The popular City museum will be out of action for at least three years. It should be worth the wait.
Excitement has been building for years about Museum of London's relocation to old market buildings in Smithfield. What we didn't know until this week was that the move will entail at least a three year closure of the museum.
The venue on London Wall will shut its doors for the last time at the end of 2022. It will remain in its cocoon for three years before reopening at bigger and better premises in Smithfield Market in 2025 or 2026.
Once reopened, the attraction will revert to its former name of The London Museum. The sister site near Canary Wharf — which will remain open throughout — will rebrand as London Museum Docklands from January 2023.
We won't see our old friend go without a lot of fanfare. From June 2022, the museum will put on a "series of events, activities and displays at the existing Museum of London site [which] will celebrate the museum’s successes over the past 45 years." Fast forward to 2025, and the prelude to reopening will be accompanied by a big festival "curated by Londoners", as a chance to get a taster for the revamped market buildings. The main museum should then reopen in 2026.
A bigger and better home
The Museum has been at the London Wall site for 45 years. They've made the most of the space, but it's not exactly one of London's most dazzling buildings.
The move to Smithfield will open up all kinds of possibilities, including lots more space for its 7 million objects. Highlights will include a new home for the Cheapside Hoard, a contemporary gallery including objects collected during the pandemic, and — thrillingly — it'll be the only museum in the world with live trains zipping through the galleries, thanks to a window out onto Thameslink.
The new location also makes use of some stunning old architecture, including the catacombs of the old meat market, Victorian surface buildings and the vast modernist Poultry Market (which has one of London's best hyperbolic paraboloid roofs!).
The museum also confirmed that when does eventually reopen, it'll do so with more convenient hours. Visitors will be able to rock up for breakfast and stay well into the evening, "reflecting London’s position as a 24-hour Global City".
Meanwhile, the old home on London Wall is likely to see a major redevelopment. Previous plans for a new concert hall have been shelved, in favour of an office development.
We asked the museum what affect the closure would have on staff. A spokesperson tells us: "We’re assessing the impact of closing London Wall on staffing. No decisions have been taken on that yet."