police museums

London: The (New) City of London Police Museum

dsc09918_stitchLongtime readers may have a vague recollection of my post on the old City of London Police Museum, written way back in April 2014.  Well, sometime in late 2016 (or maybe mid-2016, because I did hear about it a while ago, and kept saying I ought to check it out, but it’s taken me until now to actually get ’round to it), they closed the old museum, which was located inside a working police station, and re-opened in a gallery next to Guildhall Library.  Interestingly, I think this is the same gallery that the Clockmakers’ Museum (which I blogged about in January 2014) was formerly located in, as it appears that the Clockmakers’ Museum has since been relocated to the 2nd Floor of the Science Museum (meaning both those posts are now outdated, but I suppose that’s one of the hazards of long-term blogging).

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Assuming the new City of London Police Museum is where the Clockmakers’ Museum was (I’m like 80% sure that it is, simply because I know that was also in Guildhall Library, and they can’t have that many museum spaces attached to the library, I don’t think), they have really completely transformed the space – in my opinion, not for the better.  I remember the Clockmakers’ Museum being one large, rather elegant room, with wooden floors and beautifully presented clocks in glass cases all around the space (because you weren’t allowed to take pictures in here back then, I have no photographic evidence, but that’s the impression it made on me, anyway).  In contrast, the Police Museum is downright claustrophobic-feeling in parts, because they separated what was one big room into a number of tiny rooms, and in spots where there were other visitors standing, we literally couldn’t move around each other without bumping into things. Plus the floors are black, and the ceilings are black, and most of the signs are black; taken all together, it gives the room an oppressive atmosphere.

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But I suppose I shouldn’t waste too much time comparing it to another museum entirely, when the more pertinent question is: how does it compare to the old City Police Museum?  Well, admission is still free, fortunately, and the objects have actual labels now, which is nice, but almost everything else compared negatively with my experience of the former Police Museum.  (If you actually clicked the link at the start of the post and read my old post, this might seem a bit repetitious, but bear with me.)

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The old museum was also small, but it was absolutely crammed full of stuff (which is probably why they didn’t have room for labels), and I was expertly guided around it by the delightful Bob, who was a retired police officer (OK, the tour did end up taking three times as long as I was anticipating, but it was so interesting that I stuck with it).  Because Bob had actually been on duty during various London calamities – most memorably, the Moorgate Tube Disaster – he was able to go above and beyond what any sign could convey, with actual anecdotes and his own theories about what could have caused the Tube Disaster.  Obviously, you can’t put hearsay on a sign (well, I mean, you can, but not if you want to be considered a reputable museum), so although the new museum probably did a better job of sticking to the facts, it was quite bland and dull by comparison. It also contained the merest fraction of objects that the old museum did (I assume they wanted to move at least partly to free up space in the Wood Street Police Station, but they must still have to store all the old stuff somewhere) – although they kept many of the highlights, such as the Olympic gold medal won by the City Police team at tug-of-war, the helmet of an officer caught in an IRA blast (helmet absolutely destroyed, but it saved the officer’s life), and one of the early police hats (a reinforced top hat that officers could stand on to peer over fences and such), the old museum had loads of police ephemera, like an entire wall of Jack the Ripper newspaper clippings, that apparently didn’t make the cut.

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The old museum kind of had objects from different historical periods all stuck together, but the new museum is divided up into a series of chronological rooms, from the early days of the night watch, up until the modern policing era.  Which is fine, but there’s an awful lot of text relative to the amount of artefacts.  One new feature, that I’d read about before visiting, was a re-creation of Catherine Eddowes’ (one of Jack the Ripper’s victims) last night alive, which she spent at a City police station (she was arrested for drunkenness and brought to a cell to sober up.  Shortly after being released at 1 in the morning, she was killed by the Ripper, presumably an easy target on account of her intoxication, so the police afterwards took some flak for releasing her in the middle of the night).  For some reason, I was picturing this as an actual cell you could walk through, with perhaps a projection of Catherine on the wall telling her story.  Instead, it was a set of goggles mounted on a wall that you looked through to see a video of a woman dressed in Victorian clothing pacing around a cell.  This was certainly less than thrilling, especially as I had been hoping for authentic smells.

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The only other real “interactive” feature (other than trying on police hats, which is always a joy) was a test you could take to see if you were a super recogniser, but it seemed to be having trouble connecting to the internet, and wouldn’t load (I have taken super recogniser tests before online, so I guess this wouldn’t have told me anything new, but it still would have been fun to do, had it worked). The rest of the museum only highlighted a few notable police cases; other than Jack the Ripper, there were also the Houndsditch Murders, which I won’t discuss in detail here because it’s in the old post, and the aforementioned Tube Disaster; and very briefly touched on things like the suffragettes (it was kind of bizarre, frankly, because they just had a sign saying that some people consider suffragettes heroes today, but they used to be considered terrorists. The museum provided no real context or detailed description of the suffragette movement) and the IRA bombings. It also contained a wall of old uniforms (I quite liked the women’s uniform from the ’70s, which included a polka dot blouse and a stylish wool coat, though I can’t imagine that was the ideal kind of outfit to be fighting crime in) and “weapons” (including a wooden hair pick and a nasty-looking homemade metal stabby thing. I would have loved to know more about the stories behind those, but alas, that information wasn’t here). The most interesting thing was probably the statistics on the sides of the walls leading into each new section, which showed how many people lived and worked in the City during the given time period (the population of the City (aka the Square Mile) has dropped dramatically from the time of Victorian slums, and only about eight thousand people actually live there today), as well as how many crimes of each type were committed (in addition to murders and robberies and such, it also included things like animal cruelty).

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So although I should have been glad that the museum had the opportunity to move into a new, slightly larger space, it unfortunately left almost all its character in the old museum.  Compared to Bob’s stories about sifting through piles of animal bones on the banks of the Thames to try to find the remains of a murder victim, collecting meat orders at the end of the a shift from the Police Box near Smithfields, et al, the new museum is sadly watered-down and banal.  I think the problem isn’t even the vast decrease in objects on display, so much as the lack of personality, which was something that abounded in the old museum, thanks to Bob and presumably the other guides as well. Leaving the old museum aside for a second, I also have to think how this museum compares to the many, many police museums I’ve seen around the world, and again, it performs unfavourably.  Considering that most police museums are housed in large, freestanding buildings (usually former jails or police headquarters), and contain excellent grisly displays (which are most definitely not present here. They even managed to talk about Jack the Ripper without actually describing what he did to his victims.  C’mon now), I find the lack of space and attention given to a police museum in London, one of the most famous and otherwise museum-rich cities in the world, rather appalling, and I really hope this situation can someday be remedied, because this new museum is certainly not the answer (granted, the City Police are only responsible for policing the Square Mile, so I can kind of understand why their museum isn’t huge, but I don’t think the Metropolitan Police even have a museum, other than the Black Museum that the public isn’t allowed in, so this is really all London has to offer, police museum-wise).  A real disappointment. 1.5/5.

 

 

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London: The Crime Museum Uncovered @ the Museum of London

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A lot of places I’ve always wanted to visit seem to be popping up on here of late (I really must update that page one of these days), and the Black Museum is no exception.  I’ve wanted to see the Black Museum FOREVER, but unless I decided to become a London police officer, it seemed like that was never going to happen, seeing as how the Crime Museum (as the Black Museum is more properly known) has been closed to the general public for the entire 140 years of its existence.  Fortunately, they recently decided to do a collaboration with the Museum of London, called The Crime Museum Uncovered, wherein some of their less-sensitive objects (basically, stuff more than 40 years old) would go on display, open to everyone willing to part with the eye-watering £15 entry fee.

Well, ridiculous entry fee or not (and seriously, why are museums not offering me free tickets by now?  I really need to get my name out there), there was no way I could let this one slip by unvisited, thus, I headed out there with my boyfriend so we could at least take advantage of the National Rail 2-for-1 offer (and I strongly suggest you do the same.  Strangely, I can’t find it listed on their website, but you can pick up a booklet from any train station in London, and just fill out the voucher on your way there).  We managed to go on a weekday, hoping we could at least avoid some of the crowds that way.  How silly we were.

Though we didn’t have to queue to buy tickets, and we were allowed immediate entry, once we got downstairs to the exhibition, I could see it was virtual chaos.  The first three rooms of the exhibition were not very big, and people were positively packed into them.  Although they might limit the number of people allowed entry at any given time, clearly they don’t limit them enough.  And this was early afternoon on a weekday, so I can’t even imagine how hellish it gets at the weekend!

Anyway, my aversion to crowds aside, I was still super excited to see the exhibition.  Because of the nature of the artefacts on show, no pictures were allowed, except at the entrance, so you’ll have to use your imagination.  They did have a very nice free guide available, meant to look like a Victorian newspaper (though not completely accurately, as the front page of every 19th century newspaper I’ve seen was entirely devoted to advertisements), which was good as the captions in the first couple of exhibition rooms were extremely limited, and hard to read in the press of people regardless.

The actual first room simply contained a timeline of the Crime Museum’s history, but the next two rooms had a jumble of objects from the early days of the Crime Museum, including death masks, courtroom illustrations, and the ropes used to hang various criminals (which I was somewhat surprised by, as I’d read many hangmen used to sell the ropes as souvenirs to make a little extra money (or quite a lot of extra money, depending on the criminal), but perhaps there wasn’t as much of a market for ones from less notorious murderers, or else there were some scrupulous hangmen out there).  I was probably most excited to see Franz Muller’s death mask, having read Kate Colquhoun’s book on the first train murder, but my voracious reading of historical true crime books paid off through the whole exhibition, as I’d heard of many of the criminals mentioned here (not sure if that’s really something to brag about, but whatever).  I also enjoyed the Victorian mugshots, and some of the courtroom illustrations.  One of the criminals in the illustrations was rather handsome, so I was relieved he was only a forger, and not, you know, a wife murderer or something.

The main gallery was devoted to some of the most notorious murderers of the first century of the Crime Museum’s existence; it was essentially an illustrated guide to Gordon Honeycombe’s informative book Murders of the Black Museum, which I own and have consulted numerous times, so I was again familiar with almost all the featured criminals. However, this was the most crowded space yet, and would prove the source of my greatest annoyance.

Upon entering, there was a neat display case holding an executioner’s kit right in front of us (apparently ropes could be used a couple of times, which means that not all the hangmen were selling them off, as I speculated above. ETA: I just saw the excellent play Hangmen, which shed a further (humorous) light on the practices of mid-20th century  British executioners), but it took five minutes alone just to get a look at that, because there was a queue of people snaking through the entirety of the gallery, and it was not moving.  I could already spy the Crippen display, and I was stoked to see it, but there was no way I could get close through the masses of people (I was doing my usual impatient/annoying museum trick of forgoing the queue to stand right behind people in front of whatever I wanted to see, and darting in as soon as they moved, but even that wasn’t working, because these people literally would not move.  Just read it and move on!).  So I was forced to give the most interesting things the merest glance, and move on to the less-crowded cases, which obviously weren’t as cool.  I did dart back at the end to re-visit some of the displays, and found it not as busy, but I still couldn’t get right up to anything because people were constantly in the way.  I know I probably need to work on my impatience and hatred of crowds, but if I spend that kind of money to see something, I do expect to at least be able to look at the things I’m paying to see.  They REALLY REALLY need to limit the amount of people they let in for each time slot.

But yeah, the stuff that was here was clearly awesome, from Cora’s alleged hairs found in Crippen‘s basement, the flypaper arsenic samples used to convict Frederick Seddon, and the trunk John Robinson shoved Minnie Bonati’s dismembered corpse into, to the gallstones that were almost all that remained of the corpses in John Haigh’s acid tub. If I could actually get a good look at this stuff, I would have been over the moon.  As it stood, all that was really visible was the description of each person’s crime, which was almost identical to what was written in Honeycombe’s book, when really what I wanted to peek at were the artefacts themselves, which only had small labels that were difficult to read from a distance.  There was some other stuff in this gallery as well, like items used in forgeries or terrorist attacks in London (mostly IRA), but not too many people were looking at those, because they weren’t as grisly.  However, I was grateful that the case of autopsy tools had no one in front of it, because I got a good look at Sir Bernard Spilsbury’s evisceration knife, which was awesome (just to clarify, he was a pathologist rather than a murderer.  It was only corpses he was eviscerating!). The last room just contained a film that I didn’t take the time to watch, so annoyed was I by the crowds, and led into a small gift shop that contained a number of intriguing-looking crime related books, even a few I hadn’t read yet!

So, obviously the objects on display were all things I really wanted to see, but the experience was almost entirely spoilt by the number of people inside the damn exhibition.  I feel like the set-up could have been better, because all the murderers were packed along one wall, with the other glass cases on the other one.  If they’d alternated the murderers with the not-so-interesting cases of non-homicidal crime related stuff, I think people would have moved along a bit faster.  Or if they’d simply had more gallery space to devote to it.  I’m so glad I finally got to see some of the stuff from the Black Museum, but this was far from the ideal space to view it in.  The Museum of London really needs to step up their game, especially at the prices they charge for special exhibitions.  Still, if you’re as obsessed interested in true crime as I am, especially London-based historical crimes, you really do need to see this, just maybe try to get there right when the museum opens to beat the crowds a bit.  It runs until the 10th of April, 2016, so you’ve got plenty of time to get there.  4.5/5 for content, 2/5 for organisation and crowd control (or lack thereof), so about a 3.25/5 overall.

 

 

Open House London Weekend 2015

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I swear to you, one of these years Open House London weekend will not be a bust.  I will book everything that requires booking well in advance, and get to everything else super early before queues form (well, that’s not likely, since I’ll never be an early riser), and carefully plot out the whole weekend so I can see as many things as possible.  And I’ll post about it right after it happens, instead of a month later. However, this is not that year.  In typical Open London fashion, everything went a bit awry.  Unlike last year, when I only managed to book Pope’s Grotto because I was supposed to be a steward at the Geffrye Museum, until being informed at the very last minute that my services would not be required, I didn’t book anything this year because I knew my boyfriend and I would be going to America at some point around the end of September, and I wasn’t sure we’d be around for Open House Weekend.  As it turned out, we didn’t leave until the week after, which meant I was free to attend but had nothing lined up (and all the really good stuff requires pre-booking).  And we had to prepare for our upcoming trip, so we really only had one day to venture around, which ended up being more like half a day after running a few errands and detouring to Maltby Street for overpriced doughnuts.  Bearing all that in mind, it shouldn’t come as a huge surprise that I thus only managed to visit two places: the Brunel Museum, and the Thames River Police Museum in Wapping.

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The Brunel Museum was perhaps not the wisest choice, as the whole point of Open House is to visit things that aren’t normally open to the public, and the Brunel Museum is, but in my defence, the Grand Entrance Hall is only open at lunchtime normally, and there is usually a small admission fee, so at least it was free and we could show up at any old time and still get to see the former hall.  (Plus most of the other stuff that is part of Open London is architecture based, which is not my bag at all, so cut me some slack.)

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The Brunel Museum is pretty tiny, but it does satisfactorily give biographical information on both Isambard Kingdom, and his father Marc, who was the one commissioned to build the Thames Tunnel in the first place (a 19 year old Isambard acted as supervisor).  It also tells the story of how the Thames Tunnel came to be (there needed to be another way of crossing the Thames, other than London Bridge, but instead of building over the river, hell, why not tunnel under it? Such was the brilliance of Marc Brunel, and really, he laid the groundwork for the London Underground and pretty much every subway system that was to follow), and what it was ultimately used for (it wasn’t practical to build a means of getting horses or carts down there, so it was primarily a pedestrian walkway, until it was converted into a tunnel for trains, which it still is today).

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The best part was of course the souvenirs that you used to be able to buy down the tunnel.  You see, there was an ancient (well, medieval) rule in London that stated pedestrians could only be charged a penny to cross a toll bridge, which may have been fine in 1200-something, but was not so great in the 19th century, especially after the Brunels and their investors plowed the equivalent of millions of pounds into building it.  So they had to think of ways to raise more money, and one of those ways was by selling souvenirs featuring the tunnel in all its glory (they also had fairs down there, and a whole shopping arcade.  It seriously looked unbelievably awesome back in the day).  Fortunately, the Brunel Museum has carried on that tradition, and although the modern souvenirs were not as kick-ass (I was not able to get a stereoscopic card of the tunnel, or a piece of Staffordshire pottery), I did still manage to spend all the admission fee I saved by visiting on Open Weekend on some postcards and a bookmark, because who doesn’t want a bookmark showing both Brunels and a view of the tunnel?!

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And then we went inside the tunnel, or the sad portion that is left, which is not ideal for claustrophobics or acrophobics, both of which I am to some degree, but not so severely that I couldn’t manage.  You have to crawl through an unpleasant half-doorway (though I hear they are in the process of building a full-size one) and then climb down some shaky scaffolding to get inside.  I should definitely not have been wearing flats with nothing grippy on the bottom, but I survived.  Unlike some of the workmen constructing the tunnel when it suddenly flooded.  The man who did survive was young Isambard himself, who had his legs crushed by falling beams, got knocked unconscious, yet still managed to float up to the top as the water rose, where he was pulled to safety and resumed supervising the construction a day later from a mattress on a boat in the Thames, since he couldn’t use his legs for some time afterwards.   We heard this story, and several others, whilst we were inside the former entrance hall (which is just a black pit, with none of its former grandeur, more’s the pity), all of which were discussed inside the museum as well, with varying degrees of detail.

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I’ve been fascinated by the Thames Tunnel for a while, so it was neat to get to see the one remaining piece people are actually allowed inside, but it did make me sad about all the bits of Victorian London that have been lost (although some of them, like workhouses and prisons, are probably gone for the best).  Well, it’s not really the only remaining piece, because the tunnels are still in use, as I said earlier, and you can see them if you take the Overground to Wapping (you just can’t really get a look at them whilst you’re passing through them).  There’s a plaque about the tunnel in Rotherhithe station, and then when you get to Wapping, you can see the old tunnels from the end of the platform, just, you know, mind the tracks.  This was convenient, as the River Police Museum was in Wapping, right (actually left) down the street from the station.

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Visiting the Thames River Police Museum was more in keeping with the spirit of Open London, in that this is the only time of the year it’s open, being housed in a working police station.  You wouldn’t be able to spot it from the road; fortunately, there were big Open Weekend banners hanging up all over the place, and the man at the gate was only too eager to welcome us inside.  Although the room it’s housed in is not that big, there was actually more content than I was expecting, as it’s packed pretty full.  However, there were not very many detailed captions, so it didn’t take that long to see it all.

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I managed to strike up a conversation with the curator (or maybe he was just a volunteer) when he pointed out some minie balls to me, which somehow led to me telling him how Stonewall Jackson died (don’t ask, I guess people who have a fondness for historical trivia somehow manage to sense kindred spirits), and he told me that the museum is in a former carpenter’s workshop, and pointed out the trapdoor in the floor where parts would be winched up.  The back door was open, and offered an excellent view of the Thames, where you could contemplate the various river disasters discussed in the museum taking place.  He also told me a story about how drunken sailors in a pub in Wapping used to be given a length of clothesline to pass out over, and then were charged for the privilege; apparently one of the model ships in the museum was made by a sailor who did just that and neglected to pay…feeling guilty about it, he made a fine model and gave it to the owner of the pub, who obviously eventually donated it here.

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I can’t lie, the main reason I wanted to visit the River Police Museum was because Lucy “Bloody” Worsley (my nickname for her, because it seems she’s always on the TV.  As in, “ugh, it’s Lucy bloody Worsley again!”) mentioned it on her A Very British Murder programme (and in the book, but Judith Flanders’ The Invention of Murder is far more comprehensive, so I wouldn’t recommend Worsley’s).  The brutal murder of a family by a mystery killer took place in Wapping in the early 19th century (interesting because the murder was never definitively solved, and the maid just happened to be out of the house at the time of the murders, which no one seems to have found suspicious), and the museum was meant to have some objects relating to it.  Unfortunately, all I was able to find was a print showing the alleged murderer’s corpse being paraded through the streets (as far as I can remember, his initials were found on the murder weapon (I think it was some sort of hammer), so he was arrested, and when he killed himself in prison, was assumed to be guilty (despite never having gone to trial), so locals decided to haul his corpse through the streets so people could pelt it with things); the curator/volunteer was busy talking to someone else by this point, and I was too shy to interrupt, so I never found out if there was something else I missed.

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I’m happy I’ve finally gotten to see this museum, but it was mainly policey type stuff and river stuff, rather than grisly murders (you know, the sort of thing you I want from a police museum), so it wasn’t really what I was hoping for.  I probably wouldn’t bother going back, but at least I can tick it off the list.  Well, this year’s Open House Weekend was about as successful as most (perhaps more so, since we headed up to Shoreditch to get pizza from Voodoo Ray’s afterwards.  I’ve said it before, but as much as I hate Shoreditch, I love Voodoo Ray’s pizza.  I could do without the loud-ass terrible music they’re always blasting in there, but I can suffer through it for the sake of the pie), but I will try harder next year, assuming I’m not attempting to volunteer at it again or back visiting America, as I often seem to be at this time of year (what can I say, I like fall foliage and apple cider doughnuts).  The best part was probably getting to explore bits of London I hadn’t really seen before; despite living here for seven years, I’d never been to Rotherhithe or Wapping, so that was something.  And I discovered a random cat statue near the Brunel Museum (see below) so that was also a treat.

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Prague: Czech Police Museum (Muzeum Policie CR)

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The Danish Police Museum and the Criminology Museum in Rome remain two of my most popular posts, so I wanted to carry on the tradition by visiting the Czech Police Museum, despite reading beforehand that virtually nothing was in English.  Perhaps surprisingly, given the subject matter, the museum is housed in a prettily painted building that used to be a monastery (and sick house), in a secluded spot at the end of a residential street.  Admission is a mere 30 CZK (about 80p), so I figured even if I couldn’t read anything, at least I wasn’t wasting very much money on it.

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Well, I may have not been able to read any of the captions, but I definitely got my money’s worth, because the museum is massive!  A lot of the main portion of the ground floor wasn’t terribly interesting, as it just consisted of photos with a lot of Czech text, so I didn’t really know what was going on.  But there were smaller rooms off the main gallery (which wrapped all the way around the building), and these were more promising.

One of the highlights of the museum used to be the preserved body of a police dog called Brek, who apparently was used to “sniff out” dissidents during the Communist era (sounds a bit grim really), but I think he’s now buried in the grave out back.  However, there’s still a stuffed dog in there, so he presumably either isn’t real, or is the body of some other German Shepherd.  I didn’t touch it or anything, but the fact that it was just sitting out on the floor and not in a glass case or anything makes me suspect it was probably not a real taxidermied dog.

As always, I was excited to see the murder section, which contained some death masks of executed criminals, a suitcase that once held a dismembered torso of a woman (bloodstains intact), and a mysterious plank with a box attached that I couldn’t quite figure out the purpose of.  Lo and behold, I found a video player in the next room with English translations available, and learning more about the plank/box was one of the options.  To be honest, I really wish I hadn’t pressed that button, because I was a lot happier not knowing what it was.  I’ll spare you the details; they made me feel sick to my stomach (and this is coming from someone who reads a lot of historical crime nonfiction) but suffice it to say it was a torture box designed by a serial killer.  So yeah, you may want to skip the videos unless you don’t mind learning more than you bargained for.  I should also say that there were a lot of very graphic photos of murder victims who’d literally been hacked to bits, so if you have a weak stomach (I generally don’t, except where torture is concerned I guess), I’d maybe skip this section of the museum (it’s pretty much all concentrated in two rooms, so it would be easy enough to skip).

The only other English part was another video player in the forensics section, which was safe enough for those of a less macabre bent, but kind of boring as it was all basic info about the history of forensics that I already knew from visiting a number of these types of museums.  I think there was meant to be some interactive stuff in the forensics section, but none of it seemed to be working properly, and it was all in Czech besides.

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I was already satisfied I’d gotten my 80p’s worth after seeing the ground floor, but there was still a whole other floor above us, so we went to check it out.  You weren’t supposed to take pictures in the museum, but we couldn’t resist snapping a few shots in the black light room (in my defence, it didn’t contain any sensitive information or anything, but I probably still shouldn’t have done it).  I think this was supposed to show the effects of taking hallucinogens, presumably to deter visitors from using them; however, I gotta say that this room was awesome, so they may want to rethink their anti-drug campaign if this is it.  Same thing with a different room warning about the effects of partying too hard, with its thumping bass and unintentionally funny tableaux.  I was glad these things were there though, since a good chuckle was much needed after learning about that awful torture box.

Alas, there were still some depressing stuff up here, namely a guillotine room/shrine with mournful music.  As far as I could work out, it was dedicated to victims of the Nazis who had been executed on the guillotine (I’m not sure if the one there was the actual one used…I kind of hope it wasn’t, but it may well have been).

In what I think was another attempt to brighten things up, the last room was completely full of children’s art.  I don’t know why, unless it was, as I said, just to cheer visitors up before they left, because most of it was very cute (especially the elephants), but it did seem oddly out of place.  I feel like at many points in the museum some English would have been an enormous help; that said, I’m probably not their target audience, so maybe the demand for it just isn’t there.  But really, even just a guidebook with a basic description of all the rooms, like they gave us at the Police Museum in Denmark, would have been tremendously useful, and might attract more visitors.  As it stands, I think this was the most depressing police museum yet (based on subject matter, not the lack of English).

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After leaving the museum, we headed out the back way, which seemed to be set up like some kind of driving obstacle course.  There was also the grave of Brek, that police dog.  I’m not sure why he’s shown such reverence if he was actually used to harm dissidents…not that it’s the dog’s fault, but strange nonetheless.

Due to the complete lack of English inside the museum (except for those videos), I left with far more questions than answers, but to be fair, I knew what to expect language-wise coming in, so that was my own fault.  Still, for 80p, I think it was alright, as there was plenty to look at, and I did enjoy the anti-drug displays (though perhaps not in the way they intended).  So I’ll give it 3/5, but reiterate my warning that much of it is pretty gruesome, and you won’t understand most of what is in the museum unless you read Czech, so it certainly isn’t for everyone.  And on a slightly cheerier note (I suppose…), I’m turning thirty tomorrow, so in addition to a few more Prague posts, if all goes to plan, I’ll have a few more awesome-looking museums to tell you about when I return from my birthday trip!