Opened on 25th April 1874, housed in No. 1 Great Scotland Yard, it was first known as the Central Prisoners Property Store. It was where police collected items of prisoners’ property for instructional purposes, following The Prisoners Property Act of 1869.
Inspector Neame conceived the idea of a crime museum, and in 1875 he had collected together enough items related to police cases to open a museum officially. His aim was to use materials related to criminal activity to give police officers practical instruction on how to detect and prevent burglary.
In 1877 the name ‘Black Museum’ was coined, when a reporter from The Observer newspaper used the term after being refused a visit by Inspector Neame. However, the museum is now officially referred to as the Metropolitan Police Crime Museum.
In 1890 the museum moved with the Metropolitan Police Office to new premises at the other end of Whitehall, New Scotland Yard. The museum was closed during both World Wars, and in 1967, with the move of the Metropolitan Police Headquarters to new premises in Victoria Street, SW1, the museum was then housed in rooms on the second floor. In 1981 a new, redesigned museum was opened on the first floor.
The present museum resides in Room 101 at New Scotland Yard and consists of two rooms. The first contains an extensive collection of weapons, all of which have been used in murders or serious assaults in London, and displays items from famous cases, generally prior to 1900, such as Jack the Ripper and ‘Charlie Peace‘. Here you will find shotguns disguised as umbrellas, walking stick swords, hangman’s nooses and a display of death masks made for executed criminals.
The second room contains more recent crimes and houses cabinets under the following categories: Famous Murders, Notorious Poisoners, Murder of Police Officers, Royalty, Bank Robberies, Espionage, Sieges, and Hostages & Hijacking. Famous criminal cases featured at the museum include Dennis Nilsen, John Reginald Halliday Christie, John George Haigh, The Stratton Brothers and Dr Neal Cream.