Local History Month: Redbridge Museum fusing borough’s past with present

Ibrahim Hussain, five, photographed at Ships Ahoy!

Ibrahim Hussain, five, photographed at Ships Ahoy! - Credit: Archant

Redbridge Museum, based in the Central Library, Ilford, is the community history museum for the borough, managed by Vision Redbridge Culture and Leisure. For Local History Month, running throughout May, Redbridge Museum and Heritage Service manager Gerard Greene shares some thoughts on what it’s like to work there.

Pop-up museum at Gearies Primary School, where pupils put on their own history exhibitions with the

Pop-up museum at Gearies Primary School, where pupils put on their own history exhibitions with the help of Redbridge Museum - Credit: Archant

Redbridge Museum opened in 2000 and was the result of a long campaign by residents and historical societies to ensure the borough had a modern museum which reflected the local area.

Since then, it has worked with hundreds of local people to produce more than 90 exhibitions, attracting more than 300,000 visits, held more than 700 family activities and taught more than 45,000 school pupils.

Just as importantly, we support a wide range of local groups and individuals to explore different aspects of local heritage and often help with funding applications.

The borough’s rich history is a constant source of inspiration when planning the museum’s exhibition programme.

Redbridge Museum manager Gerard Greene at the unveiling of the restored Horace Cowlin memorial in Va

Redbridge Museum manager Gerard Greene at the unveiling of the restored Horace Cowlin memorial in Valentines Park, to mark the Battle of the Somme centenary - Credit: Archant


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We try to ensure a balanced programme for different audiences as it is rare that one subject appeals to everyone. Ilford, Wanstead and Woodford all have their own particular histories, for example, while every summer we create a hugely popular interactive exhibition just for children and families. All of our exhibitions take many months of careful work by a small team of staff.

The museum has a strong record of working with the borough’s diverse communities. Exhibitions not only celebrate the different cultural backgrounds of residents but just as importantly show how those family stories connect to local, national and world history.

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For example, the museum has produced several projects which reflect the large South Asian presence in the borough.

During the 17th and 18th centuries, many East India Company merchants lived in what is now Redbridge so this story of trade, empire and the movement of people is a long one which links us all.

Hassan Ahmed, six, and Mohammed Awan, six, enjoying the previous interactive water exhibition

Hassan Ahmed, six, and Mohammed Awan, six, enjoying the previous interactive water exhibition - Credit: Archant

We’ve also found that no matter where you come from, if you live in Redbridge today, you want to find out about your local area. This is particularly true of our work with schools.

Each of the free, two-hour sessions we teach help to bring history alive for young people. The museum delivers a wide range of topics including the Ice Age, Romans, Victorians, local history, world wars and many more.

The museum also supports special school projects. At the moment, we are helping pupils from Woodlands Primary School explore the history of Ilford town centre using our archives.

They will be making architectural models of historic buildings and interviewing members of Ilford Historical Society about their memories. Just as importantly, they will be finding out about the current changes taking place. In this way, the museum is a great place for people to connect the past to the present.

Garments showcased at the museum's India exhibition

Garments showcased at the museum's India exhibition - Credit: Archant

The museum is a permanent collection of over 7,000 objects, oral histories and film. This ranges from a 200,000 mammoth bone discovered in Ilford all the way up to a wi-fi router as this will be the history of the future.

The exhibition running until June 10, What Redbridge Wore: 400 Years of Fashion is a showcase for historic costume from the museum’s collection, as well as featuring loans from residents.

All of this work keeps us busy! Although it is challenging and there are never enough hours in the day, it is hugely rewarding to work with so many different people. Our visitors constantly tell us they value local heritage and what the museum does. We really hope there is something for everyone here.

Redbridge Museum is on the second floor of Redbridge Central Library, Clements Road, Ilford, and is open from Tuesday–Friday 10am–5pm and Saturday 10am–4pm, admission free. The Recorder is celebrating Local History Month throughout May.

Redbridge Central Library, where the museum is based

Redbridge Central Library, where the museum is based - Credit: Archant

Hassan Ahmed, six, and Mohammed Awan, six, enjoying the previous interactive water exhibition

Hassan Ahmed, six, and Mohammed Awan, six, enjoying the previous interactive water exhibition - Credit: Archant

Ibrahim Hussain, five, photographed at Ships Ahoy!

Ibrahim Hussain, five, photographed at Ships Ahoy! - Credit: Archant

Garments showcased at the museum's India exhibition

Garments showcased at the museum's India exhibition - Credit: Archant

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