The Fan Museum – London, England - Atlas Obscura

The Fan Museum

This museum is dedicated solely to this millennia-old handheld cooling device.  

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Greenwich is a wonderland of technological history, from the maritime workings of the Cutty Sark, to John Harrison’s timepieces at the Royal Observatory. The Fan Museum, however, is singularly dedicated to a device that has been in use for more than five millennia.

Originally founded in 1991 by Dicky and Hélène Alexander to display their collection, the museum is said to be the first museum dedicated to handheld fans. It does not include any mechanized or electrical fans and is home to more than 5,000 fans and fan-related items dating back to the 10th-century.

The handheld fan is well recorded in ancient history, particularly in Egypt, Greece, and Rome. China and Japan were later known for their exceptional designs and artistry from the 7th through 10th-centuries. Handheld fans became popular in Europe during the Renaissance and were a staple accoutrement for women through the early 20th-century.

The museum’s permanent collection features numerous ornate examples of familiar brisé and pleated folding fans, but cabinets also reveal captivating specimens made of vellum, feathers, and tortoise shells. Past rotating exhibits spotlighted various themed fan collections including those commemorating historical events or are dedicated to advertising.  

One might also spy an aide-memoire fan, a type that had information printed on one side including maps, botanical details, or instructions on how to flirt properly.

While wandering and meandering the lanes of Greenwich, be sure not to breeze by The Fan Museum. A stop inside will surely be a cool experience. 

Know Before You Go

Adults: £5.00, Concessions: £3.00 and, Children (age 7-16): £3.00.