A group is seeking to create Britain’s first major Museum of Migration. Volunteers have been formed under the leadership of Barbara Roche, former Minister for Immigration, and scoping research has been completed, published by ippr. They are now seeking funds to engage a part-time employee to administer the project, secure support from the museum sector, and begin the fund raising process.
Britain has thousands of museums dedicated to a variety of themes – Aerospace, Golf, Toys, Silk, Wool, Rowing and Stained Glass – but no major, comprehensive Museum of Migration. The US has Ellis Island and Britain needs something similar – an inspiring and moving institution to celebrate the role that migration has played in the national story. It is a warm political topic with bold implications for our national identity and also an intriguing genealogical project, an inquiry into where we all come from.
Above all, it is a gripping story, full of stirring individual tales. A serious, A list Museum of Migration would position this story where it belongs: in the mainstream, as a central part of our collective memory. There are plenty of small, grass-roots organisations, all of them worthwhile. What we lack is a high-profile, symbolic, declarative institution that treats immigration not as a difficult or tiresome subject, but as a major event in its own right. There are several reasons to think the time is right for such a museum:
People were asked to upload an image resonant of migration – a banknote printed on Huguenot Portal family paper, something grandmother brought with her to the UK or even a tabloid newspaper headline screaming about a nation swamped by immigrants. Read the Guardian article here . Almost every family has a past migration story to tell, whether of arrival in Britain or of setting out for a new life overseas. Immigration is a warm political topic, constantly in the news, whereas emigration rarely features though there are over five million Britons living abroad. The images received brought many of these fascinating stories to life. A judging panel made up of Barbara Roche, former Minister for Immigration, Kwame Kwei-Armah, actor and playwright, Afua Hirsch, the Guardian legal correspondent, and Danny Sriskandarajah, director of the Royal Commonwealth Society selected the winning 100 entries.
I entered a number of images from our book ‘Those Who Left the Dales’ for the migration museum competition http://www.migrationmuseum.org/competition/ and was thrilled that 3 of ours have been successful. The images are of the £5 Swaledale and Wensleydale note, the advert in Hawes for emigrants and – finally the gorgeous photo of Hannah Buxton. Do take a look at the rest of the photos as well!
There is a very comprehensive teaching pack to be downloaded as well – it makes excellent reading for genealogists