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Migration Museum relaunches in Lewisham

by LAUREN CODLING

THE curator of a migration-focused museum has expressed hope the space will reach audiences who do not typically engage with art, as it reopened in a south London shopping centre last week.

The Migration Museum, previously based in Lambeth, opened its doors to visitors at the Lewisham Shopping Centre last Friday (14). The museum showcases a variety of visitor attractions, including Room to Breathe –an immersive exhibition in which hundreds of personal stories of migration are brought to life – and Humanae – a photography project by Brazilian artist Angélica Dass documenting the human skin tone through portraits.

The new space is almost three times the size of the museum’s previous space. As the shopping centre attracts an estimated 15 million visitors per year, curator Aditi Anand hopes it will enable the museum to be viewed by more people than ever.

She is also hopeful individuals who may not typically visit museums will engage with the Migration Museum due to the location.

Visitors view Humanae by Angélica Dass

“It is an opportunity to reach a different kind of audience as we are not a traditional museum space,” Anand told Eastern Eye.

In April, a new exhibition Departures is due to be launched. The installation will explore people leaving the UK and migrating to other countries. The debates on migration primarily focus on immigration and people coming into the UK, Anand said, so Departures is a chance to explore the stories of those who leave.

“There is something like 75 million people who claim British ancestry around the world, but that story is always missing in our narrative of migration – that there has been movement in and out of the country,” Anand, who has worked as the curator of the museum for five years, said.

The exhibition will look back upon the last four centuries of migration history, starting with the sailing of the Mayflower from England to North America in 1620. Various parts of history relating to migration will be featured, such as the beginnings of the British Empire and the cultural exchange of people to and from India and Pakistan.

A visitor interacts with the Room to Breathe exhibition

“Even in the present day, people have gone to work for multinational companies in Dubai or Singapore or are thinking about moving abroad because of Brexit so it is still relevant,” Anand said.

Another new addition to the museum is an installation of two pieces of the Berlin Wall which are placed outside the entrance.  With drawings by artists STIK and Thierry Noir etched onto separate pieces of wall, the installation is described as being two “guardians ‘protecting’ (the) space and acting as a symbol of friendship to all.”

A varied programme of exhibitions, events and education workshops are also expected to be staged throughout the year.

Earlier this month, Lewisham was named as one of the London Boroughs of Culture. It was confirmed the south London borough would receive the title and £1.35m prize in 2021, followed by Croydon in 2023.

For the Migration Museum team, it was a “happy coincidence” the museum was due to launch soon after the news was announced. “We are so excited to be coming in at a time when there is a lot happening around arts and culture,” Anand enthused. “There is a lot of curiosity and we’ve had a really warm welcome from Lewisham.”

Two pieces of the Berlin Wall by artists STIK and Thierry Noir outside the museum

For Anand, she claimed migration has “defined her life.” Born in India, she later migrated to the USA with her family. Following some years spent back in India, she is now settled permanently in the UK.

She said: “(Being a migrant) has shaped me in terms of being able to have my feet in different worlds and having the understanding that there is so much you can take from different cultures, make it your own, so it becomes a hybrid culture that we all live in.”

The Migration Museum is open now at Lewisham Shopping Centre. Entry for all exhibitions are free and will be open Wednesdays– Sundays, 11am–5pm.

All images: Migration Museum