The migration debate has become polarized with heated discussions of immigration in recent years, while British emigration continues to be overlooked.
But there is a hidden treasure located in Lewisham’s shopping center that brings these stories to light – the Migration Museum.
It is partly set up as a departures exhibition to explore the motivations for leaving Britain while other parts highlight the stories of those who moved to the UK and helped shape the nation.
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As someone who emigrated from France to the UK five years ago, I have a clear idea of what it is like to leave your own country to find a home elsewhere.
The reasons are personal to each individual, but I was eager to hear the experiences of others.
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When I entered the museum, the first thing that struck me the most was the impressive work of transforming the space into an “airport”, starting from the departures hall, passing through passport control before to end your journey at Gates 1-5.
Hundreds of years of history come to life in this interactive exhibit.
I headed first to the ‘memories’ section, an area where Brits living abroad have listed the things they miss in their home country – from cooking pot to English biscuits.
Then I went through the passport control area where a set of passports was displayed. We often forget the power of this travel document because it allows us to travel around the world.
But my eyes were immediately drawn to a display of floating letters said to represent those sent by people living abroad to their loved ones.
There was a time when the only way to communicate with someone who was remote was through a letter whereas now it only takes two seconds to send a text via WhatsApp.
Part of the exhibit explored the historical events of emigration, including the journey of 65 people who boarded a ship called the Mayflower before settling across the Atlantic to the summer of 1620.
There are also photos of Welsh people in Patagonia when the first settlers arrived in 1865. Around 50,000 people of Welsh descent are now thought to live in this area of the world.
I was delighted to see a wide variety of displays.
A small section looked at the Windrush scandal, where people were wrongfully detained and threatened with deportation by the Home Office despite living in the UK for many years.
This particularly affected the inhabitants of the Caribbean countries of the “Windrush generation”.
Before going to the gates I hadn’t visited before, I stopped at the audio booths, where visitors can listen to stories of British emigrants and their reasons for leaving Britain.
One story in particular struck a chord with me, about the growing phenomenon of middle-class British Muslims moving to Islamic countries due to rising Islamophobia in the UK and a sense of no longer belonging to the Great Britain. -Brittany.
Another stall tells the story of a British-born Ghanaian woman who moved to Ghana because she never felt at home in Britain.
It was particularly moving and I’m sure many can relate to that.
The exhibition also explores emigration from Cornwall which was caused by a variety of reasons including lack of opportunities for minors.
There is a section on the Empire with Britons leaving the UK to create new lives in its colonies.
As well as panels explaining each section, visitors can view several exhibits, including a British sailor’s identity card.
I was particularly impressed by another part of the museum called ‘Room to Breath’, a series of rooms which contain stories of people who moved to the UK from the early 20th century to the present day.
It was very intimate and offered an immersive journey through the experiences of someone immigrating to the UK.
From walking through a room with images and audio to cooking with spices from around the world.
He tells painful and joyful stories.
For more stories of where you live, visit In your region.