April 15, 2021
Most recently I decided to take another virtual trip outside of the United States to visit the Charles Dickens Museum in London, England. Charles Dickens, who was the author of books such as Oliver Twist, A Tale of Two Cities, Great Expectations, and the novella A Christmas Carol, moved into this house at 48 Doughty Street with his wife Catherine a few months before Queen Victoria began her reign in 1837. They raised the first three of their ten children within this house, and hosted many of the period’s leading figures with dinners and parties. Dickens wrote Oliver Twist, Pickwick Papers and Nicholas Nickleby inside this house, and where he first achieved international fame as one of the world’s greatest storytellers.
The Dickens’ home became a museum in which hosts events and exhibitions, a garden café and shop, an international center for research on Charles Dickens, and a MA program on Charles Dickens research through the University of Buckingham. Inside the house itself, there are five floors with objects that were owned by the Dickens family. Off of the entryway there is a gift shop where it leads to the café, the Water Closet (bathroom), and the special exhibition room.
As I went through the virtual tour, I was surprised by the layout of the house since it was different from other historic house museums I previously visited both virtually and in person. For instance, the servants quarters where they cook the meals were below the first floor where the dining room was, and the servants’ sleeping quarters were on the top floor. The Charles Dickens Museum considered the main floor with the dining room and parlor to be the second floor while where the servants cooked and stored food and wine is the first floor, at least according to the virtual experience.
Also, at the time of writing this post I noticed that in almost each room there were only two links to explain the room and one object (sometimes there is a link to learn more about the object). One object in the Entrance Hall is the large, 8-day chiming clock that is still in good working order once was displayed in the hallway of Charles Dickens’ home Gad Hill Place in the 1860s. The link led to the collections page for the clock that includes a picture of the clock with information such as its object number, when it is created, and an object note that shared a letter Dickens wrote to the clockmaker who made the clock, Sir John Bennett of Cheapside, London, regarding problems with the clock following a cleaning. I would have loved to learn more about other objects in the Entrance Hall such as the objects in the glass case and the letters in the frames displayed on the walls.
In the study, the highlighted object in the room is the desk and chair that was originally used in his study at Gad’s Hill Place. According to the information provided by the Dickens Museum’s collections, the desk and chair were acquired by Charles Dickens in 1859, and they remained in the Dickens family after he died in 1870. Both of them were on loan to various heritage institutions, including the Charles Dickens Museum, from 1967 to 1987. They were eventually purchased by the Charles Dickens Museum in 2015 with support from the National Monuments Trust and the Dickens Fellowship after years of being on loan at various places over the years. Dickens would have written portions of his novels, such as Great Expectations, Our Mutual Friend, Hard Times, A Tale of Two Cities, and the unfinished Mystery of Edwin Drood, on this desk.
Not only in the interactive tour I was able to explore the house but I was also able to visit inside the gift shop and café, the small garden outside of the café, the exhibition room, and a couple of additional floors that included a meeting room where it seemed like one could do research in.
I really appreciate that this interactive tour is available online, and I hope to visit there in person someday. I especially would like to see it in person so I could learn more about other items that the interactive tour did not share their history and their relevance to Charles Dickens’ life and/or works. To check out the Charles Dickens Museum, I posted links, including the interactive tour, below.
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