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London Museums Feature 'Web Wizards'


Museum-goers in London are flocking to two new exhibitions. One highlights the growth of London into the world's industrial capital in the 19th century. The other leaps to modern times to examine the impact of British website designers on the Internet.

The Museum of London has opened the first galleries devoted to the life and times of 19th Century London. The exhibit includes more than 3,000 objects, along with film footage, photographs, and oral history recordings that bring to life the Victorian age.

The lead curator, Alex Werner, says London's population grew from less than one million at the time of the French revolution in 1789, to more than seven million at the outbreak of World War I in 1914.

Mr. Werner says London started growing rapidly after Britain's victory over France at the Battle of the Nile in 1798. He said, "London, by 1815, emerges as the dominant capital city in Europe. And this is due really to the battle between France and England, or Britain, for supremacy, both in Europe and throughout the world."

Soon London became the world's financial capital and a center for technological advancements ranging from railroads to scientific instruments.

But there was also horrible poverty, disease, and a stench that threatened to stop all progress, as Mr. Werner explains. "There is a very important event that happens in 1858, which is the year of the 'Great Stink.' And that was the year that government finally decided they had to do something to build the sewers in London."

Mr. Werner says the exhibit shows how London became a pioneer in trying to solve the urban ills that continue to affect major cities. "London," he said, "was really the first modern city of the Industrial Age. And it had to face new problems that were being faced by other cities around the world, but London was by far the biggest city. And therefore the problems were all that [much] bigger."

Another popular London exhibition is on at the Design Museum. This one looks at the ultra-modern art form of Internet website design. On display is the work of some of Britain's cutting-edge designers. They are what the museum calls "Web Wizards."

Design Museum Director Alice Rawsthorn says the show is a snapshot of a fast-changing art form. "It is incredibly fluid, very fast moving," she said. "Visually incredibly alluring as you can see from the work in the exhibition below. Absolutely on the forefront of technology."

One of the exhibitors is John Warwicker of London's Tomato Interactive group. He says there is a constant pressure on designers to meet consumer expectations in an era of rapid technological advancement. Mr. Warwicker said, "We are living in an age of sensation, if you like, and expectancy. And it is very hard, when you are developing new technology, to realize the full content potential of that technology."

To emphasize his point, the museum displays a technology timeline. It shows that the computer mouse was invented less than 40 years ago. The term World Wide Web was coined in 1989. And the first version of Microsoft Windows came out just six years ago.

The Design Museum is displaying some of the Web Wizards' work on its own website at The exhibit will be on display until April 21.