I’ve just been to the newly refurbished London Transport Museum in Covent Garden, with the family in tow. The elderly buses and trains were rather wonderful (the ones in the museum, I mean), the exhibition was brilliant, but – it made me think, presumably thanks to Heritage Lottery, about the miserable straitjacket that New Labour wants us to live in.
Because this was a museum without a map. Where we were expected to follow the arrows, take the lift to the top – it wouldn’t stop anywhere else – and follow the designated route slavishly downwards.
We were, in fact, issued with a map without any information at all about which exhibits were where. Once inside, there was nobody to tell us where to go.
Now, you might say: haven’t they worked it all out to give us the optimal experience? But that really is New Labour speaking – as if nobody could have any specific knowledge and have just come for that (the design? The tapestries for the innovative seats on the Underground?). As if nobody might prefer to go round a different way (too inconvenient).
The shop was, of course, fully staffed. Rather like our airports have become mere adjuncts to massive retailing operations, I fear our museums are going the same way.
So I learned a great deal about the history of London transport, but rather more about Blair, Brown and Livingstone’s utilitarian Britain.