This week was our last class field trip! It’s the end of an era and a sign of the end of term. I’ve only got one week of classes left! This of course means that I have heaps of work to do and to worry over the holidays, but no matter.
For our final trip we visited East London- the Isle of Dogs to be specific. It’s an area that has traditionally been home to London’s urban poor, immigrants and dockworkers. It’s the antidote to the posh areas to the west. I know it best from the wonderful TV Show Call the Midwife (SO GOOD, WATCH IT)
The Isle of Dogs underwent a huge amount of redevelopment around the 1980s as the dock-work dried up. Some may (WHOVIANS) recognise the name of Canary Wharf as from New- Who and as the home of Torchwood 1. It was one of my favourite episodes (Donna!).
Museum of London Docklands
As you can imagine, this is actually a very new museum which was opened due to the revitalisation of the Isle of Dogs. The building is actually one of the few remaining warehouses in the area from when the East India Company built their own private docks to minimize stock losses.
It is a off-shoot of the Museum of London (WHICH I HAVE NOT VISITED YET) (don’t panic) and has galleries about the history of the East End, Dockyards and interestingly, the Slave Trade.
As you can imagine, a gallery about the slave trade is no easy feat! Overall I think they handled the subject pretty well. My favourite aspect of the display was the inclusion of contemporary art by people whose ancestors were slaves. It gave an interesting view and allowed for diverse voices within the gallery space. I also enjoyed the discussion of how London is such a global and rich city due to the effects of slavery- anyone who lives here is still reaping the benefits. The lines of connection are important to how I think about history and why its important.
(this is a photograph!)
My other favourite thing was the use of household items- like teacups to emphasis how widespread the effects of slavery really were. As the sugar used to sweeten tea would have been harvested by slaves and their lives traded for “little” pleasures. It makes these objects that I would consider pretty mundane a bit sinister. Today, the same could be said about sweatshop clothing and the like.
It needed more voices- from today and the past. The other galleries were okay, though perhaps not as compelling as the room about the slave trade.
I managed to wander into “Sailortown” all by myself. It was pretty scary actually but it does give you the feel of what the area would have been like 200 years ago. In my head of course, I added the Jaws soundtrack to this area which made me hurry out pretty quickly.
I found the galleries to be quite a maze and the maps to be unhelpful. They only showed outlines of the galleries and did not include an easy path to the exit. I like to think I have a good sense of direction and I got very turned around.
Cockney slang! GIVE ME A WHOLE GALLERY ABOUT THIS PLEASE. According to the contemporary gallery, most Cash Machines (ATMs or whatever you call them) have english and cockney options in East London. Pretty fun! It’s a rhyming scheme (Ten = speckled hen and twenty = horn of plenty) The last line reads “Take your bladder of lard (card) sausage and mash (cash) will follow”.
Pros: Free! Well researched displays, space for kids, great cafe/ shop, very friendly staff, interesting use of videos, great building
Cons: It’s got a lot of text heavy galleries- it’s a lot to slough through, labyrinth interior, needs more contemporary local stuff, needs more places without text- hands on area perhaps?, a little hard to find the entrance