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Museum director Sonia Solicari ( left ) shows us the museum ’ s imagining of a 1915 drawing room ( middle ) alongside a 1937 living room ( right )
Photography : Em Fitzgerald , Chris Ridley . All images courtesy of the Museum of the Home
Home is a slippery concept . It is not merely bricks and mortar and assembled furniture . It ’ s the lives and memories that we make within it . You might find furniture in a museum . But home is a cast of meaningful things that carry memories and association , between them conveying a sense of belonging . “ What does ‘ home ’ mean ? It ’ s a feeling ,” says Sonia Solicari . She ’ s been wrangling with the question since 2017 when she took on the job of director of the Museum of the Home . Located in east London , in a row of Grade I-listed 18th-century almshouses formerly known as the Geffrye Museum , the space has been completely reimagined and reopened in June 2021 after a three-and-a-half-year hiatus , part due to extensive renovations , part due to Covid . “ That ’ s the closest we come to answering the question . Instead we reflect the question back to our visitors , asking what does home mean to you ?” As much as the museum gives insight into how people lived through the ages , its refreshed Rooms Through Time galleries show the small details that give rise to emotional and psychological responses to home , many of which we share . Home – no matter whether we grew up in a village or city , and yet connects us all . The 1970s front room has been designed by artist Michael McMillan and reflects his experience of growing up in a West Indian household in Dalston during that time . “ But the beautiful thing is people engage in it even if on the outside they have nothing in common with that ,” Sonia says . “ You hear them say , ‘ My auntie had one of those ’, or pointing out the crumpled Woolworths bag in the corner .” We are connected , beyond our front rooms , by colours and objects and the memories they spark . Instead of lingering on our differences , the museum invites us to see how much we have in common . Our homes interact with the outside world , the cities and villages and streets that we live on . We are connected by our possessions and networks and memories . In the museum is a new display of Domestic Game Changers , everyday objects from the past 400 years that have had a radical effect on how we live . These include the television , which moved leisure indoors , and Ikea ’ s Billy bookcase , which revolutionised the furniture market . It also includes a telephone that you can pick up and listen to different scenarios . “ This is my favourite thing in the museum ,” says Sonia . “ It brings such nostalgia flooding back , remembering what it was like to have your mum or dad pick up the phone while you were in the →
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