London, already renowned for its museums, will this week gain a novel addition to its culture scene. Opening in a new, larger space on 14 February, the Migration Museum is dedicated to exploring how the movement of people both to and from the country has helped shape it over the centuries.
With the UK seeking to redefine its place in the world and its relationships with neighbours near and far, this launch couldn’t be more timely. Exhibitions planned for this year include Room to Breathe, which will bring to life the stories of migrants coming to the country, and Departures, which will look at 400 years of emigration stories to coincide with the anniversary of the Mayflower setting sail to North America. As debates grow about who should be allowed to come to the country and who should be kept out, it’s useful to remember that migration is an essential part of human history.
And there’s another interesting aspect to the Migration Museum’s new home – it’s in south London’s busy Lewisham Shopping Centre. It’s an unusual choice of location but a considered one. This is about being “accessible, breaking down barriers and reaching wider audiences,” says museum director Sophie Henderson. It’s also a smart move from the perspective of the shopping centre. As high-street retailers and malls increasingly struggle, a genuine cultural attraction might be just the ticket to get more people moving in their direction.