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Bangladesh 50 artwork

2021 marked 50 years since the independence of Bangladesh. Tower Hamlets Local History Library and Archives and the National Portrait Gallery (NPG) led Bangladesh 50 Years. This is one of four projects that forms a part of the National Portrait Gallery’s offsite programme, Citizen UK, during its temporary closure to transform the gallery.

Citizen UK is an exciting research and creative engagement project involving the borough archive services, local communities and contemporary artists. It is funded by the National Lottery Heritage Fund.

Further information about the project can be found here and here


BANGLA: a new public artwork for Whitechapel

Bangladesh 50 Years

In 2021 we launched 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.
installation at idea store whitechapel 
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, co-designed by Paraa: led by artist Ruhul Abdin & architect Sadiqul Islam Shehab.

The result - the word BANGLA constructed as a 3D illuminated steel structure clad in sari fabric. The piece was informed by research using collections at Tower Hamlets Local History Library and Archives by a group of over 20 Citizen Researchers from the local British Bangladeshi community.

The sculptural artwork is illuminated at dusk every evening. 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.
You can view BANGLA at Idea Store Whitechapel every day. Lights come on at 4pm to midnight. Take your pictures with BANGLA and post it on social media and tag us! @LBTHArchives #BD50

The Vanished East End

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

Tower Hamlets Local History Library and Archives
30 September 2021 - 4 February 2022
Monday - Friday
10.00am - 5.00pm
1st and 3rd Saturday of the month
10.00am - 5.00pm

Exhibition Closing Event Book Sale and Meet and Greet
Saturday 5th February, 12pm - 3pm 

Join us for the final day of the exhibition!

There will be a book sale and meet and greet with curator Susan Andrews and participating photographers Mike Seaborne and Tom Hunter.

Booking essential

Thanks to our friends over at the East End Archive at London Metropolitan University we are delighted to host this 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 on the history of our building, 1861-2015

Explore the history of our Grade 2 listed building here on Bancroft Road. An online exhibition is available. From Town Hall to Local History Library and Archives: a short history of our service and premises, 1861-2015 is based on research undertaken for 50th anniversary celebrations of the borough.

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