Museums and Migration, 2009–2017

A report exploring the case for a national migration museum, and a migration museums network, by Dr Cathy Ross and Emma Shapiro.

Download and view the full report here

This report looks at the representation of migration in English museums since 2009. The report has been prompted by two questions:

  • Would a national museum of migration make a useful contribution to the museum sector?
  • Would a specialist network about migration make a useful contribution to the museum sector?

This report follows on from an earlier report by Dr Mary Stevens, published by the IPPR in 2009, which concluded that migration was a subject of such fundamental importance to Britain’s national story that it merited a new museum ‘dedicated to telling the whole story’.

Stevens saw Britain’s ‘collective failure to engage in an informed way with contemporary migration patterns’ as deriving from ‘our ignorance about this aspect of our history’. Moreover, Britain’s ‘carefully orchestrated amnesia’ about migration contrasted with the situation in other countries. In short, ‘our migration stories deserve a more prominent place in our national self-understanding and need to be more visible in our heritage institutions’.

This report seeks to provide a short update of developments in UK museums and galleries since Stevens’ analysis. It looks at the visibility of migration stories in today’s heritage institutions, many of which have seen significant change since 2009. It also discusses the museum sector’s coverage of national history and the seeming reluctance to engage fully with big-picture national stories about our past, including migration.

This report has been commissioned by Arts Council England (ACE) from the Migration Museum Project (MMP), as part of the scoping work around a possible migration museums network (MMN).

Some of the report’s data is drawn from a survey of museums carried out in 2017 as another element in the scoping work; a full report on the survey’s findings can be found here. This current report should also be read with the MMP’s own brochure, A Migration Museum for Britain.

Download and view the full report here