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BANGLA: a new public artwork for Whitechapel

Bangladesh 50 Years

Commemorating the 50th anniversary of the independence of Bangladesh, Tower Hamlets Local History Library & Archives was proud to present a programme of free online events exploring the connections between the War of Independence in 1971 and the local community here in the East End. All events took place between March and May 2021. The full programme flyer can be found here. [PDF 1.7Mb]

installation at idea store whitechapelWe are thrilled to announce the launch of a new art installation at Idea Store Whitechapel. A collaboration with the National Portrait Gallery, BANGLA is a bright and bold celebration of the 50th anniversary of Bangladesh installed in the facade of the borough's flagship library.
Initially planned as an exhibition in our entrance hall, the pandemic led the project's stakeholders to identify an open-air space to display the new artwork, designed by Bangladesh-based Londoner Ruhul Abdin.

The result - the word BANGLA constructed as a 3D illuminated steel structure clad in sari fabric - was informed by research in the collections of Tower Hamlets Local History Library & Archives by a group of more than twenty Citizen Researchers from the local British Bangladeshi community.

In addition to the sculptural artwork, which is illuminated at dusk every evening and will be on display until spring 2022, the installation includes two large embroidered hangings depicting archival fragments of the 1971 Liberation War, and its impact on the Bengali East End.
Pasted onto the disused escalator shaft in the overhanging glass facade, highlights from our collections are used in a new exhibition about the history of the independence struggle, the contribution of Tower Hamlets residents and the Language Movement in the East End.

Bangladesh 50 is part of Citizen UK, a collaboration between the National Portrait Gallery and local authority archives. Check out behind the scenes photos and videos of the project process.
We will be holding a free public event at the Idea Store exploring the themes of the exhibition in December, to mark Victory Day - watch this space for more details!

You can view BANGLA at Idea Store Whitechapel everyday. Lights come on at 8.15 to midnight which will be shifting earlier during the winter months. Take your pictures with BANGLA and post it on the social and tag us! @LBTHArchives #BD50

The Vanished East End

Documentary photography from the 70s and 80s
A new exhibition

Tower Hamlets Local History Library & Archives
30 September 2021 - 4 February 2022
Monday - Friday
10.00am - 5.00pm

Many thanks to our friends over at the East End Archive at London Metropolitan University we are delighted to announce a new exhibition at Bancroft Road.

Photograph of fife and drum band parade in Wapping, 1980s
Photograph of fife and drum band parade in Wapping, 1980s (c) Diane Bush

The Vanished East End highlights the huge social and economic changes in the area, including the now vanished industrial landscape and the deregulation of the financial markets. The group show features work from the 1970s and the 1980s by acclaimed photographers Tom Hunter, Diane Bush, Mike Seaborne, Brian Griffin and Syd Shelton.

The work on show by four of the five photographers is highlighted in a recent publication series by Café Royal Books, a long term advocate of British documentary photography. Each book showcases each photographer’s distinctive and personal approach to capturing the area, and comprise.

  • Down the Lane features the work of Tom Hunter and dates from a time, now disappeared and prior to his professional career when he had a stall at Brick Lane Market and photographed the passers-by.
  • East End features the work of Diane Bush, which was made whilst working with EXIT, Britain’s first photography collective, which believed in the power of photography to contribute to positive social change.
  • London Docklands features the work of Mike Seaborne,  showcasing the huge social and economic changes in the area through the 1970s which were defined by a vanished post-industrial landscape.
  • The Broadgate Development features the work of Brian Griffin, which comments on massive economic shifts but this time in the City of London in the 1980s where borders were re-drawn as the City spread with the deregulation of the financial markets.
  • Syd Shelton is a British photographer who documented the Rock Against Racism movement. His work is held in the collections of Tate and the Victoria and Albert Museum.

Please check our opening hours before visiting

About The East End Archive at London Metropolitan University:

The East End Archive at London Metropolitan University is an online and digital photographic resource which develops collaborative ventures with other community groups, public bodies and research projects that have a common interest. The Archive collects the work of photographers whose practice is concerned with the East End of London and its diaspora, where the East End is understood as an ever-changing frontier within the urban sprawl that is part imagined and part tangible.

The Archive holds only “bodies of work” in order to understand more fully the working methodology of the photographers, and to give context to the work. This is an archive for the future, which brings together not only historic bodies of work but contemporary collections from photographers currently working in the field in order to record current rather than retrospective ideologies. The work collected ranges from traditional documentary to works of the imagination in order to reflect the East End- a place where dreams, dissent and transformation co-exist. The archive aims to bring to light forgotten or little published work as well as the work of established photographers, and works with local communities to uncover and preserve histories, promote community well-being and cultural understanding.


COVID-19 collecting volunteer project

Tower Hamlets Local History Library and Archives wants to create a lasting collective memory of our community’s response to the COVID-19 crisis. As an archive it is our responsibility to not only preserve historic records from the past, but collect and preserve the history of today to inform many generations to come. We would like to invite you to help us document the impact of the virus and the lockdown measures in place and organisations in the borough.

If you would like to volunteer your time with us, read our Life During Lockdown: COVID-19 collecting volunteer project summary and see how you can get involved.

If you are are an organisation or sole trader and would like to contribute your experience of the pandemic, or would like recordkeeping advice as a result of any changes caused by lockdown, please visit our new page on Recordkeeping Advice During the COVID-19 Pandemic.

If you are an individual who would like to contribute your personal experiences of the pandemic, please visit our new project website: Making History: documenting coronavirus in the East End

Online exhibition

We are pleased to report that a new online exhibition is now available. From Town Hall to Local History Library & Archives: a short history of our service and premises, 1861-2015 is based on research undertaken for last year's 50th anniversary celebrations of the borough.

If you've ever wondered about the history of our Grade 2 listed building here on Bancroft Road, these web pages will reveal all.

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