Brent Museum Reopens

By Siba Matti | 12 July 2006
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New displays at Brent Museum

Brent Museum has re-opened at its new home in Willesden Green Library Centre, showing a wealth of objects and interactive displays that tell the story of Brent.

It traces the life of the borough from prehistory, to the diverse picture today in a borough where the 'ethnic minority' is the white population.

Explore Brent Museum's first temporary exhibition for children

The new site, which opened on May 25 2006, cost £2.5 million to complete, and was created to provide a new home for local historical artefacts previously housed at the Grange Museum of Community History.

photo shows children peering into neon lit display case

Space age displays aimed at children

Visitors are initially greeted with a selection of works that highlight the multicultural aspect of the London borough, including a bust of Marcus Garvey (1887-1940), the founder of PAN African nationalism, who now rests in Kensal Green cemetery.

Brent has various claims to fame. Bill Haley, the Beatles and the Rolling Stones have all graced the area with their presence, playing gigs in the 1950’s and 60’s at the Gaumont State Cinema, which also happened to be a live music venue. Model Twiggy was also born Neasden.

Visitors are also presented with a variety of little known facts; for instance, did you know that 70 million years ago, this part of Britain was covered by tropical seas? Or that, because of a mistake by staff, the tube station Dudden Hill was accidentally named Dollis Hill?

Another interesting focal point is a microcosm of Brent, complete with images from past and present, and there is also the opportunity to see what the area was like in Victorian times, with a selection of quaint objects on display, including an 1880’s telephone, a butler calling machine, teapots, floor tiles, clocks and a phonograph.

photo shows figurines of north indian traders

Miniatures of North Indian traders donated to the museum.

Brent Museum also celebrates the borough’s multicultural history, with an entire display devoted to how shopping and industry has evolved since the 1960’s. Ealing Road famously had, and still has, a strong Hindu community spirit and is a centre for saris, fabrics, jewellery, and Hindu religious statues. But there are at least six other religions practiced in the area, including Rastafarianism and Seventh Day Adventism, and more than 130 languages spoken in schools across the borough.

Hannah Phung, Exhibitions Project Officer explains 'As Brent has an "ethnic majority", reflecting the diversity in Brent is naturally a part of our work. We often work with local communities on temporary exhibitions, and they have been a large contributing factor to the museum's permanent display'

Working in conjunction with the Horniman Museum, in South London, Brent Museum also set up Caribbean Currents, a project to explore the issues surrounding the identity of Caribbean descendents within the capital.

photo shows young rastafarian

Modern statue of a Rastafarian youth.

The Stonebridge Area Youth project (SAY) was formed to provide young residents on the Stonebridge Estate, aged between 14 and 25, with the chance to use art to change their lives, and equip them with the tools to combat hostility and exclusion. Participants used photography, screen printing and textiles, and referred to Caribbean objects to create eye-catching items of clothing and self portraits.

Similarly, West Indian Self Effort (WISE) group used screen printing to make vibrant, brightly coloured t-shirts, cushion covers, tea towels, and tablecloths. They also produced a striking banner representing Guyana, Barbados and Jamaica, the three islands from which the majority of the WISE members hail from, in which delicately drawn flowers, butterflies and birds contrast against clear blue skies and seas.

The Museum also has a space for temporary exhibitions - the current one being Eating Creepy Crawlies which runs until the end of August.

Brent’s rich and diverse history highlights that the museum a great place to visit and find out a little more about just one of the multi-dimensional boroughs that make up London.

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