Sunday, 12 August 2012

Don't Drink the Water! Greenwich Maritime Museum

Greenwich: Photo by Jenny Collins

We took a water Taxi to get over to Greenwich, the former site of the Royal Naval College and the current location of the Royal Observatory. Things had been thrown into a little bit of chaos because of the upcoming Olympics, so many of the attractions in the area were not open. The National Maritime Museum was still open and running though and putting on an excellent exhibit entitled, "Royal River: Power Pageantry and the Thames" about, you guessed it, the river Thames.

The Thames is the life line of London, its what allowed the city to become the boisterous center of finance that it is today. The history of the Thames is essentially the history of London. The exhibit covers a huge span of time, the 1400s through to the modern era. Queen Elizabeth I had a flotilla on the Thames during her coronation, Admiral Nelsons funeral procession was carried out there, and most recently the diamond jubilee of the current monarch was celebrated there.

The exhibit had items ranging from the uniforms worn by those who have attended the monarch on the Thames for hundreds of years, to token that gave access to Vauxhall gardens from the river.

What I found most fascinating though was the part of the exhibit about the Thames after it had had a couple hundred years of the people of London dumping sewage and other horrible things into it. The river had become a breeding ground for Cholera, Typhoid and probably a few other things we never managed to identify. It wasn't until John Snow that the Brits decided that maybe it would be to everyone's benefit to get the river cleaned up so many it would stop killing anyone who got water from it in their mouth. The cleanup effort has been astounding and though there is still work to go, the Thames is one of the worlds cleanest urban rivers today.

A very interesting exhibit and an interesting museum on top of it.

If you're curious about the history of the river Thames and happen to be in London while the exhibit is going on (it runs until Mid September) I highly recommend it.

If you can't get to London to see it though, I can offer this amusing video (again from Horrible Histories) made for the diamond jubilee which gives a brief history of the Thames.


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