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The Crime Museum Exhibition: Review


Andrew Venning By Andrew Venning

As you enter the Crime Museum at The Museum of London you are met with a 1996 police car, that looks like something from much further afield than the mid 90’s! Then rather strangely you are met with a question on the wall asking…..

“What does it mean to put these objects on public display?

What do they tell us about the people involved?

Where do you draw the line?”

Crime Museum

In my opinion it is an odd question for an exhibition and certainly some of the artefacts are very eerie, but not much more than the artefacts of torture in the London Dungeons. It’s an interesting question to pose but you could ask it about any Art work. Watching a Greek tragedy with incest and murder is scarily closer to reality than just being mythical characters of antiquity, and we wouldn’t ask this question as we enter a Theatre. I believe that the question isn’t needed as it’s a question you could apply to anything. Human beings have a fascination with right and wrong, just and unjust, good and evil. It is a never ending, existential search for a truth of sorts . The lengths and depths that human nature can go and particularly how far into darkness. It is a question that is seeped in Christopher Marlowe’s play ‘Dr Faustus’ It is intensely interesting. 

Why do we watch pays like ‘Titus Andronicus’, ‘Oedipus’, ‘Macbeth’. Yes it is cathartic, but I also believe it is simply deeply interesting to try and grasp and understand the mind’s of people that have the capacity to commit such abhorrent and horrific murders. The ironic thing about this exhibition is that there are also horrific murders carried out by the State itself through it’s use of capital punishment at the time. We are greeted with several noose’s from executions carried out in 1847-96. It is slightly odd and creepy, but also there is a moment when you feel that they are essentially just ropes!

“…some are interesting, but a coat is a coat…”

As you turn the corner there is a long, long line of murders  that have been committed throughout the years running down the side of the room, some are interesting, but a coat is a coat. Worn by a murderer yes, but the coat is not evil, and the interest lies more in the style of the coat from the period rather than the whom the coat was worn by.

Some of the artefacts are incredibly interesting, old and current. Weapons are secluded in mag-lights and mobile phones, there are incredibly old implements used for abortion in the 1800’s. Fake vs Real firearms, Soviet spy equipment, Drugs, IRA bomb making equipment and replica’s of the implements used by the London 7/7 attackers. Very fascinating and horrifying. A sane person asks, what posses one to do something like this? It is the same question you ask after you leave and revenge drama I guess, despite the drastically varying and differing “beliefs” and reasons for committing such crimes.


Altogether very interesting. My one problem when I went on the Saturday afternoon (not the best time I know) was that the Museum of London seem to have got their capacity numbers wrong. For the first 3 rooms I was squashed into the middle of lot’s of people and felt I had to keep moving when I did get near to some of the exhibits. I believe it was sold-out though and they were turning people away at the ticket desk. It’s not a huge exhibition, but nice enough for a couple of hours of an afternoon. Very fascinating & eye opening. I’d certainly recommend it.

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