Hidden Histories

Date/Time: 11/02/2014 from 6:00 pm - 8:00 pm

Conventional cartographies are good at depicting the visible surface of the world but tend to obscure or exclude its deeper layers of meaning, especially those associated with natural and cultural histories whose material traces may be difficult to decode. This seminar will explore some recent ‘archaeological’ strategies designed to excavate and put these hidden histories on the map.

Memoryscape: Site Specific Oral History in a Community Context

Digital Experiences of Limehouse Chinatown

Re-walking London

Chair: Nicole Crockett
Venue: The Building Exploratory

Toby is the author of the forthcoming ‘Memoryscapes’ (2014) and an oral historian with a special interest in the design of urban trails and heritage walks using digital mapping techniques. Halima is based at the Museum of Docklands and designed a trail for Limehouse as part of her post graduate research. Bob is author of ‘The Green London Way’ (2013) and a long standing campaigner for urban open space and public access.



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Toby Butler

Memoryscape: Site Specific Oral history in a Community Context

For several years I have been interested in mapping memories and have created several oral history trails, or memoryscapes, in and around London. In this talk I will be exploring the potential of mapping memories for building connections in communities in spatial, historical and social terms. I will be discuss the trials and tribulations of community-based mapping projects from my own work involving artists and community groups in trail making around the Royal Docks in East London (portsofcall.org.uk) and experiential mapping work with Italian-Canadian children in Montreal, Canada.

Halima Khanom

Digital Experiences of Limehouse Chinatown

The ‘Wander East through East, project is an audio trail exploring the hidden history of Limehouse Chinatown, the original London based Chinatown, which was prominent in London’s East End between the 1880s to the 1930s. Although small in scale compared to Chinatown districts around the world, Limehouse has had a great impact on the perception of Chinese Diasporas within the Western imagination. As a result, Limehouse Chinatown becomes a site of urban spectacle in London by the 1920s. Inspired by the Situationist approach to urban exploration, ‘Wander East through East’ encourages the walker to critically engage with ‘Limehouse Chinatown.’ By using digital platforms, oral history and a creative approach to presenting history, the ‘Wander East through East’ trail critiques a homogenous, racialised, and sedentary characterisation of place and suggests an alternative way of re-imagining and experiencing place.

Bob Gilbert

Re-walking London

There is a story in the pattern of our streets, in the names we have given them and in the weeds that grown on their fringes. They are the stories of the people who have lived and worked there and the communities from which they have come. They are the echoes of lost landscapes; and of past associations reasserting themselves. This talk sets out to explore the lost, or hidden, stories of our locations and to explain, with practical examples, how we can ‘read’ an area. It also looks at the connections between ‘natural’ and ‘social’ history: how our transport systems affect the spread of wild plants or what the weeds of a waste land can tell us about world trade or our agricultural or industrial past. It will argue that human community depends on connections: with time, with place, with other people, and with the other species with which we share our space. Faced, however, with the power given to developers and with the demands of a growth-at-all-costs economy, we are in danger of robbing our streets of all meaning and of destroying a sense of place. Understanding where we are is essential to understanding who we are and we should view it as an act of resistance.



Toby Butler is a senior lecturer in London History and Heritage at the University of East London. His research interests include oral history, digital heritage and the cultural history of London. He has created several oral history trails that explore place for clients including the Museum of London, Elmbridge Borough Council and Tower Hamlets Council (Victoria Park). He has directed and worked on oral history projects in India, the USA, Wales and England, including an arts and oral history trail project around the Royal Docks (www.portsofcall.org.uk). Toby is co-editor of the History Workshop Journal, programme leader of an MA in Heritage Studies: place, memory and history at the Raphael Samuel History Centre and a research associate at the Scottish Oral History Centre. He is currently writing a book entitled Memoryscapes: making place based oral history for the Oxford University Press. Website: www.memoryscapes.com

Halima Khanom completed her BA (Hons) in History and Politics at Goldsmiths, University of London. Now half way through completing her MA in Heritage Studies, Halima produced the ‘Wander East through East’ audio trail as part of an MA assignment. Halima’s professional career started at the Royal Geographical Society [with IBG], where she completed a traineeship as part Heritage Lottery Fund’s Skills for the Future scheme. Halima is now based at the Museum of London, as part of another traineeship scheme, coordinated between the Museum of London and the Raphael Samuel History Centre. Halima is working on collaborative projects with local community groups, many of which have focused on East London, as well as coordinating the Inclusion programme. Halima is interested in alternative mapping, migration, and the projection of the ‘other’ onto East London spaces.

Bob Gilbert is author of ‘The Green London Way’ (2013). He is a long-standing campaigner for the protection of urban open spaces and public access. A pioneer of inner city conservation, his varied career has ranged from stand-up comedian to Director of Sustainability at a London local authority. He is the author of ‘The Green London Way’, a 110 mile walking route around London bringing together social and natural history, and his newspaper column on urban wildlife has now run for 17 years. Bob lives, with his family, in the East End where he is currently working on ‘Ghost Trees’, a study of an urban landscape and on the way that past influences and natural forms help shape the modern city.

Venue: The Building Exploratory

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