One of the last things I went to see before leaving London was the Crystal Palace Park- including the Victorian dinosaurs, and the crystal palace museum.
It was really interesting to see- not only is it this massive green space so close to London, but in some ways it almost seemed like a pilgrimage of sorts- to one of the birth places of museums as we know them.
The Crystal Palace was built for the 1851 Great Exhibition in Hyde Park, and played host to tons of exhibitions, including more than 100,000 objects, visited by more than 6 million people. After the exhibition closed, the Crystal Palace was then moved south, to Crystal Palace Park, where it remained a popular exhibition space, and pleasure gardens, until it burned down in 1936. After the move the exhibitions focused more on various cultural pavilions, including the Egyptian Court, and the Pompeian room.
Little remains of the building and gardens now, unfortunately, although there are remnants that give a glimpse into how amazing this building must have been, including the balustrades that outline where the formal Italian inspired gardens were laid out, some statues, including a few of a sphinx, and the small building that now houses the Crystal Palace Museum.
The museum, although consisting largely of reproduction photos and archival material, gives huge insight into the construction and uses of the building and park through its history, and it was really interesting to see them all in one place, including photos of some of the massive light and fireworks shows that were staged, including one on the destruction of pompeii. There were also some smaller artifacts, including melted panes of glass.
Unfortunately, no photographs were allowed inside the museum, which was a bit perplexing, but I do recommend a visit if you’re in or near the park, especially as the museum is free. There are also self guided walking brochures for the park available, so it was nice to have one of those for our stroll through the park after- although a tad confusing at times, as there were numbered signs for what must be a different self guided tour.
Don’t forget to stop by the Victorian dinosaur statues- which also have good interpretive signage of why they look the way they do, and how our understanding of dinosaurs have changed over time.
For more info on the Crystal Palace and exhibition you can take a look here: