12 November 2009
Sneaking bikes into the new BL exhibition
The British Library's latest exhibition, Points of View, has just started to some excellent reviews. The fascinating collection of 19th-century photos at St Pancras is free, runs until 7 March, and is conveniently visitable by bike.
A small part of the exhibition is a series of twenty-odd pictures of London sights in the 1870s compared with the identical views today. It's on an easily missable black pillar with a video display, towards the end of the end of the exhibition on the left.
The two pictures on the right are an example: the celebrated (and bike-friendly) George Inn in Southwark.
All the series is being featured on the Points of View exhibition blog, starting with the George.
The 'now' pictures were all taken by me this summer. The ideal way to do it was by bike, of course. It was therefore a fine excuse for being paid for a few days' leisurely cycling round London in the sun, taking snaps, and stopping to research each location thoroughly. (This isn't typical of working at the British Library; it's not usually that hectic.)
The 1870s pictures, sadly, don't feature any velocipede or 'penny-farthing' riders. So I did my best to smuggle cyclists into the 'now' pictures wherever possible.
No doubt there was a debate in the 1870s between the 'real' cyclists (normal, everyday, comfy clothing such as frock coat, high collar and top hat; sensible luggage carrier such as a Gladstone bag) and the sports cyclists (lightweight penny-farthings weighing only a few stone; Devonshire serge jacket in hi-vis dark green, knickerbockers, Stanley helmet with small peaks and Cambridge grey stockings - the uniform specified for the founding members of the Cycle Touring Club).
As with the pictures, some things change, some things stay the same. As my mum says sagely, it's like everything else.