Travel Diaries: The Freud Museum
It wasn’t until last year that I found out there was such a place as The Freud Museum. I was going through the “Suggested for me” events on Facebook and happened to chance upon it as a venue. Twenty minutes later I had made up my mind — a trip to London!
Now, I have to confess a dirty little secret: I’m not quite sure I like Freud. My opinion is that, beyond being a raging misogynist, when he was incorrect it had real world ramifications. For every right, Freud was hastily brushing his wrongs under his magnificent carpets. But in the interest of fairness, I’m educating myself, reading up on the great Sigmund Freud. And because my mother is his biggest fan — a post for another time.
Despite my prejudices regarding old Siggy I was enthusiastic about visiting the museum. Anyone who is a psychology or history buff will understand my sentiments. Getting to London from Manchester was a tedious but doable task — a five hour bus journey because I’m too cheap for the train. I planned to visit the museum on a Sunday (Note: the timings are 12pm to 5pm, Wednesday to Sunday).
The website provides an explanation of the many ways you can travel to The Freud Museum and I chose the underground. I took the Jubilee Line to Finchley Station and the journey was just long enough that a book came in handy. At the station exit I crossed the road and headed right, walking until I came across an upward climb, known as Trinity Walk. It leads to a residential area so I was sure I’d gotten lost. But it turned out I was supposed to go up this awkward walkway and stroll past stoic red brick houses with gleaming white windows and an air of suburbia.
That was when I realised that one of these quaint yet sophisticated houses was The Freud Museum (pictured above by yours truly). With a charming little sign right outside.
The museum is actually the house in which Sigmund Freud resided after he and his family fled Nazi occupation in 1938. When leaving Austria, Freud brought along all his belongings with what I can only imagine was a stubborn determination. After his death his daughter, Anna Freud, continued to reside there until her own death in 1982. Throughout this time, Freud’s belongings and his study, were maintained and are now open for public consumption.
Upon entering I paid a £4 student fee and was given the option of going on a self-tour, where you’re provided with recordings that guide you through the house. I highly recommend this for solo visitors since the overall tour took me just an hour and it enriches the experience. I perused the entire residence but spent most of the time within his study, where you’re surrounded by shelves upon shelves, flanking every wall, of texts and novellas, and all his antiquities, dating back to ancient Egypt, Rome and Greece. You can see his desk, with his papers and pens scattered across, as if he were to stroll in at any moment and resume note taking. Light permeates the surface of this desk, spotlighting it dramatically.
And across is where I had my biggest fangirl moment. I could not deny the thrill of seeing Freud’s psychoanalytic couch. The famous couch that would begin the trope of all psychologists’ couches everywhere. Upon that dusty, over-sized piece of furniture, psychoanalysis had originated. A recording will tell you that as patients confided into Freud he would sit assuredly in the adjacent green chair, not taking any notes but focusing solely on the words being spoken. In that moment my personal opinions no longer mattered. There was something overwhelming about standing in the room where one of the most influential and fundamentally important individuals in the entire course of psychology once practiced. I was humbled.
After having this moment of hero worship (that couch truly did me in) I made my way upstairs, where I was granted insight into Anna Freud. Her belongings have also been displayed and the woman had style. Glancing over her type writer, her photographs and neat stack of books, you glimpse an inkling of the woman she was. A woman I would have liked to have known.
After I’d browsed my heart out I headed to the back of the house where a sunlit conservatory has been converted into a tiny gift shop. Clear doors lead out to a comfy sized garden where visitors can have tea and events are sometime hosted.
There were many books I was attracted to, by both Freud and other psychologists, leathery bookmarks with inspirational quotes, the regular gift-shop memorabilia. I settled on a shirt with a figure of Freud’s psychoanalytic model printed on it. Even though I’ve bleached that shirt to hell and back now, I still adore it.
Taking out the time to visit The Freud Museum was worth it. Going at it alone was even better, giving me time to explore the house at my leisure. I learnt a lot visiting Freud’s final home, most importantly that you don’t need to like someone to have a great amount of respect for them. I was sure of this when I captured these final shots of Sigmund and Anna’s heritage plaques.
Like father, like daughter.
*Special shout out to my cousin and his wife for letting me crash with them so I could visit the museum!