Firing the imagination

Mon 20 Oct 2008 Opinion

It must have been some time in 1972 that my father took me to the Museum of London (obviously the old one at London Wall). I was six.

Half way through our visit we entered a dark space. Anticipation grew, suddenly the sounds of horses drawn carriages, the voices of street hawkers, and the general hubbub of a 17th-century London street began to filter into the darkness. And the voice of Samuel Pepys (or so I believed) began to narrate the events of the Great Fire of London of 1666. Far off in the darkness an ominous glimmer of red appears in what we learn was a bakery in Pudding Lane. Gradually, we become aware of the unfamiliar skyline of the City of London of 2nd September 1666 modelled before us as the fire begins to spread hour by hour, day by day.

This relatively simple (by today’s standards) exhibit incorporating just a model, lighting effects and audio vividly captured the human tragedy and cataclysmic nature of the Great Fire of London and has remained with me ever since. To me, it is a great combination of engaging, authentic content and immersive presentation.

[Note: the new Museum of London is due to re-open in the renovated Smithfield Market site in 2028]