Design Museum review
I'll be honest: I didn't much like the old Design Museum when they had it by Butler's Wharf, but at least it had one good thing going for it: a great view of Tower Bridge. But now they've shifted it to South Kensington it hasn't even got that. But I'm determined to keep an open mind today (an empty mind), so let's see what the new one is like.
First impression: the building is definitely better. It's almost like a work of art in itself. (I don't mean the outside -- wait until you see inside the atrium.) It's the objects themselves that let it down... I still recognise the same old stuff they had before. I'm standing in front of those same lame teapots again -- but arranged on a snazzy bit of shelving. They show you some seats, a stool, a load of road signs, a few folding desk lamps, a collection of spoons (teaspoons, dessert spoons, plastic spoons). Not amazingly great spoons, I hasten to add, but normal spoons. Actual spoons. Like the ones you've got in your kitchen drawer at home.
Luckily things improve dramatically when you reach the electronics. One of my big criticisms of the old place was that they didn't show you enough museum pieces -- there was no evolution from the early inventions up to the modern-day. Happily they've fixed that mistake, because now you can re-visit everything you owned when you were a kid: Casio calculators, chunky old Sony Walkmans (my god they are huge -- how did we ever get them into our pocket?), the very first PlayStation, Apple's first iBook... if you remember all of these things the first time around then it's quite amusing to see how big they are.
It's a bit like a mini-version of the Science Museum, I suppose... they've got a BBC Micro (I remember using that at school!), ZX Spectrum (I played on that), Game Boy (had that), ten-tonne clack-clack ribbon typewriters, 3-inch floppy disks, green screen monitors... it's all there. This is easily the best bit of the Design Museum, because it's like taking a trip down memory lane. It's not so much fun when you're just looking at tables and chairs and trainers and teapots, because you don't have any childhood memories associated with those.
I still don't think I'd recommend a visit, though, because unless you want to visit Kensington Palace there's nothing else to see around there (apart from the Linley Sambourne House, I suppose). So take my advice: if you want to learn about the history of design then visit the V&A Museum instead, or the Science Museum, which are both a hundred times better.
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