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I’d never heard of the Cinema Museum until I saw it appear on Groupon. I mentioned this to the very knowledgeable and informative guide who conducted my tour, and he said, “If I had a pound for every time I heard that…” I think the museum deserves to be better known, as it is fascinating.

The Cinema Museum

The Cinema Museum

The address of the Cinema Museum is The Master’s House, 2 Dugard Way, London SE11 4TH. It is near Elephant & Castle tube station, surprisingly near to where one of my friends used to live. Other than organised events, it is only possible to visit the museum via a conducted tour, and this was how I got to look round on Saturday.

I’d booked in advance, but was disconcerted to find the place so quiet – I wondered if I’d turned up at the wrong time, but luckily someone opened the door for me. The first part of the tour involved watching a couple of short films while sitting in original theatre seats. One was a rather abstract promotion for the Post Office while the other was about the last tram in London – which fitted in well with my London Transport obsession. We joined up with the previous tour to visit the display of cinema uniforms, which came from a variety of different periods and cities and which varied considerably in colour, style and appeal.

Exhibition of cinema uniforms

Exhibition of cinema uniforms

After the first group left, their tour completed, our guide took us around the rest of the museum, which holds a wide and varied collection based around the concept of going to the pictures. Fixtures and fittings (e.g. carpets and signage), marketing materials, photographic images and publications such as fan magazines, films (e.g. B-movies, ads, trailers), equipment (e.g. projectors, sound systems and uniforms) and other random items. I was surprised at the number of items which seemed to be from Cumbria: when I asked the guide at the end he said that this was because one of the major contributors to the museum lived in a nearby town, and always made a point of turning up at cinema closures to get hold of bits and bobs. A piece of carpet from Workington and a sign from Egremont were just two of the items I spotted.

Old cinema signage

Old cinema signage

As a librarian by profession, I was pleasantly surprised to see that the museum has a library, which has been sorted by a volunteer (from what I could work out, the vast majority, perhaps even all, of the people associated with the museum are volunteers). There is also a room devoted to pictures of different kinds, such as stills from film sets.

Library

Library

On the first floor, there is a room devoted to Charlie Chaplin. Fittingly, the man actually spent time here: the building used to be the Master’s House of the former Lambeth Workhouse, where Chaplin entered alongside his mother when he was a child. The room we ended up in, the former workhouse chapel, was beautiful and the ideal place to rest and have a cup of tea.

Collection of Charlie Chaplin postcards

Collection of Charlie Chaplin postcards

Former workhouse chapel

Former workhouse chapel (complete with giant Charlie Chaplin sculpture!)

I definitely recommend a visit to the Cinema Museum. It’s a hidden gem and well worth a look if you’re remotely interested in cinema. Get in touch on 0207 840 2200 or email info@cinemamuseum.org.uk to arrange a tour, which costs £10 for adults and £7 for children and concessions.

FACTS

Address: 2 Dugard Way (off Renfrew Road), London, SE11 4TH

Website: cinemamuseum.org.uk

Opening Hours: Pre-booked visits only

Prices: Adults £10, children and concessions £7

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