Fatbergs, conservation labs, and the Olympic torch – our voyage of discovery at The Museum of London

 Fatberg! team selfie with our wonderful host Andy Holbrook.

Fatberg! team selfie with our wonderful host Andy Holbrook.

You voted, we listened ! On a drizzly Saturday afternoon we head off for our first official Timepeace event: a visit to the Museum of London. Steeped in the history of our capital city, from prehistoric times to present day, it was a first for both locals and refugees, and a chance to discover a side of our city we don’t usually get to see.

The wonderful Andy Holbrook, conservator of the Fatberg! exhibit, was our guide for the day, providing us with insider knowledge on Whitechapel’s most disgusting yet fascinating sewage blockage.

Displaying part of a fatberg has been on the Museum of London's wish list for a few years and when we heard about the Whitechapel fatberg - the biggest one ever found in the UK- we knew we had to secure a sample.

 Did you know that the Whitechapel Fatberg was a 250 metre long, 130 tonne congealed mass of fat, sewage and waste that blocked the sewers of East London in Autumn 2017!

Did you know that the Whitechapel Fatberg was a 250 metre long, 130 tonne congealed mass of fat, sewage and waste that blocked the sewers of East London in Autumn 2017!

What I love about the fatberg is professionally  we’ve been able to take something so potentially hazardous and weird and make it into the most successful media story the museum has ever had. It has been amazing to be part of the team that figured out how to do it. I’ve also enjoyed thinking and talking about the object itself. It is a potent reminder of the pressures on the city and the issues that can accumulate just under our feet every day. And is a bit disgusting. It works on a serious and a humorous level."

What’s more, we couldn’t believe our luck, as we picked up our VIP badges and snuck behind the scenes to the labs. Andy shared with us the different ways of conserving artefacts, and it was incredible to see the pieces up close – from a 500 year old shoe, to a helmet from World War II.

"It was also great to show the group behind the scenes and talk about conservation and the hidden work of the museum ‘pixies’. The large museums in London are generally free and offer great spaces to discuss ideas, politics, culture, different points of views. As we showed with Fatberg, objects can serve as powerful discussion points and can act as common ground for different groups. I think both the usual visitor experience and behind the scenes trips could be really good focal points for TimePeace visits (particularly for those Londoners that never go to museums ;) ).

 Andy explains the preservation process of this ornate 18th century wooden sign.

Andy explains the preservation process of this ornate 18th century wooden sign.

It was fantastic to be able to offer my services to TimePeace and great to meet the group. It is such a thoughtful and dignified idea and I would encourage people to get involved. I certainly hope that we can help to organise some further museum visits, and I’d love to see everyone again.”

Finishing our tour at the exhibit showcasing the 2012 Olympic torch, it is fair to say we were all in awe of the beauty and size. History, both ancient and modern, is something we can all share and relate to; we can’t wait to carry on the conversation, exploring London’s museums and galleries through further events in weeks to come.

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