Anglo-American conference 2009
‘An architectural peepshow’: visualising and recreating the city in exhibitions and museums
Alex Werner (Museum of London)

A Dream of John Ball

In 1888, William Morris in A Dream of John Ball described a dream of ‘an architectural peepshow…a clear-seen mediaeval town standing up with roof and tower and spire with its walls, grey and ancient, but untouched from the days of its builders of old.’ This paper will chart the development and reception of city models, dioramas and recreated historical spaces in exhibitions and museums from the eighteenth century through to the early twentieth century from a largely London perspective. Displays to be considered include the large model of the Liverpool docks at the Great Exhibition, the recreated ‘London in the Olden Times’ street at the International Heath exhibition of 1884 and the models of old London made by John Thorp for the 1908 Franco-British exhibition at the White City, later acquired by the London Museum and subsequently supplemented by the Great Fire model.

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