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

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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