SHAPE Involve and Engage: unearthing the people’s history of Kilburn

13 Mar 2024

Photos and historical documents laid flat on a table

Middlesex University academic Dr Francesca Murialdo, recipient of a British Academy SHAPE Involve and Engage award for public engagement, shares the creative process behind the “Kilburn Museum Lab” project. Her work aims to deepen understanding and appreciation of Kilburn's diverse cultural, ethnic, and socioeconomic tapestry through workshops and community engagement. The SHAPE, Involve, and Engage funding scheme offers exciting opportunities for humanities and social sciences researchers to seek innovative new ways to engage with the public.

The Kilburn Museum Lab, our project funded by SHAPE Involve and Engage award, is a departure from the traditional museum model. In partnership with Camden Kilburn Library and the arts and education social enterprise PAPRIKA Collective, we want to create a museum that is designed for and by the local community. Founded in Kilburn, Northwest London, the Kilburn Museum Lab serves as a platform for the people of this area to share a diverse range of memories, voices, and stories that represent their community.

Kilburn, spanning the London Boroughs of Brent, Camden, and Westminster, boasts over 13,500 residents. The community’s diversity and its historical significance offers a unique lens through which we can explore London's and the UK's broader historical narratives.

We kicked off the project by reaching out to community members with deep ties to and knowledge of Kilburn's heritage to gather materials for the museum. Communication and promotion efforts spanned local WhatsApp groups, community online forums, and in-person events, aiming to reach as wide an audience as possible. Additionally, our team worked closely with Kilburn Camden Library and Camden Archives to uncover more of Kilburn’s history.

The initiative progressed through two themed community workshops: "Contribute" and "Curate." The "Contribute" workshop, held at the Kilburn Camden Library, encouraged participants to share their personal connections to the area by bringing objects, stories, and photographs with filmmaker Anna Bowman presenting a short film featuring archival footage of Kilburn life in the 70s.

People sat around a table at a workshop with pictures and documents on the table

The "Curate" workshop encouraged discussions on the museum's role and significance. Guest speakers, including Professor Esther Leslie (Birkbeck, University of London) and Dr Vlad Morariu (Middlesex University), offered insights into museum creation, curation and digital archiving, sparking lively debates and ideas for the museum's future trajectory.

Earlier this year, in January, we kicked off a three-week workshop at the historic Tin Tabernacle, a grade II listed building in Kilburn currently on the Heritage at Risk register, co-organised with students from Middlesex University's Interior Architecture programme. Tudor Allen, Senior Archivist at Camden Local Studies and Archives Centre, delivered a well-attended talk on Kilburn's history, highlighting the community's enthusiasm for our project.

An audience watching a talk

Looking ahead, the project will focus on weaving these local stories into a broader narrative over the coming months. The culmination will be the "Nomadic Museum", a temporary exhibition in June showcasing Kilburn's hidden histories.

Mary Arnold, Board Member of South Kilburn trust said:

“Francesca’s work has created a unique bridge between One Kilburn’s network of community partners and her students who are reaching out into the local neighbourhood to learn, apply and co-design innovative and sustainable products for the Kilburn Museum Lab she has co-created. We hope more and more people will gain from the exhibitions and strengthen their passion for Kilburn as a neighbourhood and community.”

Photos by Dr Francesca Murialdo

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For further information contact the Press Office on [email protected]  / 07500 010 432.

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