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Wednesday, 2 October 2013

Art installations and dangerous ice cream at the London Canal Museum

Happy October everyone! It’s a new month, and that means it’s a new edition for our #hipstermuseum series. This is particularly appropriate as the museum we have picked is holding a pop-up art exhibition for all of October, and really what is more hipster than that? So with no more ado allow us to introduce you to the London Canal Museum.

Trendy Kings Cross location
The first thing to say about this #hipstermuseum is that is says its a museum about canals, but really it appears to be mainly about ice cream. The museum is set in a building which once served as one of the many warehouses for Carlo Gatti, a Victorian baron of ice imports. Yes back in the day before ice makers in your fridge, ice had to be imported from Norway and stores in underground cellars so that rich people could have their ice creams in the summertime. The ice trade was also called the ‘death trade’ because of the number of people that died trying to bring enormous chunks of ice from Norway to London on the winters seas. The Canal Museum focuses on this history in a big way and features ice-cream themed displays and objects. We particularly enjoyed the story of the ‘penny licks’- small glass containers which the Victorians used to sell small amounts of ice cream to London’s poor for just a penny. The only thing was that they never cleaned them and ice-cream is a pretty good carrier for bacteria. Oh you dirty Victorians.

Measuring up the ice blocks
So once you get your fill of ice cream downstairs, you can head upstairs for some displays which are actually about the canals. The museum is incredibly small but features all of the things you remember from going to museum-trips in school: canal boat models, old-timey videos of the canal, and even a model canal horse. Personally I quite enjoyed the ‘how locks work’ interactive, which is probably the only ‘interactive’ thing in the entire museum. You know what thought? I liked it. This is the kind of old fashioned museum that reminds me of being a kid. Also, there is something incredibly hypnotizing about those historic canal videos.

But I did promise you a hipster art installation and the London Canal Museum does not disappoint. Until the 20th of October, you can go to visit ‘Superposition’ an artistic collaboration between the museum and the Physics Society. Done a hard-hat and climb down to ladders into the museum’s Victorian ice well where you will discover a brightly lit glass installation inspired by neutrino experiments. There is something really striking about the damp old ice wells and the electric coloured glass which brings to mind something high-tech and alien being dropped into the completely wrong time period. Your trip down the well even comes with a physicist guide who explains more about the inspirations for the art work and how it brings together modern scientific theory with nods to the history of science. 

The London Canal Museum is undeniably the place all museum hipsters need to be this October- snap some Instagram shots in the ice well, some selfies in the life-size canal boat, and ponder modern video culture while watching a canal boat travel through London in the early twentieth century accompanied by classical music. You’d better get down to the canal museum before it gets way too mainstream. 

Superpostion at the Canal Museum runs Thursdays, Saturdays and Sundays until the 20th of October, booking in advance recommended:

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