Birdsong trills from hidden speakers, welcoming visitors to the museum dedicated to the world’s most famous nurse who shares a name with a songbird. You almost forget that the museum is on a main road by Westminster Bridge. Almost, that is, but the slickness of the set up really does scream THIS IS A SLICK LONDON MUSEUM. Everything about the museum has been carefully thought through; the displays are a slick mix of artefacts, pictures and multimedia and all the sections tell a different part of the story of the Lady of the Lamp, proudly proclaimed as the second most influential woman of the Victorian Era (after Queen Vic herself, naturally).
Working our way through the museum, we learn a lot about Florence; she’s related to the Bonham-Carters, she has very neat handwriting, and she had a pet owl (called Athena, found on the Acropolis). There is a taxidermy owl on display but it’s unclear whether this is Athena or just there so we know what an owl is…
This uncertainty continues in the next section, this time devoted to Nurse Nightingale’s time in the Crimea. The centrepiece is a Fanoos, or a Turkish Lamp. This lamp is one that could have been used by the famous Lamp Lady, but unfortunately the labelling cannot be certain. Nevertheless, the object still packs a punch.
What the labelling is certain on, is that Florence Nightingale “hated the ‘fuzz buzz’ of celebrity” but she knew how to harness this power, even though she feared it may obscure the work of others.
This brings us nicely to something I overheard: “We still haven’t seen any Mary Seacole stuff, have we?” a mother asked her child.
At this point, I hadn’t either; and started hunting for a part of the display mentioning the work of the Victorian era’s other Great Nurse (or Doctoress as she preferred). As nurse Nightingale feared; her fame had obscured the work of others. Seacole is represented, but in a quiet corner of the museum where not many visitors would think to look. A shame really.
2 Lambeth Palace Road London SE1 7EW
Daily 10.00 – 17.00
(closed Good Friday, Christmas Day and Boxing Day)
Family £16.00 (two adults and up to five children)