A new immersive exhibition by the Migration Museum has opened, exploring 400 years of emigration from Britain, from the Mayflower to the present day.
Departures is an exhibition that explores Britain’s past through personal narratives, contemporary art and a range of media.
British emigration has been one of the largest movements of people in modern history.
Tens of millions of people have left the British Isles over the past 400 years.
Today, some 75 million people across the world self-identify as having British ancestry, greater than the population of the UK itself.
But while immigration dominates debates, Britain’s emigration story is often overlooked.
Departures puts this lesser-explored story at centre stage.
Visitors will embark on an immersive journey starting in a Departures Lounge featuring guidebooks for emigrants and an animated timeline, proceeding through Passport Control to a series of themed Departure Gates exploring reasons and motivations for leaving, finishing in an interactive Baggage Reclaim hall in which visitors are invited to share their thoughts on the complex legacies of British emigration.
The exhibition features dozens of emigration stories spanning four centuries – from Mayflower Pilgrims to Windrush deportees, Cornish and Welsh emigrants to South America to ‘Ten Pound Poms’, Black Londoners resettled in Sierra Leone in the 1780s to Black Britons who have recently moved ‘back’ to their parents’ countries of birth across West Africa.
Some of the highlights include an animated timeline exploring 400 years of British emigration by Bafta-nominated director Osbert Parker; The Disowned Briton, a textile tapestry by artist Rachelle Romeo, whose father was forced to prove his British nationality for 12 years as part of the Windrush Scandal; and The story of the Dunera boys, Jewish refugees who had sought refuge in Britain wrongfully deported to Australia during the Second World War.
Aditi Anand, head of creative content at the Migration Museum and curator of the exhibition, said: “It is impossible to quantify the huge impact that British emigration has had – both on Britain and the wider world.
“Yet we rarely talk about emigration in Britain, and when we do, we do so in a way which is largely detached from broader debates around migration – and often using very different language.”
“We cannot begin to understand immigration, or contemporary Britain and its relationship with the world, without understanding Britain’s emigration story.
“Departures places this story at the centre of conversations around migration and identity, inviting us to reflect on the reasons why people have left these shores over the past 400 years and how these are often similar to the reasons why people arrive.”
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