Cartoon Museum

June 24, 2008 at 9:08 pm | Posted in Comics, General, London, museum, Out and About, Tourism, Travel, UK | Leave a comment
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On Sunday I walked down to London’s grandest tribute to Empire – the British Museum and kept on walking down a side street near a very subdued Pizza Express to that other museum, the Cartoon Museum. To clarify this museum is about printed cartoons and their history in Britain not animated cartoons. That was a bit of a shame as my misspent youth (and adulthood) was spent watching cartoons not flicking through comic books. 

I went to the museum mainly because it was relatively close and cheap (£4 adult entry). I’m sure I would have gone eventually but impending poverty certainly bumped it up. Going in I thought I would be over my head with lots of caricatures and themes I wouldn’t understand. I was pleasantly surprised.

The museum is relatively small but spread out over two levels including a small special exhibition space. Most of the cartoons on display include a description explaining the content and it’s place within cartoon history and development. More than anything these helped ease me into the space.

The ground floor covered the early 18th century history up until the World Wars. As relative newcomer to Britain I found the political satire and commentary fascinating as it captured the mood thus helping to bridge a cultural divide between my estranged brethren and me.

The exhibit space on this floor was dedicated to the cartoonist Pont and his work during the 1930s. Notably his British Character series, which still resonates and can be enjoyed today.

The second floor has modern British cartoons from 2000AD to V for Vendetta and highlighted the growing maturity of content from discussing issues such as rape, bodily functions galore and political oppression to the whimsical calamities of Dennis the Menace (I’d only ever known the American incarnation) and a growth of Japanese manga inspired works. This floor also has a ‘children’s section’ to draw your own cartoons. I’m sure there are a few adults out there who’ll use this space as well!

The second floor does suffer in that it appears to get most of its lighting from large skylights. Luckily it was quite sunny when I was there but occasionally a large cloud would significantly dim the interior. Hopefully during duller days they can compensate.

Overall, I found the museum interesting and a worthwhile insight into the development of British culture as a whole not just a fragmented geek cartoon niche. Although I wouldn’t be surprised if those geekier than me got even more out of this museum and the artwork.

It’s cheap, it’s engaging and it’s near plenty of other tourist spots in London so give the Cartoon Museum a try. There are also several comic book stores in the area, like the excellent Gosh!, if you feel inspired to buy some modern (or vintage) content. Otherwise you could always follow the Cartoonists’ Club of Great Britain sighsteeing suggestions.

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