Thursday, May 21, 2015

Fan Museum in Greenwich

My friend, Mary Jane, told me the Fan Museum in Greenwich was worth a visit, so I added it to our itinerary.  On the way to the museum we walked past a beautiful park.  Parks are a big thing in London - highly used for relaxation and enjoyment.  It's the only yard many of the residents have to enjoy.

A few days before I left for England, I did a presentation for a group of senior ladies about Parasols, Hankies, Gloves, and Fans.  The more I studied fans, the more fascinated I became with them, and was eager to learn more. The Fan Museum was very educational and FANtastic!

It occupies two Georgian architectural town houses that date back to 1721, located at 12 Croom's Hill. They have been restored internally and externally, and are lovely.

Since the 1950's Helene Alexander [the founder of the museum along with her late husband, A.V.] has collected and assembled one of the most comprehensive collections of fans in the world - 2,000 plus!  The museum opened to the public in 1991, and is the only one in the world devoted entirely to the art and craft, history and geography, and everything pertaining to fans.

The museum has two distinct display areas. The permanent display is an introduction to fans - their history, how they were made, the materials used, and the various types and sources of fans.  I was grateful photography [without a flash] was permitted, and I will post the permanent display photos first.

An ivory elephant tusk used to make an intricately carved ivory fan.

The shell of an oriental pearl oyster for a mother-of-pearl nineteenth-century fan.

Fan leafs were made from paper-thin kid skin, vellum, lace, silk, cotton, wood, parchment, and paper.

The 1890's fan below was made from beautiful Belgium lace.

In the cellar of the museum is a workshop area for teaching how to make fans.  Wouldn't that be fun!  The workshop, however, wasn't part of the museum tour.

The other display area is thematic [flowers, animals, birds, mythology, sports, children, religion, leisure, contemporary, etc.], and changes at least every four month for conservation reasons.  The thematic displays reflect the vast range of subjects that have inspired fan-makers throughout the ages. After touring the museum, I noticed fans exhibited at Kensington Palace and the Queen's Gallery. Fans were not only fashion accessories, but intricate works of art.

~ Folding Fans ~

Aren't they all beautiful?

 ~ Cockade Fans ~

At the back of the museum, a Georgian Orangery overlooks a garden where you can have Afternoon Tea.  Unfortunately, is was booked for a private party the day we were there, so we couldn't go in. Next time! ;-)  The museum's Orangery was written up in Travel as one of London's Ten Best Afternoon Teas.

 [Photo courtesy of Travel]

What did I purchase at the Fan Museum?  Two fans and a book. One fan was made with ivory Battenburg lace to match a parasol I purchased for my presentation, and the other was made from thin wood.  I guess I have a 'fan collection' now because I bought one on my recent trip to Washington, D.C., and I bought three at the $ store [of all places!] for my presentation.  I was going to give them away as prizes but they were so pretty I kept them myself! ;-)

Thanks for recommending the museum, Mary Jane!  It was definitely worth seeing.

From the Fan Museum we went to three outdoor flea markets in Greenwich, and had our first Fish and Chips of the trip at a local pub - tomorrow's post.


  1. What an interesting place! I would enjoy visiting it, and thank you for all your lovely photos. Your fans are so pretty - I especially like the Battenburg lace one. I have one my daughter brought me from S. Korea and a couple that were my mother's or grandmother's. I tend to be warm, so I really should carry one in my purse!

  2. The perfect item to have in one's purse for hot flashes! Ha! This museum is amazing. I have stocked fans, parasols and crochet gloves at my shop for years and I love the meaning of fans - that is how they were held and what message was sent accordingly. Thanks for sharing.

  3. Thank you for sharing so many great photos from the museum! On my first trip to England, this museum was closed the only day I had time to sightsee in Greenwich, and I have wondered (for more than a decade now) if I missed all that much. (YES!) What an astonishing collection. I'm sure you learned plenty that will help you next time you do a presentation on fans!

  4. Goodness...that brought back memories. Haven't been there for years! It's such a fabulous place! And Greenwich is such a neat part of London. Thanks so much for posting about it. I so enjoyed it!


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