants of West India Dock, stands Warehouse No 1. Built in 1803, its original purpose was to store valuable commodities like coffee, rum and molasses as part of London’s thriving import business. Today, this impressive Grade 1 listed building has been restored to its former glory and is home to the new Museum in Docklands. 

Costing over £16 million, the museum was the brainchild of Chris Ellmers, formerly curator of the capital’s modern history collections at the Museum of London. The Museum in Docklands and the Museum of London have recently merged to create one board of trustees to run the new museum. Its galleries will tell the story of ‘London’s River, Port and People’ from Roman settlement to contemporary regeneration, a 2,000-year story.

Professor Jack Lohman, Director of the Museum of London, says ‘The Museum tells a vital part of our city’s story and will be an exciting addition to the cultural landscape of London and the East End in particular’.  The museum consists of thirteen galleries, including a dedicated interactive children’s gallery, an education centre, retail unit and restaurant. The emphasis is firmly on people and interaction; red ropes and ‘do not touch’ signs are nowhere to be seen.    

Visitors can meet characters from Docklands’ history as they wander through the galleries. The museum also hopes to provide demonstrations of local trades that have died out. Each gallery will have facilities to translate commentary into other languages and local people will be employed to help visitors whose first language is one other than English.

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