City announces ‘cultural transformation’ of Smithfield

When I was floating the idea of a Museum of the Streets last year, I wrote:

“In December 2022 the Museum of London closes after 45 years on the edge of the Barbican estate, and prepares for a move to former market buildings in West Smithfield.

“The new museum promises to be amazing – but it won’t be open until 2025.

“Even when its doors are closed, the Museum may well offer some continuing enlightenment and entertainment, building on its impressive digital services and current off-site activities. The Museum of Docklands will remain open.

“Closure could be a catalyst for exploring the rich but under-realised heritage that we have on the doorstep of the new museum, and in EC1 as a whole.

“I think there is scope for developing a Museum of the Streets with walks, talks, maps and the power of smartphones that enable us to connect with neighbourhoods as residents, workers or visitors”.

It seems that the Museum has been planning something like that all along, because the City Corporation has announced:

“The Museum of London is launching a new cultural programme around its future home in Smithfield, thanks to City of London Corporation funding.

“Over the next three years, the museum will deliver a free, world-class programme of neighbourhood activities aimed at ‘activating, animating and enriching’ the area.

“School workshops, family programming, community-led projects and public events will all be held in the streets around Smithfield Market.

“A new temporary community space will house creative and social activities, while a training, work experience and mentoring scheme will be offered to over 500 young people in the City and Islington.

“The activities are being funded with a £650,000 grant from the City Corporation’s Neighbourhood Fund – derived from a levy on new developments in the Square Mile”.

So far that’s all we know. I think it came as a surprise to City councillors, and there certainly hasn’t been any consultation with local residents.

Never mind, it sounds really promising, and I’ll try and find out more.

Meanwhile I’ve been developing the Museum of the Streets idea with The Peel Institute and others in Clerkenwell. We’ve created a map of Radical Clerkenwell that will feature both on the Footways Digital map and on Layers of London, where you can see initial development. More on that shortly.

I still have hopes that there might be some sort of re-staging of Bartholomew Fair this year, as Matthew Bell and I proposed in the EC1 Echo last July.

My angle then was that there are lots of ways to create online maps and tours, linked to walks, that would help people engage with the area’s history and its attractions now. The aim would be to support the Barts 900 celebrations and fundraising.

Ideally Barts Fair online should link with Barts Fair on the ground, but my experience with Museum of the Streets in Clerkenwell, and news of the Museum of London project, leads me to think it is worth exploring digital possibilities in any case.

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