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What Is the Hackney Museum?

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  • Written By: Britt Archer
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 12 November 2016
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The Hackney Museum opened in 2002 in the Hackney district of London for the purpose of documenting centuries of the community’s history, specifically the culturally diverse populations and how they came to reside there. Exhibits feature photographs, interviews and objects from these immigrants. A sculpture created by someone born in Sierra Leone, for example, helps illustrate a child’s experience, while a printing press used by a Yiddish businessman or a variety of Nazi memorabilia tell other types of stories. The Hackney Museum has sought out the immigrants’ stories to try to convey to visitors why they chose to settle in the Hackney community. The history of foreign settlers in the region dates back to the Saxons and the early history of Great Britain.

Many of the activities at the Hackney Museum are hands-on, enjoyable especially for youngsters. Historical costumes can be tried on, for example, and a Saxon boat stands ready and waiting for children to load it with goods. Visitors also can view Hackney’s history according to themes presented in permanent displays. The themes include living areas, businesses, free speech, looking for work, a safe haven and other issues that affected the people who sought the diversity offered by Hackney. Artifacts representing the various historical eras are divided between the authentic and replicas. There are also computerized touch-screen displays.

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The Hackney Museum is a small space with the big job of documenting a millennium of stories and immigration patterns as they pertain to the region. Immigrants who are represented in the museum’s collections include those from African, Asia, Europe, and India. One historical aspect of this immigration is on display under protective glass — a real Saxon boat that was discovered in the 1980s and is estimated to be 1,000 years old. Modern times are represented in part by a 1950s kitchen.

Hackney was once a rural setting with much farmland. The Victorian age brought changes with a growing population and industrialization, turning farmland into an urban landscape. One major instigator of change was the introduction of the railroad to the region in 1840. Heritage areas that are protected include houses built in the Victorian and Georgian periods.

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