London is home to some of the oldest, renowned and most-visited museums in the world. However, beyond those, there are hidden treasures in the often-overlooked smaller establishments, from the home of Sir John Soane, famed architect of the Bank of England, who collected objects worthy of the British Museum, including the alabaster sarcophagus of Seti I, to Leighton House in Holland Park, another former home, of artist Frederic, Lord Leighton that is a virtual treasure box Orientalist and aesthetic interiors.
May is a great month to explore art, history and heritage in these lesser known museums after dark, as more than thirty venues in London open their doors from May 17–20 for the biannual Museums at Night festival (which also occurs in October). Both free and ticketed events are on offer, with highlights including a talk and demonstration at the Museum of Brands in Notting Hill, discussing customer and consumer behavior, and live music and drinks at ‘Dickens After Dark’ at the Charles Dickens Museum. For more information and tickets, check the London & Partners website.
A knowledgeable guide is indispensable in the pursuit of overlooked museums. We recently enjoyed a tour of the Sir John Soane Museum with Alice Procter, a private guide who also does regular podcasts about art in London as The Exhibitionist (on iTunes). Her other favorite smaller museums are former homes of London’s well known artists and authors: Keats' House, home of poet John Keats, 18 Stafford Terrace, the home of Punch cartoonist Edward Linley Sambourne, and Hogarth's House, former home of painter and satirist William Hogarth in the 1700s all offer glimpses of fascinating lives. Added bonus: these museums tend to be located in more residential areas, offering terrific excuses to explore real neighborhoods of London.
Costs and availability for private tours with Alice Proctor vary. Travel Advisors should contact her at via email at [email protected].