On our research day Alex, Michael and I decided to do a quick stop in the Cartoon Museum of London, a little hideout regarding cartoons, comic strips and British comics. This small gallery is not very well-known to the public. It forms part of the London Museum Mile, and it is literally just around the corner from the British Museum. The tour around it barely takes 40 minutes, and there is a small entrance fee.
I must admit that the little historian and comic enthusiast inside me died a little to see the state of the gallery. The museum has two floors. The direction of the exhibition was not extremely clear so we kind of guessed, and hoped for the best. this was also the moment in which we got to know that, like many other small museums and galleries the Cartoon museum does not receive a great deal of funding, so they work with the few resources available to them and rely heavily on volunteers. I think this explains why there was such a reduced audience in the venue (5 counting us 3) and why the information is very crudely presented.
The bottom floor has two main rooms. The central room was destined to the temporary exhibition the were hosting at the time which was about Spitting Image. I must admit though, that the material gathered for this purpose was actually quite interesting and enjoyable. There were thousands of sketches, as well as a couple of the actual puppets used for the show, and some other photographs and promotional posters. Furthermore, there was a projector screen in the middle of the room with a dedicated sitting area where they were projecting some episodes from the show, so the visitors could have a little stop and have the chance to see the sketches turned into something real; moving pictures.
The other room serves as the introduction for the main collection concerning comic and cartoons. This room provides with an insight to the origin of cartoon and “funnies”, their creation and purpose from the 18th century to the 19th and early 20th centuries. The information is presented in the shape of framed pictures and long explanatory text-panels. Then the exhibition moves upstairs. The same format is used to introduce some of the British classics up to the 1970s and 80s. Frames of Beano, and other contemporary comics decorate the room, without much further explanation. However, to their credit, the museum has a classroom for children in the upstairs section for educational purposes, as well as a sitting area with a table full of volumes of cartoon and comic strips for anyone to read. There is also a very interesting panel about Deniz the Menace, explaining his evolution as a character and the inputs of the different authors and cartoonists into his design. Finally it must be noted that the Cartoon Museum has a little but interesting gift shop.
All in all, it is perhaps a bit upsetting that the museum is not able to bring forward the information it contains in a more attractive or interactive way. it is evident that they have plenty of materials, but the display and resources let them down. One can hope that perhaps in the future there will be improvements in how these kind of galleries and exhibitions are treated not only by bigger organisations but also by the public. As consumers and visitors there are things we can do to improve the conditions these little heritage
For further information visit: http://www.cartoonmuseum.org/