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At the Florence Nightingale Museum just off London's South Bank, you can learn about how this incredible woman revolutionised nursing and created many of the medical practices we take for granted today.
Many people have heard of Florence Nightingale, but this London museum does a brilliant job of building on this basic knowledge and helping visitors to understand more about the important role Florence Nightingale played in many parts of Victorian society.
Florence Nightingale was born into an aristocratic family in 1820, a time when women were not expected to have careers or any sort of life outside of their family and social lives. Florence rebelled against her parents by becoming a nurse. She rose to fame as the 'Lady with the Lamp' during the Crimean War, where she helped save thousands of soldiers by improving the conditions of the hospitals.
When Florence returned to England at the end of the war, she set up the Nightingale Training School at St. Thomas’ Hospital in London. Florence Nightingale is often seen as the founder of modern nursing in Britain, because her methods of cleanliness and order were so different to the messy conditions that were common in hospitals at the time.
The museum traces Florence Nightingale’s life in brilliant detail. The first section shows how she struggled against the rigid social norms of her era to realise her passion for nursing. It's home to some incredible artefacts from the nurse’s life. She was known as the 'Lady with the Lamp' because of the lamp that she carried with her whilst making her nightly rounds at her hospital in the Crimean War, and you can see the very lamp Nightingale used at the museum. There are also unique items from her past on display, such as her pet owl Athena, who was her closest companion, and her medicine chest that she brought with her to the Crimea. These items and more help make the Florence Nightingale Museum a truly unique experience.
You can also experience the tough conditions that Florence Nightingale faced when she arrived in the Crimea, where she was met with horrible hospital conditions. The museum has recreated a (less smelly!) version of what a wartime Crimean hospital would have looked like when Florence was there.
One of the most exciting opportunities at the museum is the chance to meet Miss Nightingale herself. From Thursdays to Saturdays, an actress gives talks and a tour of the museum as Florence Nightingale herself. It’s a great way for kids to be able to ask questions and learn more about the important work Nightingale did. If you visit on a day without a nurse-led tour, the museum staff are always available for any Nightingale-related questions, and there is a regular tour of the museum every day at 3.30pm.
There’s also the Florence Nightingale family trail, which is perfect for kids to follow clues and discover more about the nurse's life and work. It can be bought at the entrance to the museum and costs £1. The museum also has an arts and crafts area where kids can play and create artworks that are related to Florence Nightingale.
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