The Fan Museum – Greenwich

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Now this might not be everyone’s cup of tea, but for sheer oddity value it’s definitely worth a mention, and who knows it might be something that you find you like and enjoy when you get there!  The Fan Museum at Greenwich is billed as the only such museum in the world entirely devoted to all aspects of fans.  Inside you will discover over 3,500 mostly antique fans from all around the globe, some almost a thousand years old to some very modern and contemporary exhibits.

Photo by Visit Greenwich
Photo by Visit Greenwich

The Exhibitions

Exhibitions change regularly, and it’s not just the fans that are on display, this museum is focussed on the social history and contacts in the times that the respective fans were in common use.  This is a museum that uses the contemporary and iconic items of the times, the fans, to chart the sociological and economic history of countries and communities.

A fan has never, ever really been just about fashion or cooling off in the heat of the day, they have been used also as status symbols, tools and even lethal weapons.  There are over 4,000 individual items on display in the fan museum, along with a range of temporary exhibitions that are changed every few months.  Modern fans can even be commissioned for the museum workshops for occasions such as wedding celebrations and presentations.

The Museum Buildings

It is not only the fans that are museum pieces; the buildings that house the museum are both Grade II listed buildings, originally constructed in 1721.  Thankfully they have been sympathetically and tastefully restored to their original, refined elegance.  The theme of the fan has been carried on out into the outside space of the museum in the form of a Japanese garden, complete with a parterre in the shape of a fan along with oriental style architecture and peaceful pond.  A quiet and serene space in the noisy city.

Education

While you are here you can learn all about how fans are constructed and the different materials that have been used over the past millennia.  The museum has a range of curriculum based activities and learning materials that can be used and there are worksheets and tours that can be arranged for schools and community groups.  There is something about this museum that makes it stand apart from so many of the others in the city.

The buildings that house the museum are stately and elegant and so too are the exhibits inside.  At times it can feel as though you have taken a step out of time and walked into someone’s grand salon to view their private collection of fans and associated paraphernalia, and feel like you could be caught out by a servant or house maid at any moment.

This museum charges admission of £4.00 for adults (concessions are available) and children under 7 have free entry, as do pensioners.  Even if the museum is not for you it is a fabulous place to take afternoon tea.

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