- The Pitt Rivers Museum in Oxford. This is a mad collection of artefacts, gathered initially by Lt General Pitt Rivers, a Victorian anthropologist, explorer and archaeologist and then added to by later collectors. It has items as diverse as shrunken human heads from Bolivian tribes, an Inuit's clothes, dinosaur skeletons, a dodo, a coracle and toy trucks made from old Coca Cola cans. Last year it had a massive refurbishment, funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund, and is now accessible, airy and impressive. Every time you go, you will find something different to coo over.
- The Bethnal Green Museum of Childhood. This is part of the Victoria and Albert Museum but is located at the opposite end of London. This is my favourite museum in London, and very close to where we live, so I take C and O at least once every school holiday. It is compact, simple and enchanting. O loves the enormous dolls houses, C loves the Action Men and I love all the Victorian nursery furniture and costumes.
- The National Museum of American History in Washington DC. I spent a few weeks in Washington DC, staying with cousins, when I was seventeen and I went back to this museum almost every day. It was entirely responsible for me deciding to study American History at university a year or two later. The museum is part of the Smithsonian Institution and is situated about halfway up the Mall, in a part of East Coast America just steeped in historical significance. I remember seeing inaugural gowns from various first ladies, the earliest surviving stars and stripes flag, a cotton gin and very early photos of Civil War soldiers. If this is not so handy for you, there is also The American Museum in Britain, in Bath which has an excellent collection of quilts and other American memorabilia.
- The Natural History Museum in Kensington, London. Of the big three Kensington museums (the Science Museum, the V & A and the Natural History Museum), this is my favourite. Ignore the whizz-bang dinosaur exhibition which will be full of screeching children and head for the life size blue whale or the primates on the top floor. Each year it hosts the Wildlife Photographer of the Year competition, which I have always loved. You can now buy prints of the winning photographs; we have two from the 2008 competition up at home.
- The Horniman Museum in Forest Hill, South East London. This is another madly eclectic museum. I discovered it very recently and it still feels a bit like a local secret for the lucky people who live nearby. It has an aquarium, ornamental gardens, Polish paper art, a stuffed walrus (HOW big?), a staggering collection of musical instruments and Chinese embroidery. Amongst other things.
- The National Maritime Museum in Falmouth, Cornwall is better than the one in Greenwich. It is located right on the quay in a modern, purpose built building and is rammed with boats of every size and shape. There are plenty of interactive things to do which will entice even the most London-ish, landlocked person into dreaming of running away to sea.
- The Imperial War Museum - both the main museum in Lambeth in London, and the aviation site at Duxford, just outside Cambridge. The enormous guns outside the main London museum set the tone for a visit - awe inspiring. I always think how courageous someone was, to set up a museum about wars - from warfare to the home front and everything in between. It has particularly an excellent set of displays on WWII; I love walking around the house set up for blackout, and squeezing into the Andersen shelter.
- The Fashion Museum in Bath. I need to go back to this museum I think. I went loads as a teenager, when school trips to Bath were on the curriculum every year. It knocks the socks (ha!) off the costume room at the V & A in London. Gasp at the corsets and laugh at the hats. I find old items of clothing really quite moving; how can you not think about the people who wore these costumes? They bring history vividly alive for me.
- The National Motor Museum at Beaulieu in Hampshire is a very recent discovery. I went for the first time this past week when I was camping in the New Forest. I'm not wild about cars as a rule, but this museum is just so much fun. Shiny old cars that simply ooze glamour. I imagined myself being driven off to a picnic by Lord Peter Wimsey in his shiny red Daimler. I sat in the passenger seat with a chiffon scarf tied fetchingly around my hair, and with a wicker picnic basket on the back seat. This just pipped the London Transport Museum as my best museum about Things That Go. Those of you who have boy children will understand the need for this category.
- The Castell Henllys Iron Age Fort in Pembrokeshire, Wales. A rubbish website but an amazing place. It is a reconstructed Iron Age fort in rural Wales, built on the site of an actual Iron Age settlement. Sit around the central fire in the Chief's hut, grind some flour, try your hand at wattle-and-daubing a wall and marvel at how easy our 21st Century life is.
As this is my 200th post and I have been blogging for just over 2 years, I am going to do a giveaway of some embroidery, fabric and buttons. To win, leave me a comment before Thursday 4th June, telling me about your favourite museum - where ever in the world it might be. I will use a random number generator to draw a winner and announce the winner on 4th June. I look forward to seeing what list you all come up with!