Urban spaces have memories — not only of the many people who have lived and worked there, but also a memory of the buildings, public spaces and housing.
Artist Verity-Jane Keefe, who recently created an infographic mural mapping the historic and present businesses along Wood Street in Walthamstow, is hoping to launch the Mobile Museum which will make, document and collect the histories, artefacts and objects representing place and the everyday in both fact and mythology, via the residents and housing estates around Barking and Dagenham. She already has a vintage Ford Iveco Mobile Library van which she has converted into a museum, filled with many cabinets, drawers, vitrines, parquet flooring and space for collections to grow and develop.
She plans to tour Barking and Dagenham over a period of five months, spending time in each estate, starting at Becontree, one of the largest council estates in Europe when it was built in 1921 as a “Home for Heroes” after WWI. There, she hopes to document a snapshot of everyday life and cultural activities in the borough in the face of rapid urban regeneration, and will visit 11 council estates in her tour with the Mobile Museum. Alongside the curation of the museum’s collections, with input from residents, there will be events such as archaeological digs, talks from invited experts in architecture and planning, and art-making workshops. She would also like to turn the museum over to local creative groups for performances, talks and film screenings.
Keefe was inspired to create The Mobile Museum while working in an architectural firm on the Barking Town Square folly and during the 2008 demolition of the Linton Estate, a landmark of 1960s council architecture. Keefe was fascinated by the process of demolition and regeneration and made a film in 2008, Rooms with a View, collecting the oral histories and filming the demolition of the Linton estate buildings. With the Mobile Museum, she hopes to pose questions and create a neutral platform for dialogue around the issues of living space and regeneration, particularly as it is occurring across London at such a rapid pace.
Keefe plans to launch the mobile museum this October, where it will run in conjunction with Valence House Museum. While Keefe has obtained an Arts Council grant to help fund this work, the matching funding promised by the local borough was cut in 2012 in the wider public sector cuts, so she began a Kickstarter Campaign to raise funds for the completion of her work.
The Mobile Museum will be a record of the history and evolution of the housing estates in Barking and Dagenham, recording the memories of these changing places. We look forward to its roll out.