New museum puts migration at the heart of Britain’s story

Aimee-lee Abraham

As migration sits at the centre of current debates concerning Britain’s identity and place in the world, the UK’s first dedicated museum about migration opens its doors

Dedicated to exploring how migration has influenced British society, The Migration Museum has opened in Lambeth, south London. Through photography, performances and discussions, it will unpick how migration is a common thread that connects us all. The institution will ‘fill a clear gap in our cultural landscape at a critical moment for Britain,’ say organisers.

Their programme for 2017 and 2018 includes theatre, food pop-ups and photography exhibits, as well as interactive workshops and lectures. An online archive is open to public contributions.

“Our new museum will have something for everyone – if you peel back the layers of anyone’s family history in Britain, you will find a migration story,” said Sophie Henderson, director of the Migration Museum Project, the organisation that has established the new museum. “We will provide a space for exploration, discussion and reflection on this important theme that connects us all.”

There has never been a more important time for a dedicated cultural institution that can increase knowledge of how migration has shaped Britain across the ages

Barbara Roche, project chair, added: “With migration the subject of fierce contemporary debate, there has never been a more important time for a dedicated cultural institution that can increase knowledge and appreciation of how migration has shaped Britain across the ages. It is substantively and symbolically vital.”

The now-demolished Calais ‘Jungle’ camp is brought to life in multimedia exhibition Call Me By My Name. The camp is represented as an “ever-evolving set of communities, challenges, tensions and opportunities”.

Another exhibit, 100 Images of Migration, includes shots by professional and amateur photographers that capture what migration means to people in the UK today. Within the series, Paddington Bear is presented alongside passports, prayer beads and portraits. Many of the images capture personal triumph or defeat: in one, second world war evacuees toast to freedom over sandwiches, jellies and cakes. In another, an unknown man waits in the “purgatory” of a detention centre in Middlesex.

The museum opened in April and is housed within The Workshop, a temporary arts and community space near Albert Embankment provided by regeneration and investment specialist U+I.

All images: Migration Museum Project

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  • Naga

    We are ALL descended from immigrants, without exception…the first inhabitants of what is now the British Isles migrated North and West as the last Ice Age retreated towards the Arctic….at that time the present isles were connected to the ‘mainland’ by low lying riverine marsh lands which are now the North Sea and the Channel.
    The earliest settlers were successively conquered and driven from their land by invaders of different periods: the Romans who were relatively benign, the Vikings and Norsemen who were not, and then the Anglo-Saxons who presently claim to be the true Britons.
    These many invading and conquering races with their streams of immigrant followers came from Europe as well as refugees from political unrest and persecution such as the European/Russian Jews and the Huguenots are the only evidence a reasonable man needs to be convinced of the inherent and fundamental fallacy of far right, racist, British “supremacy”.
    UK independence? A fantasy totally ignoring the reality of history and the fact that we have been ruled, at least nominally, by European Royal dynasties for centuries both by conquest and invitation.

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