This week London’s Hunterian museum reopened its doors after a five year hiatus and major redevelopment. With my tiny team of reviewers (aged four and one) we went to see whether London’s newest museum lived up to the title of ‘London’s best kept secret’ and to work out Is the Hunterian Museum suitable for kids?
What is The Hunterian Museum?
The Hunterian museum is housed within the Royal college of Surgeons of England opposite Lincoln’s Inn fields in central London. It was founded by the Scottish Surgeon and Anatomist John Hunter in 1799 and displays his weird and wonderful collection of curios from the natural world.
I can’t speak to how the museum looked before but I can tell you that the revamped museum is modern, fresh and fascinating… if somewhat eerie. We anticipated a wizardy lair of pickled eyeballs, newts in specimen jars and the like – possibly a little stuffy and one for the Harry potter fans of the world. What we found was a sleek and extensive exhibition, where preserved animals, human body parts and sea urchins are displayed like glittering jewels behind glass cabinets.
There is much to see here and you will want to move slowly around reading every snippet of (often bizarre) information. All in all it took us about 40 mins to get around the whole exhibit which comprised of skulls, skeletons, preserved animals, teeth and antique surgical instruments. The exhibit also delves into the history of Hunter’s life and work and culminates in an overview of present day practice in modern surgery.
Is the Hunterian museum suitable for Kids?
Mostly yes – but it will depend on the child. My four year old son, a superfan of The National History Museum, loved and despised aspects in equal measure. He delighted in the preserved animals- bats, snakes, lizards, tarantulas and even an armadillo can be found timelessly suspended in formaldehyde. We also marvelled at the huge skulls of elephants and rhinos as well as the skeleton of a narwhal. Coral and sea bed creatures have also been preserved and a mummified foot from ancient Egypt captured his attention.
However there are elements of the museum that may prove triggering to adults and children alike. Human foetuses at every stage of gestation are on display which we quickly hurried past. I was also worried how my son would react to the cabinet of penises – however these were luckily above his eye level. Similarly the macabre wall of human skulls and display of human remains did not muster the negative reaction I feared. Having said this, there was a plastic model depicting open heart surgery at the very end that did we choose not to dwell on.
Luckily the displays were littered with some interactive exhibits which offered some relief from the morbid.
In retrospect my four year old was possibly quite young for this although his older brothers (6 and 7) would have been in their element. I would recommend for older children ages 7+ with some caution for younger children. All in all, with the school holidays looming this is a great addition to London’s many free and fabulous days out for families.
And if you were wondering – My 1 year old slept happily through the whole experience. Thankfully the museum is fully accessible for wheelchairs and buggies.
What can I combine with my family visit to the Hunterian Museum?
We chose to walk to the museum from Temple Tube Station (10 minute walk). If you are coming from the river why not check out London’s coolest (and free) ‘Artist’s Garden’ on the rooftop of Temple Tube? Another hidden gem, this is a patterned oasis of colour where little ones can run freely amidst art installations whilst you enjoy the looking out to the river and city skyline. Do be warned the garden is only accessed by steps. Temple is also not fully accessible for buggies.
Directly opposite the Hunterian Musuem is Lincoln’s Inn Fields, a large grassy square for picnicking, walking and generally burning off some energy.
The museum is within easy reach of many popular attractions but If you are looking for more museums – the Wellcome Collection and The British Museum are close although if you’ve not been before it is worth the trip across town to South Kensington where the Science Museum and Natural History Museum are a ‘must see.’
The Hunterian Museum also happens to be in the heart of London’s Theatre Land. Why not combine with a musical matinee? Read here for more age appropriate theatre suggestions.
The Hunterian Museum is located within The Royal College of Surgeons of England, 43 Lincoln’s Inn Fields, London WC2. It is open Tuesday-Saturday 10am -5pm.
Entrance is Free. Nearest Stations- Temple and Holborn.