Our History

Our History

Detail of plague broadsheet comprising nine scenes relating to the 1665 plague.

The Museum of London’s collections span over 10,000 years and seven million objects. They have been assembled over hundreds of years, from the two predecessor institutions that merged to form the modern museum to the ongoing work of collecting: the Guildhall Museum, founded in 1826 and the London Museum founded in 1912. Both collections came together after the Second World War, and the current Museum of London opened in 1976.

The Guildhall Museum largely comprised archaeological material. Its first acquisition was a fragment of Roman mosaic from Tower Street in the City of London. The London Museum had wider interests, collecting modern objects, paintings, and costumes alongside archaeology.

Since 1976 the Museum of London has operated as a social and urban history museum, but maintains its archaeological interests. A second Museum was opened in 2003, Museum of London Docklands, and is housed in a Grade I listed warehouse at Canary Wharf.


1826: Guildhall Museum opens in the City of London, moving in 1872 to new premises at the Guildhall.

1912: The London Museum opens at Kensington Palace, moving in 1914 to new premises in Lancaster House.

1940s: Both museums close during the Second World War. The London Museum reopens in 1951 in Kensington Palace; the Guildhall Museum in 1955 in the Royal Exchange.

1965: The Museum of London Act amalgamates the two collections under a new Board of Governors, representing the three funding authorities: national government, the Corporation of London, and the Greater London Council.

1976: : A second Museum of London Act expands the museum’s functions and changes its funding framework, following the abolition of the GLC.

1992: Mortimer Wheeler House, a former warehouse in Hackney, becomes the museum’s main store and subsequently its archaeological hub.

2003: Museum of Docklands opens.

2009: National government’s interest in the museum passes to the Greater London Authority.

2015: The Museum of London announces an intention to move to a new museum in Smithfield General Market, with a provisional opening date in five to six years.

2016: The Museum of London launches International Design Competition for an architect to design the new museum at West Smithfield.