Family ties


What does the family mean to you? Yeah – the world. But what about the idea of ‘family’? Is that changing, as our lives become stretched in time and place, though better connected by tech? How does our idea of family compare to other times? How is it different across cultures?

Families in our neighbourhood today face many challenges  – bringing up children in a modern city, combining work and family, coping with the distances between family members across generations. Or sometimes the opposite – dealing with the pressures of generations living close together in small, crowded flats.

If these are questions which interest or prompt some thoughts, you might like to know about a new Britsh Museum project (we are lucky to have these places on our doorstep). It’s the latest in the Museum’s Object Journeys scheme, a community project that began in 2015 and lets people research and explore the museum collections and produce displays, events and digital content.

The BM’s Kayte McSweeney says, “Object Journeys is about learning, researching and exploring together and is designed to facilitate a genuine sharing and exchanging of knowledge. The current project aims to explore the theme of ‘care within the family’. This is a wide theme, as we would like our community partners to both shape and lead its direction. We would like the project to use our collections from the Americas and Oceania but there may be opportunities to bring in objects from other places too.”

Kayte is looking to work a group of adults (over 18’s) from different cultural heritage backgrounds and a mix of gender and age to help think about this subject, leading to the creation of a new public display that will open in Summer 2018. The project will include sessions at the museum, delving into its object stores, and some independent research.

If you’d like to see what might come out of it, here’s two they did earlier – a project in 2015 that worked with the Somali community  to produce a new Museum display, and a new display curated by a community of Kiribati (Central Pacific) people living in the UK.

If interested – contact Kayte McSweeney, Learning and National Partnerships, British Museum on +44) 020 7323 8398 or

The image, by the way, is ‘A Bloomsbury Family’ depicting the artist William Nicholson and his family, and painted just over a century ago in 1907. Nicholson’s wife, the painter Mabel Pryde, is standing by the door. Sitting at the table from left to right are the Nicholson children: Nancy, who married the writer Robert Graves; Tony, who died during the war in 1918; and Ben, who would become Britain’s foremost abstract artist. For some reason it’s in the Scottish National Gallery in Edinburgh. Maybe the BM should get it on loan?


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