After three years of renovation formerly called the Geffrye Museum launches as a Museum of The Home in east London.
The rebranding is controversial, since Robert Geffrye was a 17th-century merchant who grew rich on the African slave trade. New name for the museum is neutral, however the statue of Robert Geffrye has remained on location dispite public outcry.
Overall, the museum is trying to achieve two things at the same time: sharing stories of home and showing homes through time. The latter task is self explanatory, but the thematic approach is less used in museums. (At times it is successful, but sometimes confusing). However, it is a great effort, and shows new direction for museum displays.
“Our vision is to review and rethink the ways we live, in order to live better together – and that’s bringing in a social mission as well.” Sonia Solicari, director
Meaning of Home
The journey starts with the most fundamental question about meaning of home, which couldn’t be more relevant due to global pandemic. The stories and displays in the museum cover over 400 years of home history.
The next section describes different ways of how homes can be made in different life situations.
Servant’s possessions in 1700s. They were kept inside a servant box, which was their only place to keep valuable personal objects.
Homes are sometimes full of heirlooms and personal treasures. But sometimes only very carefully chosen objects are on display.
The chosen objects have always personal meaning. The museum have put together collages with personal stories behind the objects like these Victorian mantelpieces that were passed down in the family.
Styles and Tastes
Homes reflect always the owners’ style and taste. But at the same time trends dictate what is available to buy. Museums are always great places to enjoy retro styles.
Cors and cleaning routines take a considerable time inside home. From cleaning without running water to make your own cleaning products, this is the area where modernisation shows most clearly.
The exhibition also includes interior design solutions that were popular during specific time periods. E.g. cosy corners were in fashion during late Victorian times to create both comfort and intimacy.
Rooms through time
Popular rooms through time dispalys start from 1630 to around 2000.
What is great about all displays is that they also include storytelling and specific scenes describing what family members actions and roles were. Themes cover e.g.:
- Eating together
- Parlour & entertainment
- Women in the Home
- Drawing room & evening program
- Serviced flat
- Front room
- Loft-style living
Since pandemic, there has been a lot of writing and analysis how the home has changed. These changes come even more evident when compared to history and evolution of the home. In this regard, the themes in the museum are very succefully chosen to demonstrate major changes:
- How much less time we spend eating together and how much eating rituals have changed
- How different entertainment at home is
- How much womens’ roles (wife, daughter) have changed
- How room functions have evolved
All in all the museum is full on not only visual elements but stories that give huge amount of details into everyday domestic life through time.
The location and the house itself are a worth of a visit. The museum is housed in almshouses built in 1714 as sheltered housing for poor retired ironmongers. The Grade I listed almshouses were only reborn as a museum of interior design 200 years later.