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The Museum of London highlights the history of the town from prehistoric times through its founding as a Roman fort and into modern times. Two respected British museums, the London Museum and the Guildhall Museum, combined to form the Museum of London's initial collection after World War II, but the new museum's home did not officially open until 1976. The institution consists of the Museum of London, which focuses primarily on social history, and the Museum of London Docklands, which focuses on the city's history as a commercial port. Archaeology services are offered by the institution as a separate department.
Architects designing the new museum chose to plan the building so that patrons follow a single route through the museum that follows the historical timeline of the city. Visitors progress through displays, dioramas, models and images that tell the story of the area. There are interactive presentations for both children and adults. For those who want to take a closer look at a representative cell occupied by imprisoned debtors before learning more about the invention of the mini-skirt, the Museum of London offers the opportunity to make one stop that fills both desires.
In a separate location, the Museum of London Docklands chronicles the city's importance as a port. The exhibits begin with the arrival of the Romans around 61 CE. With access though the Thames River, the Romans viewed the area as the natural site to disembark troops and unload supply ships. In the centuries that followed, London became one of the world's most important ports. Researchers can find a wealth of information in the study centers at the Docklands.
Museum of London Archaeology conducts excavations and examinations for private and public groups. Archaeologists from this department have worked throughout the British Isles and in numerous foreign countries. Many of the department's artifacts reside in the archives of the Museum of London.
Both museums are open seven days each week from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Employees, however, being closing the galleries 20 minutes prior to the museum's closing. Neither museum is open from December 24 through December 26. Although a few special shows or exhibits require payment, there is normally no charge for admission. For events requiring a fee, tickets may be purchased at the box office 45 minutes prior to the museum's opening. The Museum of London is housed a short distance from St. Paul's Cathedral, and Docklands is on an islet that is accessed via the Canary Wharf Pier.