Florence Nightingale Museum
2 Lambeth Palace Road, London, United Kingdom
www.florence-nightingale.co.uk - 020 7620 0374
Florence Nightingale Museum London Reviews
Disappointing museum that should have been so much better Jul 31, 2010
Oh dear, I had so hoped to be able to write a positive review of this Museum. But no.
It deals with the life, times and abiding influence of Florence Nightingale, who found fame as 'The Lady with the Lamp' whilst organising the care of sick and wounded British soldiers at Scutari during the Crimean War, and who went on to found modern nursing practice and so become one of the most celebrated women of the Victorian era. The Museum contains items that belonged to her, are connected with her, or serve to illustrate the practice of nursing as it was then and as it developed under her influence; this should have made a fascinating display. However ...
There appears to be no arrangement. The Musuem is more or less one open-plan area containing many island cabinets, with a lot of fake hedge (more of this anon) and an excessive number of fairly random photographs around the walls. There is no direction or suggested tour, and the cabinets do not appear to be in any order, so it is impossible to gain any sense of intellectual coherence, whether thematic, chronological, geographical or social. Indeed, so absent is any sense of time or place that at one point when I was looking for the exit I found myself wandering around in circles passing the same cabinets twice, as if benighted in a haunted wood.
The Museum is cast in that Stygian gloom so beloved of museum curators, and the items are badly lit; worse still is the placing and lighting of the labels. It seems elementary, at least to me, that interesting objects, and information relating thereto, should be as accessible as possible and displayed to their best advantage, and it is a source of continuing wonderment that in so many museums the approach adopted is the exact opposite. Objects need to be seen, and information displays read, *from all angles*, and not just when your head is in a particular uncomfortable position.
Furthermore, the audio guide (included in the price of admission) is more or less useless. It is a gimmick - a stethoscope. You put it in your ears, and then press the other end it against various dinky illuminated speakers around the museum, whereupon you hear chat. There are many problems with this: (a) the earpieces, which stick right down your ear, are (i) uncomfortable, and (ii) unhygienic; (b) it is not a guide at all, since you are not guided round the exhibits - all you hear is information given out when you happen to plonk your stethoscope on a random dinky loudspeaker; (c) there is no volume control; but worst of all is (d) only one person can hear at a time. I went round with a couple of friends, and we had to queue up to listen to a particular item; as you can probably guess, we soon gave up the whole silly business and jettisoned our stethoscopes.
There are also the fake hedges. These seem to have no purpose except to allow little lenses to be placed in them at about waist level. You then bend double to peer through a lens and see stuff, although I couldn't maintain such an uncomfortable position for long enough to find out what. God knows why they couldn't just display these items properly.
Perhaps the silliest item was a large drawer which opened to reveal an interactive exhibit that was supposed to bring home to you how holding a door handle can transfer germs onto your hands. First you grasped a handle that was covered in white gunge, so you had white gunge on your hands. Then you put your hands under a special light so that the white gunge glowed even whiter. Then you were directed to wash your hands in a little hand washing unit that didn't work. Then you were advised that the white gunge did not contain real germs. Then (in an ad-hoc self-generated addition to the instructions) you had to find the loos to wash the gunge off. What this was intended to show, apart from the obvious fact that if you grasp a handle smothered in white gunge then you get white gunge all over your hands, is quite beyond me.
I'm trying desperately to think of something good to say about this museum, but can't. The loos are ok. I should add that my two friends were of the same opinion, and indeed gave up before I did, waiting for me outside whilst I soldiered on hoping in vain to find something worthwhile. Clearly a lot of time and effort has been expended here, and it is a great pity that the results are so poor.
The cost of admission is £5.80 (£4.80 children and concessions). A family ticket is £16. I would have categorised this as a reasonable charge for a good museum, but it is expensive for a poor one.
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