Fan Museum

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Fan Museum

What you'll do

The Fan Museum charms visitors with exhibitions showcasing selections from its vast collection of decorative, ceremonial and functional fans.

The Fan Museum is the only museum in the country dedicated to the history of fans and fan making. Dating from the 12th Century to the present day, the exhibited fans tell the story of fan making across the world and how the art form relates to social history, contemporary politics, and design.

Enjoy access to the Fan Museum with The London Pass®

  • Pay nothing at the door
  • Admire the permanent collection on the ground floor, charting the history of fans and fan making from the 12th Century to the present day.
  • Take in the exhibition on the upper floor, which changes three times a year, showcasing fans from the collection and loaned fans in themed displays.
  • Tour the sensitively restored Grade II-listed buildings in which the museum is based.
  • View the ‘secret’ Japanese garden from the beautiful orangery tearoom, perhaps treating yourself to a spot of afternoon tea.


Fan Museum history

The Fan Museum has been attracting visitors to its handsome Greenwich home since 1991, with the museum recently celebrating its 25th anniversary. But the story of the UK’s first and only museum dedicated to fans begins much earlier. Founder and Director Hélène Alexander, inspired by her numismatist father, began collecting fans in the 1970s. By the end of the 1970s, she had more than 1000 fans and fan leaves.

In 1985, Alexander set up the Fan Museum Trust, with the intention of creating the world’s first museum devoted to fans, fan-making technique and the artistic and social influences behind their creation. It took some time for her to acquire the perfect site for the venture, and even then the Grade II-listed Greenwich property Alexander purchased was in need of serious renovations, to resolve structural problems with the long-neglected building and convert it from a residence into a unified museum space.

It was in 1991 that the Fan Museum finally opened to the public. Like the pieces it displays, it is a place possessing great charm, character and elegance. Alexander wished it to feel homely, intimate and welcoming, and this has been achieved through the sensitive restoration of the 1721 buildings, along with the addition of the orangery tea room and the tranquil Japanese garden it overlooks. The volunteers and staff who run it are helpful, knowledgeable and kindly, many of them good friends of Alexander and sharers in her passion.

The museum possesses an atmosphere that reminds one of times past, and it certainly cherishes this aspect. But the Fan Museum has been increasingly aware that it must look to the future if it is to help reverse the decline in fan-making practices across the world. Recent exhibitions have looked at fan making in the modern world and showcased those artisans who still appreciate and practice the art form, while also reaching out to those new to the craft.

Fan Museum highlights

  • Chart the history of fans and fan making in the permanent collection, seeing fans from around the globe, dating from the 12th Century to the present day.
  • Take in the temporary exhibition on the upper level. Drawn from the main collection and loans from across the globe, these exhibitions change three times a year.
  • Admire the splendid 18th century, Grade II-listed buildings in which the museum is housed, as well as the orangery tea room and the ‘secret’ Japanese style garden it looks out onto.

Fan Museum facts

  • Hand fans became particularly popular in Spain, with flamenco dancers incorporating them into their choreography.
  • Ancient texts reveal that hand fans were used in ancient Greece, as early as the 4th Century BC.
  • Screen fans, which are rigid and not as portable as the classic folding style, became popular during the 18th and 19th centuries. They were traditionally used by women to protect their faces from the glare and heat of the fire. Screen fans would also have helped to prevent ladies’ wax-based makeup from smudging and running in the heat of the fire.

Don't miss

The Orangery and Japanese Garden

The Orangery was added to the Fan Museum after the renovations on the 18th-century townhouses were completed. This unique garden room is decorated with wonderfully detailed murals and possesses an architectural style in-keeping with the original buildings. It is in these atmospheric surrounds that visitors are served afternoon tea, with splendid views out onto the Japanese-influenced Garden to the back of the property.

Know before you go

Getting in: show your pass for entry

Where you'll be

Operating hours

Wednesday-Saturday: 11AM-5PM

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Free cancellation

Plans can change, we get it. All non-activated credits packages are eligible for a refund within 90 days of your purchase date.

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