Wednesday is International Museum Day, and this year’s theme looks at cultural landscapes. At the heart of the UK’s capital, the district called the City of London, also known as the Square Mile, is not only a thriving financial hub, but also a historical and cultural icon for the country. CCTV’s Wang Wan delves into the Square Mile to look at the rich heritage that makes it a living museum.
The Museum of London – records the history of a city through thousands of years. Every display and exhibition gallery in this museum reflects the historical value and special position of the City of London.
"So here we are in front of the Lord Mayor’s State coach. And this is one of the most iconic items in our collection. It was made in 1776, several hundred years ago. The interesting thing about this vehicle is that every year it goes out onto the streets of London for the Lord Mayor’s show," said Antony Robbins director of communications, museum of London.
The collection of this museum connects London’s history and reality, while more buildings around this area open the door on a living museum.
Guildhall, the City’s administrative centre, holds a circle of buildings from the Medieval era to modern days. However, archeological discoveries place it much further back in time.
Here at Guildhall Yard, I am standing right at the crossroads of London’s past and present. (Holding a map) The dark area on this map is the City of London. Guildhall, the City’s town hall, is located just at the centre of the Square Mile. About six meters under my feet, a Roman Amphitheatre was discovered in the late 1980s. And this circle of black stones marks the original extent of the amphitheatre’s arena almost 2000 years ago.
"Because we are in the heart of what used to be the Roman City, the oldest part of London, before they could start work on a new art gallery, they had to bring in a team of archaeologists to make sure there was nothing important under the ground that was going to be destroyed. They have only found part of the Roman Amphitheatre. And what we have is, we have one of the principle entrances leading into the arena. So the walls , the two long parallel walls that we have either side, they are the wall lined to the entrance. And then, at the end of here we have a large curved wall going around, and this is the curved wall of the arena. And the arena is a space where all the action would have happened," said Andrew Lane, education officer guildhall art gallery and Roman amphitheatre.
When it comes to heritage conservation, the City of London is protecting every detail of the buildings from their facade to the inside.
"Well a number of buildings are listed. It means that people can’t pull them down. So where we have gone for tall development, is in an area, where there were not so many buildings of historic value. But they are the historic value of the future. You know the beautiful Gherkin building and others. It’s very important that we are a modern city. But yes most of our historic buildings are listed. Where buildings have gone into disrepair, for instance, the Museum of London hopes to move to a new site in Smithfield. But the building is listed. So we can change the inside, but we have to retain the beauty of the facade, because it’s an important structure, and contains its own history," said Vivienne Littlechild, chairwoman culture, heritage & libraries committee.
Besides, the City of London invests over £70 million a year in arts and culture. Research in 2014 found that the net economic impact of the City’s arts and culture is worth £247 million. Millions of tourists crowd into this financial centre each year.
"So we welcome between 350,000 and 400,000 people every day through our doors. We are a team of multi-lingua advisers. And we speak 13 languages between us. We’ve got some learning Mandarin, so that’s hopeful for the Chinese visitors as well," said Inma Ferrer, manager city visitor information centre.
From the Bank of England to Mansion House, grand buildings in the heart of the City are not just landmarks for visitors. They are the monuments, where big money and history are still being made.