What does home mean to us? The Museum of the Home has recently re-opened and poses that as an initial question. Our Seeing Architecture group visited yesterday and had a lively debate about that question as we followed the (somewhat prescriptive) route around this extensive museum.
The building has been thoroughly renovated and extended by architects, Wright and Wright. Large areas of internal space have been opened to the public and pavilions added. The museum was originally constructed in 1714 as almshouses for the poor. These grandly austere buildings have a real presence on Kingsland Road. A key design strategy was to relocate the main entrance to the Hoxton Station side of the building, which was the back of the almshouses. Whilst this creates a wonderful new urban space at the station, a visitor to the museum might barely acknowledge the handsome street frontage.
Aside from temporary displays, there are two key components to the visitor experience. The 'Rooms Through Time' section is clearly the real crowd-pleaser and has been revamped. The rooms represent decoration and furniture from 1700s to 1990s, with, I noticed, empty space for an additional one at the end. How will we look back on a lockdown room of today in 2040, perhaps?
The rooms imagine real inhabitants and spark much nostalgia and discussion. I particularly liked the 1930s art-deco chic, drawing room complete with cocktail cabinet, and the 1976 room - orange, brown and plastic flowers galore.
Slightly less entertaining but very thought-provoking are the new 'Home Galleries'. These spaces explore the concept of home through people’s everyday experiences of making, keeping and being at home over the last 400 years. There is a real mix of contemporary and historical stories in this space, and there are interactive elements. Subjects such as housework, faith and entertainment are displayed with real stories, photos and artifacts. Uniquely, these often came from diverse, working class homes. It really made me realise how many of the museums and National Trust properties I have visited in the past rely on an admiration of an exclusive and wealthy past that so few attained.
The new courtyard garden is delightful, representing gardens through time. Seeing Architecture recommends a visit to the Museum of the Home. You are sure to come away with plenty to think about and may make you take a fresh look at your own home.
The Museum of the Home is right by Hoxton Overground Station and is Open Tuesday to Sunday, 10am to 5pm.