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The Fan Museum

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by Karys McEwen (subscribe)
Freelance writer and wanderer always on the lookout for quirky activities that take you off the beaten track.
Published April 15th 2011
Yes you read the title correctly; The Fan Museum. Its sounds a bit odd doesn't it? But don't judge too hastily. Situated in Greenwich, The Fan Museum it is the world's only museum dedicated entirely to fans. It is actually pretty impressive and definitely somewhere a little bit quirky and different to visit on a weekend.

The front of the Fan Museum

It may not be a museum that you are going to seek out specially, but if you're in the Greenwich area and tiring of the crowds and nautical sites then the Fan Museum can provide a nice respite and just somewhere a bit different to spend an hour or so. The admission price is extremely reasonable for a private museum.

Founded by Helene Alexander in 1991 in order to share her lasting passion for the subject, the tiny museum is housed in a home along an ordinary street. There are two rooms filled with some 4,000 antique fans, some of which date as far back as the 11th century. It really is a sight that you need to see to believe and the collection is unparalleled.

Despite the size, the rooms are filled with an incredible amount of information. The value and multiplicity of this socially significant yet sadly often unnoticed item is clarified with explanatory and thought-provoking displays. You will most certainly be surprised at the unique designs as well as the vast roles that fans have performed over the centuries, from ceremonial tools and celebratory gifts to fashion accessories, advertising gimmicks and status symbols. There is also an audio guide available if you find yourself intrigued and wanting to learn more.

The staff are very friendly and always willing to help out or provide more information if needed. There are never too many visitors at one time so it allows for a calm environment where you can really enjoy yourself and get away from the hustle and bustle for a moment.

Look out for instructions on fan etiquette and history downstairs and then upstairs there are some beautiful fans depicting epic scenes of patriotic battle and much, much more. Don't miss the garden outside either which is of course, fan shaped. The best time to visit is Sunday afternoon where you can have a lovely traditional British afternoon tea whilst gazing into the Orangery.

Fancy a cream tea?

And don't forget to visit the gift shop and get yourself a keepsake fan. They have a lovely selection which has varying prices to suit everyone. There is also some beautiful jewellery and a lot of bits and bobs that would make special and unusual presents.

Fan-making workshops are also held every month at the museum, so if you are interested be sure to ask one of the staff members or visit the website for more details.

The current temporary exhibition is entitled Everyday Life on the Leaf of a Fan and it runs until the 24th of July.

Everyday Life on the Leaf of a Fan

So if you're interested in costume or social behaviour or just need somewhere to escape the crowds and enjoy a nice cream tea, then why not pop into the Fan Museum?
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Why? Itís a place to visit that is a bit more low key and quirky than most other London weekend activities
When: Tuesday to Saturday 11am to 5pm, Sunday 12pm to 5pm
Where: 12 Crooms Hill Greenwich SE10 8ER (nearest tube: Docklands Light Railway)
Cost: Adults £4, concession £3, children under 7 free, over 7 and under 16 £3
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