Past Exhibitions

Explore some of the past exhibitions at Hackney Museum. Discover the stories of some of the amazing people that have made their homes here over the last 1,000 years, from Anglo-Saxon settlers to early Victorian villas and recent refugees.

Inside the Ayahs’ Home at 26 King Edward’s Road, Hackney, 1901. From George Simms’ London, courtesy of the British Library.

Asian and Chinese nannies in Hackney: The Home for Ayahs and Amahs

16 June 2022 – 27 August 2022

Between 1900 and 1941 Hackney was home for hundreds of Chinese amahs and South Asian ayahs who were employed to look after children in British households during the colonial period in India, China and Southeast Asia. This display revealed new information about the history of the Ayahs’ and Amahs’ Home in Hackney, and some of the experiences of the many women who lived there.

  • Explore items that featured in this exhibition from our museum collections soon.
  • Watch this talk about the history of ayahs and amahs in Britain created for the exhibition
(C) Nathaniel Plevyak

We are all in this together: Hackney during the pandemic

8 March 2022 – 4 June 2022

This display explored residents’ diverse experiences of the Covid-19 pandemic through their personal objects, photographs, and artwork. It also reveals how local people and organisations found ways to support NHS staff and other frontline workers. 

  • Explore items that featured in this exhibition from our museum collections.
  • View images of the exhibition

Being African in Hackney: 1960s-2020s

21 September 2021 – 19 February 2022

This exhibition was the first in a series to explore, understand and share the experiences of Hackney’s diverse African heritage communities. African heritage communities in the borough have grown over the last 60 years. The objects, photographs and oral histories displayed told stories of people moving to and living, working, studying and growing up in Hackney, from the 1960s to 2020s:

  • Explore items that featured in this exhibition from our museum collections.
  • Watch this talk about the history of Africans in Britain created for the exhibition

Out of the ManCave

18 May 2021 – 5 February 2022

This display shared the experiences of the Hackney Brocals, members of a social club for men aged 50+. It was created by Angela Groundwater, an artist and wallpaper designer, who uses intricate patterns and personal artefacts to share stories from the participants’ lives before and during lockdown to combat isolation.

  • View items that featured in this exhibition from our museum collections.

Hackney in the 1980s: Photographs from the Tape/Slide project

29 October 2020 – 14 August 2021

This photography exhibition explored and celebrated the resilience, spirit and solidarity of Hackney’s communities in the 1980s. On display for the first time, the images taken by The Rio Cinema’s Tape/Slide – Hackney’s ground-breaking community photography project, capture a unique view of the highs and lows of everyday life, and the discover activism, creativity and community organising in Hackney.

Hackney’s Got Style: Celebrating the History and Impact of African and Caribbean Fashion and Hair

1 October 2019 to 21 March 2020

This exhibition shares and celebrates the history and impact of African and Caribbean style and hair through the eyes of Hackney people. Explore how the clothes we wear and how we style our hair has expressed and impacted identity since the 1950s, and what this means for us today. Discover the local entrepreneurs, designers and fashionistas who have changed British culture in the borough and beyond.

  • View items that featured in this exhibition from our museum collections.
Poster for the exhibition 'Women On Screens' a screenprinted image of a woman (artist Ingrid Pollard) in boiler suit, mask and holding art supplies.

Women on Screens: Printmaking, photography and community activism at Lenthall Road Workshop 1970s-1990s

14 May – 31 August 2019

This exhibition shares some of the radical visual imagery of the Lenthall Road Workshop, a screen printing and photography space based in Hackney from 1970s-1990s. With posters, protests, and printing and photography classes, this collective made a unique contribution to the feminist and community arts movement. Created in partnership with former workers.

  • Explore stories from this exhibition via the Hackney Stories blog.

Changing Faces, Hidden Stories: photographs from RA Gibson’s studio

2019 to 2020

Created by Hackney Archives. A selection of photographs taken by RA Gibson’s studio in the 1950s, 1960s and 1970s. See a slice of Hackney’s history and maybe someone you know.

  • View images from the Gibson’s studio at Hackney Archives
Copyright Neil Martinson

Another Time Another Place: Hackney in the 70s and 80s

15 January 2019 – 13 July 2019

A selection of photographs taken by Neil Martinson, documenting Hackney’s working class history. The photos show Hackney’s working lives, protests, children and young people, homelessness, Jewish life and street scenes.

  • View the work of photographer Neil Martinson held by Hackney Archives

Sharing Stories: Jewish Stamford Hill 1950s-1980s and beyond

12 January 2019 – 29 March 2019

Stamford Hill is now home to Europe’s largest Charedi community with an estimated 20,000 people. Many Orthodox Jewish people who arrived to the Hackney area post WWII were instrumental in setting up the community as we know it today. Many local schools, organisations and businesses were built up by these pioneers. This exhibition was created by young women from the Charedi Orthodox community group Teen Action

Roots, Rhythms & Records: The sounds and stories of African and Caribbean music in Hackney

2 October 2018 – 16 March 2019

From making beats in bedrooms to performing on stage, enjoying sounds in shebeens to looking sharp for the club, this exhibition explores the history of African and Caribbean music in Hackney. Through stories of musical innovation, distribution and enjoyment, this exhibition celebrates the impact of African and Caribbean music in Hackney and beyond.

  • Explore stories from this exhibition via the Hackney Stories blog.
  • View items that featured in this exhibition from our museum collections.
Poster for Mothers of Hackney exhibition. 5 mothers holding their young children look at the camera.

Mothers of Hackney: an exhibition by Hackney mums exploring their challenges and achievements

29 May 2018 – 5 January 2019

Mothers of Hackney talked about the challenges and triumphs of early motherhood. Shoreditch Trust’s Bump Buddies programme and Hackney Museum worked with a group of Hackney mums to explore how we can tell stories of motherhood in Hackney in 2018. The V&A is also supported this project.

The Mind’s Eye: art and recovery from brain injuries

12 June 2008 – 1 September 2018

Since 1995, patients at the art workshop at Homerton Hospital have worked in collaboration with local artists and volunteers towards their recovery from brain injuries. The exhibition features artworks created and chosen by patients from the Regional Neurological Rehabilitation Unit.

Poster for the exhibition 'Making Her Mark'. A green and purple stencil image of women walking together with linked arms is shown.

Making Her Mark: 100 years of women’s activism

6 February 2018 – 19 May 2018

The story of women’s activism in Hackney doesn’t begin or end with the suffragettes. Discover the inspiring stories of women who made a difference in the borough and beyond. This exhibition was created by the East End Women’s Museum in collaboration with Hackney Museum.

  • Explore the exhibition online (via eastendwomensmuseum.org)
  • View items that featured in this exhibition from our museum collections.
Poster for the exhibition 'From Bedroom to Battleground' A collection of badges with LGBTQI+ slogans are shown

From Bedroom to Battleground

1 February 2018 – 5 May 2018

This exhibition shared the voices of the members of Project Indigo, a local LGBTQI+ youth group run by Off Centre, a young people’s mental health and wellbeing charity. The members of Project Indigo hoped that by sharing their personal stories, they can help to teach people what it’s like to be young and LGBTQI+ in Hackney.

Detail of wallpaper design

Out and About

1 February 2018 – 5 May 2018

‘Out and About’ is a collaborative wallpaper design project between artist Angela Groundwater and Out and About, an LGBTQI+ group for people aged 50 and over. The custom made wallpaper combines stories from Out and About group members with illustrations and patterns meaningful to their lives.

  • View the wallpaper designs that featured in the exhibition (via angela-groundwater.com)

Island to Island: journeys through the Caribbean

3 October 2017 – 13 January 2018

This exhibition presented a visual journey through the English-speaking Caribbean with stunning photographs taken over the past sixty years. Find out how the region’s multicultural history has shaped the distinctive cultures found across the Caribbean today, through the work of photographer Tim Smith. The exhibition also included rare images of everyday life in the 1950s and 60s, and personal memories from Hackney residents with connections to the Caribbean.

  • View items and interviews that featured in this exhibition from our museum collections.
Four portraits of users of Foodcycle against an orange background
Copyright Jørn Tomter

More Than Food

5 September 2017 – 13 January 2018

Hackney’s first FoodCycle Hub has been hosting free weekly meals on the New Kingshold Estate since January 2015. For guests, the meals are an important fixture in their daily lives: for some it is their only chance to chat and eat with others. To celebrate the two year anniversary of the FoodCycle Hub, local photographer Jørn Tomter captured the Christmas lunch on 22 December 2016. Residents posed for portraits in a pop-up studio, and shared what coming to the meal means to them.

Poster for the exhibition 'Warhol to Walker' Andy Warhol's screenprint 'Green Pea Soup' is shown/

Warhol to Walker: American prints from pop art to today

11 July 2017 – 16 September 2017

From Andy Warhol to Hackney Wick, this special exhibition explores the influence print movements have had on Hackney.

Starting with the explosion of pop art in the 1960s, the exhibition displayed works loaned from the British Museum. Artists included Andy Warhol, Robert Rauschenberg and Kara Walker as well as local artists.

  • View items that featured in this exhibition from our museum collections.
Copyright Amir Dotan.

Echoes of the Past: Photo mash-ups of Stoke Newington history

Summer 2017

Combining his passion for local history and knowledge of graphic design, local history enthusiast Amir Dotan created a unique collection of nearly 200 ‘mash-up’ images exploring Stoke Newington’s past, and reflect on the dramatic changes of the last century.

  • Learn more about the exhibition and explore the images (via stokenewingtonhistory.com)
Poster for the exhibition 'Golden Age of Social Housing' a series of framed photogrpahs sit on a windowsill overlooking the estate.

The Golden Age of Social Housing: life on the Gascoyne Estate

14 February – 3 June 2017

This exhibition explored the role that social housing has played in the lives of Hackney’s diverse communities through the story of the Gascoyne Estate in South Hackney.

Since 1948 the Gascoyne Estate has provided shelter and support to generations of families. Today, luxury flats are found alongside affordable social housing. At a time of dramatic change, past and present residents look back to explore life on the estate.

Madhouse, My House?

2 February to 20 May 2017

Until the 1980s many people with learning disabilities were forced to live in hospitals for ‘idiots’, ‘imbeciles’ and the ‘feeble minded’. 

Explore life at St. Lawrence’s using the stories of two ex-patients: Harvey Waterman and Mabel Cooper. This interactive exhibition was researched and created by members of Access All Areas, a Hackney-based theatre company that works with people with learning disabilities.

The Missing Chapter: Black chronicles

21 November 2016 to 28 January 2017

A selection of rare portraits portraying people of African, Caribbean and South Asian descent in Britain during the Victorian era. In partnership with Autograph ABP and part of The Missing Chapter project.

  • Learn more about the exhibition (themissingchapter.co.uk)

People Power: Black British arts and activism in Hackney 1960s-2000s

4 October 2016 – 21 January 2017

This exhibition explores aspects of Black British arts and activism which have flourished in Hackney since the 1960s. 

Individuals, groups and organisations in Hackney with African and Caribbean heritage shaped the landscape of Black British arts and culture through their activism. They inspired and nurtured future generations to express themselves through the power of artistic expression.

  • View items that featured in this exhibition from our museum collections.
Poster for the exhibition 'Sharing Our Stories.' A black and white photograph of Stamford Hill in the 20th century is shown, along three portrait photographs of  men who feature in the exhibition (Rabbi Abraham Pinter, Tzvi Rabin, Malcom Shears)

Sharing Our Stories: Jewish Stamford Hill, 1930s-1950s

13 September 2016 – 9 January 2017

For the last 350 years, Hackney has been home to a significant Jewish community. Between the 1930s – 1950s, the community grew as large groups moved to Hackney either from the ghettoes of the East End or fleeing persecution in central and Eastern Europe.

In 2016, Teen Action, a Chassidic Orthodox Jewish teenage girls’ group in Stamford Hill, Hackney Museum and UK Jewish Film worked together to discover more about Jewish experiences in the area. The young women interviewed local residents about their memories and experiences of life in Stamford Hill and surrounding areas.

Pubs, Clubs & Carnivals: An exhibition about pleasure and leisure in Hackney

21 June 2016 to 3 September 2016

Having fun is a serious business! From greased pigs and naked swimming to a variety of festivals and carnivals, Hackney has led the way.

Discover Britain’s earliest purpose-built cinema and commercial television studio as well as Europe’s largest theatre.

  • View items that featured in this exhibition from our museum collections.
Poster for the Stormont House First World War exhibition. A mixture of old wartime photos and images of the young people creating the exhibition.

Stormont House Exhibition Centenary 1916-2016

28 April 2016 to 16 July 2016

This exhibition was created by Year 7 pupils from Stormont House School to commemorate the centenary of the opening of the hospital in 1916. They selected interesting stories about Stormont House Hospital and other hospitals run by the Volunteer Aid Detachments (VAD) of the Red Cross during the war.


Through role-play and drama, they explored what it was like to be a nurse or a patient at the hospital. In partnership with the theatre company Fifth Word.

The Art of War: posters and propaganda from the First World War

25 February 2016 to 28 May 2016

The original recruitment posters featured in this exhibition were designed by graphic artists and creative agencies of the day, giving a glimpse into the psychology and communication methods of the time.

In Hackney, Shoreditch and Stoke Newington thousands of men responded to the recruitment campaigns and signed up to serve in the war.

  • View items that featured in this exhibition from our museum collections.
  • View the record for the archive of original recruitment posters held by Hackney Archives.
Poster for the exhibition 'Home' featuring photos of young men writing and recording music

Home: exploring  young Hackney through music

25 February 2016 to 23 April 2016

Inspired by the actions of Hackney teenagers in the 1960s, Hackney Museum and Rising Tide challenged young men to write music about the most important issues in their lives today.

  • Learn more about the exhibition (via Hackneygazette.co.uk)

Not in My Name: Hackney’s conscientious objectors during the First World War

1 March 2016 to 1 October 2016

This exhibition highlighted Hackney’s conscientious objectors, people who objected to the First World War when compulsory military conscription was introduced in March 1916.

Around 350 conscientious objectors are known to have lived in what is today the London Borough of Hackney. They came from many different backgrounds and had different motivations. However they were united in the objection to war.

These stories are of how local people they faced public anger, harsh prison conditions and attacks from angry mobs. In partnership with the Peace Pledge Union.

Poster for the exhibition African Threads Hackney Style. A woman wearing African dress is shown in front of a historic map of Africa

African Threads – Hackney Style – 400 years of textiles journeys from Africa to Hackney

1 October 2015 to 23 January 2016

This exhibition explored Hackney’s historic ties with Africa through fabric and fashion. It uncovered their influence on the local area, from the 17th century trade with West Africa by Hackney merchants through to the presence of African communities and textiles in Hackney today.

  • View items that featured in this exhibition from our museum collections.
  • Watch a film about the making of The Hackney Print by The Threads Fashion Project on the Pembury Estate.
Poster for the exhibition 'Picture Taking' A photo shows the detail of a young person's hand holding a photograph taking device on a Hackney estate

Picture Taking: Exploring Myself Through Photography

18 July 2015 to 31 December 2015

Photography offers a voice to people who find everyday communication a challenge. Featured the work of Emma, Qwayne, Mohammed, Jason, Izu and Luke, students at The Garden School in Hackney, which supports children with special educational needs many with an autistic spectrum disorder.

Poster for the exhibition Cambodian Recollections featuring an collage made of photographs and documents

Cambodian Recollections: an exhibition of oral histories

16 June 2015 to 14 November 2015

A collection of UK-based Cambodians’ memories of the upheaval and purges from 1975 to 1979 along with the challenges of adapting to a new culture. In partnership with SEA ArtsFest and Khmer Arts and Heritage Limited with funding from the Heritage Lottery fund.

  • Explore the exhibition (via the Anglo Asiatic Arts & Heritage Alliance)
  • Watch the archive of interviews online (via Youtube)
Poster for the exhibition Hackney at 50. A selection of portraits and objects are shown.

Hackney@50: The People’s Choice

12 February 2015 to 29 August 2015

50 objects telling 50 stories of 50 years of Hackney.

  • View items that featured in this exhibition from our museum collections.

Stepping Out: Celebrating Hackney City Farm

3 February 2015 to 16 May 2015

An exhibition marking 30 years of Hackney City Farm. 

  • Learn more about the exhibition (via hackneyfarmisthirty.tumblr.com)

Strike a Pose: Portraits from a Hackney photo studio

1 October 2014 to 17 January 2015

This unique exhibition at Hackney Museum showed the many faces of Hackney during the 1970s.

Gibson’s photography studio in Clapton captured the changing faces of Hackney since the 1950s until it recently closed. This amazing collection of photographic negatives has many untold stories. It features weddings outside Hackney Town Hall from African, Asian and Caribbean families; studio portraits featuring nurses from the Caribbean; family portraits at home, university graduations and all the fashion and styles of the decade. .

  • View images from the Gibson’s studio at Hackney Archives