Visiting LAARC

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I’ve just been to a one-day conference at the LAARC, the Museum of London’s Archaeological Archive and Research Centre in Hackney, on the banks of the Grand Union Canal, just north of Old Street. I must confess I haven’t been to the LAARC since its opening way back in the 1990s, but it is looking good. It was one of Simon Thurley’s triumphs which he acquired when he was director of the Museum of London.

The Museum of London's Archaeological and Archive Research Centre
The LAARC, the Museum of London’s Archaeological and Research Centre. The storage covers the whole of the yellow brick building.

LAARC is impressive. It’s a huge building as seen in the photo, but it makes a great effort not only to be a huge storage space, but also a research centre where volunteers can help process the finds, and where visitors can explore the finds – providing they give a month’s notice. It is rather like the Petrie Egyptian Museum with rows and rows of cases with every type of Roman and Medieval pottery you might find in London, so you can take along that pot you have just dug up in your back garden and find out just what it is.

The conference was organised jointly by the Society for Post-Medieval Archaeology and the Medieval Pottery Research Group – I was pleased to see that it was attended by Duncan Brown, the Historic England Head of Archaeological Archives.

Glass collection Museum of London
Researching glass in the LAARC glass collection

The conference had the alluring title of “One Thousand Years of Ceramic Innovation”, but it turned out to be a little incoherent. Some of the speakers were a little weak and as a result it was not the systematic run through the latest ideas about ceramic innovation that I had hoped for. But it was a most enjoyable event and I met a lot of old friends, and succeeded in brushing up on my knowledge of post-medieval pottery. And it was good to see the LAARC.

PS.   I have just looked up the website about Museum of London’s proposed new site in Smithfield market. Where is the history of Smithfield Market – it’s just a group of derelict buildings – and I see that the different sections of the Museum are to be Deep Time, Temporary Time, Imagined Time, Real Time, Past Time, and Our Time. Oh dear!  All these abstract nouns – and what about the Romans?

– Andrew Selkirk

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