Memories and memorabilia of east London estates become natural history on the move

Memories on the move – the Mobile Museum.
Memories on the move – the Mobile Museum.

Mobile Museum, Barking and Dagenham, London 
Verity-Jane Keefe for the Mobile Museum Trust

Not a building or an open space, but a truck – a renovated former mobile library van turned into a touring device to collect the memories and memorabilia of people living in estates on the periphery of east London.

The itinerant museum tours the borough’s 12 remaining purpose-built council estates, constructing a new natural history collection based on the evolution of the council house as it goes.  

It is speculative, playful, rigorous and grounded in natural history modes of display and taxonomies. The development of council housing is used as a timeline to order the collection and tour the borough, working with a mixture of residents, council staff and interested people from further afield.

Bespoke cabinets, vitrines, a crowdsourced lending library and parquet flooring all add to the Narnian affect when stepping inside this old relic of a public sector gone by, to find a beautiful natural history museum space, colour coded in line with the Horniman Museum’s galleries of natural history. Thus the estates are celebrated as living, glorious everyday things.