On this page we tell you about some of the things we have been doing at the museum. Using Twitter, you can follow the day-to-day life of the museum. We report on what's going on in the museum, what's being done for the future development of the museum, and of course keep you up to date about events, using the Twitter service. The stories below are more detailed reports on things that we have been doing at the museum.
The large artwork installation of the Superposition project is now ready for public viewing on selected days until 20th October. A great deal of preparation work has gone into getting the artwork and the museum ready. Artist Lyndall Phelps has worked tirelessly for weeks, assembling the intricate component parts of the piece and packing them ready for delivery to the London canal Museum. She also spent three days on the installation itself, hanging hundreds of disks in the correct positions.
Three Ice Well Visit Assistants have been recruited and trained in preparation for the opening to the public. Their job is to ensure safe use of the ladders that are the only way down, and to guide and assist visitors and help them understand the artwork and the historic context of the ice wells in which it lives.
The wells have undergone something of a tidiness programme with several exercises in levelling the ground, improving the access between the two wells, and removing some debris having been completed in advance. Electrical works were undertaken well in advance to provide for power supplies for the lighting installation.
A team from Arup dug trenches and installed lighting equipment so that the installation would be beautifully lit, a task that has really enhanced the visitor experience.
A whole load of other work has gone into design of materials, social media and website work, and training for the museum's normal staff.
Pictures of the completed installation are now available on Pinterest and other social media.
An ambitious project to open up access to the unique underground heritage of the museum's Victorian ice wells is gathering pace. A high-specification web camera has been installed in the ice wells and provided with a connection to the museum's computer network. The camera will be publicly accessible via the world-wide web shortly, and will interface with new lights that have been installed and that will be controlled by a relay device. When a user in any part of the world takes control of the camera, the lights will turn on, enabling the camera to "see" the eastern ice well. Users can pan, tilt, and zoom in from their desktop at home or even from a mobile device. The camera project is part of two wider projects:
Whilst Superposition is a short-term project, the camera will be permanent, opening up access to see the wells. Physical access to the basement is extremely limited and generally only possible on special occasions, although additional descents are being planned for Superposition.
A partnership with scientific body the Institute of Physics has been announced that will see a huge and magnificent work of art installed in the eastern ice well beneath the ground floor of the museum. The work will be created by artist Lyndall Phelps and it is commissioned by the Institute of Physics. Installation will be in August 2013 and the exhibition will last until late October. The work of art is inspired by particle physics and the work of researcher Ben Still at London's Queen Mary University. It will be a very large installation in an underground space that is not regularly accessible to visitors. Plans are being formulated to provide additional days on which visitors, under controlled conditions, will be able to descend to admire this work in person. However, the museum also intends to install lights and a CCTV system that will enable visitors to see it from the museum's public areas and from the World-Wide Web. The scale of the work will be inspiring, with almost 1.5 km of brass rods, more than 28,000 glass beads, hundreds of acrylic discs and 36,000 diamantes being used in its construction. Arrangements for visitors to see this work will be announced in due course. See also the IOP press release. For practical information about visiting Superposition in London, see Superposition at the London Canal Museum.
The project to conserve and protect the fabric of the building underground was successfully completed in early April. The great majority of the work had been completed by mid-March but some final rebuilding work on the last pier to be replaced took a little longer due to the need to maintain support to the floors above at all times. The ICE project, funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund and the museum, includes a lot of other parcels of work and we are now planning or implementing all the other strands of the project.
In March the museum launched a new recruitment drive to attract more volunteers to its team, both for regular running of the museum and for the range of additional activities that will be taking place this summer as part of our "Ice Well 2100" project to spread knowledge about the heritage of the building and of the Vctorian ice trade. The project creates a lot of opportunities to get involved in research and interpretation of the building's past and in sharing this with our visitors and at special events that we will be holding during the year. The tasks done by volunteers will range from sharing research findings an a study day to stewarding at events and there are many more roles besides. For more details please read this detailed note on volunteering opportunities Spring 2013.
Work began on 21st January 2013 on a major project to carry out repairs and replacement of parts of the structure under the ground floor that supports the floor. The majority of this work has now been completed. All the loose concrete on the underside of the ground floor has been removed to expose the steel joists that are an integral part of the floor. These had corroded, forcing the concrete to crack beneath. The exposed steel has been cleaned and treated with Zinga, a zinc-based coating that gives the steel the best protection against damp and further corrosion. The ground floor of the museum is supported on twelve piers, and three of these are being replaced as part of this project. Two of these three have now been replaced with reinforced, pre-cast concrete piers and work is currently under way (Mid-March) on creating brick facades to retain the original appearance of these structural supports. The third pier, which supports the first floor rather than the ground floor, has been partially demolished and temporary props are in use to provide support whilst it is rebuilt in sections. Some weak spots, caused by corrosion, were found in the structure of the ground floor and additional steel beams and brackets have been made to provide strengthening to the floor in those locations.
The project is on target to be largely completed by the end of March.
The museum has been awarded £99,300 by the Heritage Lottery Fund for a wide-ranging project to carry out structural repairs to the building and implement a programme of learning and participation activities on the ice trade theme. The largest part of the money will go towards repair work under the ground floor. Built over a century ago, some of the supporting structure on which the ground floor rests is beginning to crack and deteriorate and repairs are essential. Contractors Galldris Construction Limited will be replacing three of the brick-built supports with pre-cast concrete supports, brick-clad to maintain the original appearance of the historic building. This technique has been designed by a structural engineer to enable new supports to be fitted quickly whilst the floor is supported by temporary props. In addition the building work will address the deteriorating state of the soffit, or underside of the floor, which has been affected by delamination casued by damp penetration over many years.
Whilst the builders are working below the ground, a team is being set up above ground to introduce a range of new initiatives that will make the most of the building's heritage and share it with the public. An outline of the programme is
The work starts in January 2013 and the project will be completed by November, although most of the work is concentrated in the first six months. The museum will remain open to visitors as usual and there are no changes to opening hours as all the construction work is in the basement. The building work is expected to be finished by the end of March but the programme of ice-trade related educational and interpretation work will go on into the summer. The museum is contributing at least £40,000 from its own reserves to the project, which is the largest project that the museum has undertaken since it opened, in financial terms. The trustees are proud of their track record in the maintenance of the historic ice warehouse and are hopefull that their successors in the 22nd century will be grateful for their stewardship and commitment to protect and preserve it.
The museum has enbded another successful year for its venue hire operations by adding a sound system suitable for disco music to its equipment store. Until now, customers have always had to hire in suitable sound systems for disco music. The museum only had a small system suited to speeches and background music. We now have a pair of 300w "active" speakers, that were used for the first time at a wedding reception on 8th December. These have more than enough power to provide the sound for a disco. They can be used by an external DJ, or simply with a music player belonging to the customer. The external DJ only needs to bring a laptop and the music, but if he wishes to bring other equipment it can be connected to our new system. We are providing a package at £85 plus VAT including the two speakers, a small mixer, and a wired microphone, which is considerably less that it would usually cost to hire in similar equipment from an external supplier.
A new temporary exhibition was opened in early October. It is called An Inland Voyage, the 1940s Canal Photography of Robert Longden and has previously been shown at a gallery in Coventry, at the Gloucester Waterways Museum, and at the National Waterways Museum, but has never been seen in the capital before. During the late 1940s and early 1950s Robert Longden documented an intimate history of a working life that has now disappeared, providing a unique insight into the realities of life afloat in the post-war period. The photographs record the narrowboat people he encountered on the waterways, catching the moment of transformation which saw canals change from being industrial thoroughfares to locations for leisure. The exhibition comprises some 34 pictures representing the best of Longden's work as a photographer who recorded the canal population and their life at a time when most people realised that this was a way of life that would soon come to an end. For more information about the exhibits please see: http://www.robertlongdenarchive.com
The museum has applied to the Heritage Lottery Fund for funding to enable us to carry out a wide-ranging project of structural repairs and of learning and participation activities associated with the ice wells that lie beneath the ground floor. The project incudes:
If funding is granted work will be carried out early in 2013 with no disruption to normal museum services.
The 1912 horse narrowboat Ilkeston from the National Waterways Museum at Ellesmere Port was boarded by well over 1000 people during its month-long visit to London Canal Museum, which ran from 23rd August to 23rd September 2012. During its stay it was open for visitors to explore the interior of the beautifully-restored cabin at the rear, as well as the small forecabin at the front. On 2nd September it was towed to the Angel Canal Festival where it was seen by many visitors including the Deputy Mayor of Islington. Every day, a costumed explainer was on board to open the cabin and show visitors around. Two volunteers shared this task, working three days per week each, to cover the museum's six days of opening. They were ladies dressed in traditional boatwoman's outfits and really looked the part! A video of Ilkeston's Journey through London was made by us with some generaous support both financial and in kind and this may be seen on the Boat Sponsorship page of this website. All good things come to an end and Ilkeston had to leave as planned on 24th September. You can see a video of the departure in heavy rain on our YouTube channel. The return journey has been arranged and crewed by theBoat Museum Society.
On the day of Ilkeston's arrival the museum's tug Bantam IV played a starring role, (second to the horse, of course) towing the horse boat from Alperton to Lisson Grove and for the last few yards to the museum, where the horse could not be used.
The 1912 horse narrowboat Ilkeston set out from the National Waterways Museum at Ellesmere Port on June 11th on a long journey to visit London Canal Museum, where it is expected on 23rd August. The journey includes some stops! Ilkeston has been restored by the National Waterways Museum's Heritage Boatyard project, which keeps alive traditional boatbuilding skills, trains apprentices, and carries out maintenance and restoration work on the national collection of historic boats at Ellesmere Port. Ilkeston is one of two boats in the national collection that is sponsored by London Canal Museum. In a partnership with the voluntary Boat Museum Society, based in the north-west, we fund materials, such as timber, paint, and hardware, that are essential to the restoration and maintenance of the two boats.
To celebrate its 100th year, its restoration to prime condition, and the partnership between the two museums and the BMS, Ilkeston is making a journey from its home base to London Canal Museum, where it will be on display to visitors for around a month. It is expected that it will also be present at the Angel Canal Festival on 2nd September. It will visit the Braunston Boat Show, the Canal Museum, Stoke Bruerne, Rickmansworth Waterways Trust on its way down to London and will be towed by a relay of boats from various museums and canal societies. London Canal Museum's Bantam Tug will be used for the journey into London on the Paddington Arm.
There is more information available:
The museum's anchor, which was found in Battlebridge Basin in the early 1990s, has been redisplayed on the wall on the first floor of the museum. The anchor belongs to a barge that would have been used on both the canals and in the Thames estuary. Canal boats don't have anchors but vessels that frequent the tidal Thames need them. It may have come from a sailing barge or it might have come from a lighter. We simply don't know the anchor's history. Certainly, sailing barges could enter the canal and had masts that folded dow so the boat could be towed along the canal and pass under bridges. However, other barges that were only moved by tugs also had anchors if used on the river. Whatever the type of vessel, the anchor is evidence of the links between the canal and the river and that barges worked through to destination such as King's Cross.
It is made of wrought iron and has at some point been rather bent. The decision was taken to relocate it to the first floor because it fits with the exhibition of boats on that floor. Previously it was displayed inconspicuously downstairs. This is a step towards the redevelopment of the current Boats and Cargoes exhibition that is planned for the future, as funding allows.
Along with the making of the fixings for this anchor, we had a new metal channel installed under the sliding entrance door, replacing a badly corroded channel from 1906 and improving the entrance for visitors. We also had brackets made to provide additional support to a drain pipe that runs across the first floor.
Our membership of the Green Tourism Business Scheme has been renewed following a re-certification visit by the scheme's auditors. We have retained "silver" accreditation in the scheme. Small changes have been made since the last inspection including the installation of an automatic light switch and LED lighting strip in the toilet on the ground floor. This is a light that used to be left on accidentally by visitors. and cord pull switches are not used in some countries so the switch was unfamiliar to some of our visitors. This is therefore a customer service improvement combined with an energy-saving improvement.
The museum's tug Bantam IV spent a week in the dry dock at St. Pancras in March. The pre-planned work included a survey of the hull, cleaning and re-blacking of the hull, and some work to straighten the steelwork supports behind the front vertical buffer beams. It was also necessary to do several welding jobs. Most seriously, a small hole in the hull was discovered where the metal had worn thin and this had to be covered by a welded plate. Some rust holes on the superstructure at the front of the boat were repaired by the fitting of a welded piece. The opportunity was also taken to clean the accumulated tangle of wires and string from the propellor! There is no weed hatch on the tug and it is very difficult to remove debris without getting in the water.
A number of photographs of the hull were taken and a set of six can be seen in an album on our Google Plus Page.
The museum has completed a project to strip old paint from the wall beside our main staircase, exposing the attractive Victorian and Edwardian brickwork and turning a relatively shabby part of the building into an attractive feature. The main stairs were constructed in around 1955 in an area of the building that was formerly an open air gap between ajoining roofed sections. The area beneath the stairs, at the foot of the Edwardian horse ramp, became out children's Activity Zone some years ago. "Above stairs" was a good deal less attractive than "below stairs", the upper area not having been redecorated since 1992. The museum's trustees had considered redecorating but decided to opt for paint removal. The exposed brickwork is one of the things that people appreciate about the building and we decided to make more of it.
Specialist contractors were engaged to grit-blast the walls back to bare brick. To minimise the effect on the rest of the museum, a timber hoarding was constructed around the stairs and visitors were directed to the first floor via the rear staircase. Following the blasting work, which was completed in just one day of noise and dust, it was found necessary to re-point the walls, and this was done using traditional hydraulic lime mortar as was most probably used when the building was constructed.
The project has also incuded a new lighting system for the stairs and in keeping with our "green" credentials, this was done using three LED luminaires that combine extremely long life with very low energy consumption and light the staircase might more effectively than the previous lighting. The lights have been re-sited for better maintenance access and they are supplied with electricity using a new wiring installation that has intentionally been designed for a tidy appearance and to leave the outer "heritage" wall free from clutter.
|The work revealed that three square sections of wall near the top of the stairs were in-filled with mortar when, in the 1950s, the opening was cut to provide access to the then-new main staircase. An additional small project was undertaken to replace these patches with matching heritage bricks sourced specially from a reclaimed brick supplier.
The museum has installed a hot drinks vending machine for the first time, offering visitors a choice of tea, coffee, soup, or chocolate, at 70p. It had long been understood that visitors want a hot drink during their visit, especially in the winter, but as there is not enough space in the museum for a cafe, and the economics of a cafe would be rather uncertain, it was decided to install a machine so that hot drinks would always be available. Although mainly intended for daytime visitors, the machine will also be available to guests at private functions and people attending our monthly illustrated evening talks on canal-related topics. The advanced machine is expected to be highly reliable and it includes a sohisticated automatic coin management system that retains coins for change and provides change for any UK coin.
The museum has added a new permanent display panel to interpret the tug Bantam IV. The tug has been explained in a variety of different ways over the years since the museum acquired it in 1994. All of these were intended to be temporary. The most recent of these was removed to make way for the Water and Locks exhibition.
For the first time, this interpretation is outside, in a location chosen to be close to the usual mooring of the tug itself. Careful thought was given to the idea of putting an exhibition panel on an outside wall and a mock-up was made and photographed before the museum's Council of Management were satisfied that the panel would not be deleterious to the historic building. Planning permission had to be obtained, and this was granted in the summer.
Visitors to the museum can now look at the tug and read about it in the same outdoor location, the first time that this has been possible.