Fatbergs, conservation labs, and the Olympic torch – our voyage of discovery at The Museum of London

 Fatberg! team selfie with our wonderful host Andy Holbrook.

Fatberg! team selfie with our wonderful host Andy Holbrook.

You voted, we listened ! On a drizzly Saturday afternoon we head off for our first official Timepeace event: a visit to the Museum of London. Steeped in the history of our capital city, from prehistoric times to present day, it was a first for both locals and refugees, and a chance to discover a side of our city we don’t usually get to see.

The wonderful Andy Holbrook, conservator of the Fatberg! exhibit, was our guide for the day, providing us with insider knowledge on Whitechapel’s most disgusting yet fascinating sewage blockage.

Displaying part of a fatberg has been on the Museum of London's wish list for a few years and when we heard about the Whitechapel fatberg - the biggest one ever found in the UK- we knew we had to secure a sample.

 Did you know that the Whitechapel Fatberg was a 250 metre long, 130 tonne congealed mass of fat, sewage and waste that blocked the sewers of East London in Autumn 2017!

Did you know that the Whitechapel Fatberg was a 250 metre long, 130 tonne congealed mass of fat, sewage and waste that blocked the sewers of East London in Autumn 2017!

What I love about the fatberg is professionally  we’ve been able to take something so potentially hazardous and weird and make it into the most successful media story the museum has ever had. It has been amazing to be part of the team that figured out how to do it. I’ve also enjoyed thinking and talking about the object itself. It is a potent reminder of the pressures on the city and the issues that can accumulate just under our feet every day. And is a bit disgusting. It works on a serious and a humorous level."

What’s more, we couldn’t believe our luck, as we picked up our VIP badges and snuck behind the scenes to the labs. Andy shared with us the different ways of conserving artefacts, and it was incredible to see the pieces up close – from a 500 year old shoe, to a helmet from World War II.

"It was also great to show the group behind the scenes and talk about conservation and the hidden work of the museum ‘pixies’. The large museums in London are generally free and offer great spaces to discuss ideas, politics, culture, different points of views. As we showed with Fatberg, objects can serve as powerful discussion points and can act as common ground for different groups. I think both the usual visitor experience and behind the scenes trips could be really good focal points for TimePeace visits (particularly for those Londoners that never go to museums ;) ).

 Andy explains the preservation process of this ornate 18th century wooden sign.

Andy explains the preservation process of this ornate 18th century wooden sign.

It was fantastic to be able to offer my services to TimePeace and great to meet the group. It is such a thoughtful and dignified idea and I would encourage people to get involved. I certainly hope that we can help to organise some further museum visits, and I’d love to see everyone again.”

Finishing our tour at the exhibit showcasing the 2012 Olympic torch, it is fair to say we were all in awe of the beauty and size. History, both ancient and modern, is something we can all share and relate to; we can’t wait to carry on the conversation, exploring London’s museums and galleries through further events in weeks to come.

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New media and Social integration for Refugees & Asylum seekers

6 OCT 2017

BY 3FF 

 

I applied to 3FF as a result of my ambition to gain hands-on experience within the charity/humanitarian sector. My interest in the areas of diversity, faith and acceptance were borne from my personal and professional experiences of dealing with difficult situations and questions concerning my faith. These experiences shaped my own perceptions and misconceptions; and my initial lack of appreciation of the value of fruitful dialogue concerning differences in identity developed into a realisation that it is possible for people to have conflicting views and still get along.

3FF provided me with the platform to educate myself and increase my knowledge in areas where I had overestimated my prior knowledge. Through the interfaith training I became aware of elements that are vital for social cohesion that I hadn’t previously taken into consideration such as language, safe space and self-reflection. 3FF highlighted that these aspects are not simply theoretical considerations but practical necessities to be implemented in our professional and personal lives.

The values and ethos of 3FF were also reflected in my MA thesis which was based on social integration for Syrian refugees and asylum seekers within their host nation. Although I decided on this topic before I joined 3FF, my time at 3FF reinforced and encouraged me to develop a more empathetic approach when dealing with Syrian refugees and the research at large.

Having worked with community activists and supported refugees I became curious as to how a more sustainable development plan could be designed to help these individuals not only economically, but also through improving their social integration within their local communities and by encouraging diversity and dialogue between social groups despite existing differences. Social integration, I believe, is the key to building harmonious and successful relationships between migrants and their host countries. An initiative I came across dedicated to this sentiment is ‘TimePeace’ and their research proved educational in my efforts.

TimePeace is an upcoming mobile phone app created by three women: Charlotte Maxwell, Alexandra Simmons and Alice Carter. The app provides a safe space and a platform for locals to integrate with refugees and asylum seekers based on skill sharing and the aligning of those with similar passions. The app aims to be inclusive and is apolitical. For refugees and asylum seekers who face uncertainty, confusion and unpredictability within their host nations, initiatives such as this aim to foster integration rather than isolate these individuals. It also works to build a network for future support and employability within the community.

Charlotte Maxwell, the creator of the app, considers its existence as a step forward as the initiative is one that has never been pursued in the UK. She considers the notion of social integration the final and most imperative stage within the refugee crisis. She asserts the idea that simple provision of humanitarian aid or mobile phones does not solve the long- term problems of refugees.

In recent years, information and communication technologies have been making a massive impact on the social and cultural integration of refugees. The competencies and experiences offered by communication technologies allows for social adaption and supports the creation of hybrid identities for refugee communities. As communication and interaction play a key role in socio-cultural integration, social change initiatives such as TimePeace that have been developed for marginalised communities can help to bridge the barriers they face concerning social and economic integration within this global community.

On a broader scale, 3FF has taught me why it’s important to participate in discussions about humanity’s differences, and how to do so respectfully; accepting that humans can retain their differences and still coexist peacefully. This learning is clearly reflected within my MA thesis in my research and analysis of TimePeace; critically evaluating it as a member of this global technological community. Lastly, being at 3FF has made me realise that the subject of identity and faith is not limited to one’s political and social background, but is open to interpretations dependent on personal and emotional experiences.