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article imagePhoto Essay: Movie magic at London's Cinema Museum Special

By Tim Sandle     Jan 3, 2014 in Travel
London - London’s Cinema Museum is devoted to keeping alive the spirit of cinema from the days before the multiplex. The museum is tucked away in an old Victorian workhouse in south London.
Movies have been part and parcel of our cultural fabric for 100 years. There are, however, few places dedicated to preserving film heritage. One of the rare exceptions is the Cinema Museum in London.
The museum allows visitors to relive the magic of "Lights! Camera! Action!"
Lights! Camera! Action!
Lights! Camera! Action!
The museum is located in the former Lambeth Workhouse, in a building owned by the South London and Maudsley NHS Foundation Trust. The building is a piece of interesting Victorian architecture:
The cinema museum  inside an old Victorian workhouse
The cinema museum, inside an old Victorian workhouse
The building was constructed in 1871 and it was an operating workhouse, of the worst Dickensian kind, from 1873 to around 1922. Here is the foundation stone:
Foundation stone for the workhouse (1871) that became the cinema museum
Foundation stone for the workhouse (1871) that became the cinema museum
The workhouse has a link to cinema history as Charlie Chaplin lived there as a child when his mother faced destitution.
The Museum houses a unique collection of artifacts, memorabilia and equipment that preserves the history and grandeur of cinema from the 1890s to the present day. Digital Journal visited the museum in early January 2014.
Film poster  advertising a Rock Hudson movie
Film poster, advertising a Rock Hudson movie
The Cinema Museum is a charitable organisation founded in 1986 by Ronald Grant and Martin Humphries from their own private collection of cinema history and memorabilia.
The tour begins with a selection of films, shown in an old cinema, including silent movies, public information films from World War II, to slightly psychedelic animated features. These film clips are drawn from the "golden age" of cinema.
A collection of images from movie stars of yesteryear
A collection of images from movie stars of yesteryear
The museum contains many interesting items. Here, for example, is the type of board used to advertise films and to list their certificates. Note the once used 'A' for 'adult' movie rating.
A cinema ratings board from the 1930s
A cinema ratings board from the 1930s
There are also plenty of photographs of movie stars, some familiar and some perhaps forgotten.
Some memorable  some forgotten  the stars of Hollywood s golden age
Some memorable, some forgotten, the stars of Hollywood's golden age
Old movie posters (golden age of cinema)
Old movie posters (golden age of cinema)
The museum has wall-to-wall paraphernalia relating to anything and everything cinema-related from advertising boards, to tickets, to projection room cameras, to RCA speakers, to uniforms, and much more.
Here is the type of microphone was synonymous with major announcements; the sort that might be used by a compere or to record vocals.
Old microphone for introducing cinema features
Old microphone for introducing cinema features
Here is the recreation of a movie foyer, perhaps from the 1940s:
Movie foyer from the 1950s
Movie foyer from the 1950s
Here is something interesting. In the 1930s and 1940s, British cinemas were regularly sprayed with air-refreshing chemicals. This was because the taking of baths was not as common as it used to be, and coupled with smoking, many cinemas could get a little smelly!
Devices uses to make cinemas smell better in the 1930s and 1940s
Devices uses to make cinemas smell better in the 1930s and 1940s
There is a also some interesting signage on display. Here are some frontages from long-forgotten move theaters.
Old cinema signage - the mystery of movies
Old cinema signage - the mystery of movies
Signage for an old cinema chain
Signage for an old cinema chain
Old signage from a cinema
Old signage from a cinema
As well as more familiar studios, like Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer.
MGM logo from the golden age
MGM logo from the golden age
There is a also a display of the uniforms worn by ushers and usherettes, in the days when tickets were clipped and patrons were shown to their seats.
A selection of usherette and usher uniforms from cinemas of yesteryear #3
A selection of usherette and usher uniforms from cinemas of yesteryear #3
A selection of usherette and usher uniforms from cinemas of yesteryear #1
A selection of usherette and usher uniforms from cinemas of yesteryear #1
Cans of film reels are displayed.
Collection of old film reels
Collection of old film reels
Old film reels and film footage
Old film reels and film footage
Along with other rare items like ticket machines.
Old device for printing cinema tickets circa 1930
Old device for printing cinema tickets circa 1930
The Museum is available most days for visits by guided tour but it is essential that these are booked in advance by phone or email. According to the listings magazine Time Out: "The Cinema Museum in Lambeth boasts an idiosyncratic collection of film memorabilia, including posters, art deco cinema chairs, ushers' uniforms from the 1940s and ‘50s, tickets, ashtrays and popcorn cartons, as well as an archive boasting hundreds of books, an estimated one million plus photos and 17 million feet of film."
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