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Home Galleries

The word home has many meanings.

It can be the physical space we live in or a feeling that goes beyond a specific time or place.

In the Home Galleries we explore the concept of home through people’s everyday experiences of making, keeping and being at home over the last 400 years. 

There is a real mix of contemporary and historical stories in this space, and there are interactive elements. 

A group of adults and children sitting and standing in a living room All I want is a room somewhere © Jonathan Donovan. Nizar, Fatemi and their two daughters lived with and cared for Pat, who had dementia. Leytonstone, September 2016

How we make our homes

We explore how we come to acquire the things that make up our homes and the hidden stories they reveal. The choices we make about the things we keep around us say a lot about our taste and identity. We explore different choices available at different times.

Making home

A person standing in a bedroom between a bed and a shelving unit Jodie in her home, former housing for the elderly in Charlton © Victoria Birkinshaw

Exploring some of the many different ways homes are made.

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Bought, found, given

HG.AF The original owner of green lustres (on display) Harriet Stanton with her daughters

Revealing the memories and emotions behind our heirlooms, scavenged treasures and lucky finds.

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Shelf Life

An adult smiling at the camera with a child on their lap Farhana and her daughter in their home in Wapping Housing Estate, Tower Hamlets

A film exploring how east London residents express their identities through the things they display.

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Style and taste

Girls Portrait of Bell and Dorothy Freeman, by Edward Robert Hughes, 1889

Unpicking if our homes define who we are and how we are seen by others.

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How we look after our homes

We consider the business of maintaining our homes and gardens, and how this has changed over time. We trace change, continuity and resistance to new technologies and practices.

We investigate the labour involved in keeping a household, whether it’s getting rid of bedbugs or using oxen’s gallbladder to clean carpets.


Hg Ke 05 Wellcome Collection Cc By A man in bedclothes prising insects (?) off his bed-curtains with a fork into a saucepan. Etching by T.L. Busby, c. 1826. CC BY 4.0 Wellcome Collection

Focusing on the labour of keeping homes clean, overworked servants, inventions and gender protest.

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In the garden

HG.GK Beryl M seated in a folding chair in her garden © Sophie Verhagen

All about finding solace and comfort from outside space.

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How we relax and spend time at home

We reveal how people spend time at home. We begin with the idea of comfort and feeling at home, and how this can be disrupted, particularly through loss or illness.

We explore leisure from music-making and broadcast entertainment, dining and socialising to children’s play. And we consider devotional practice within the home.


39 2004 001B Interior of a parlour, John Soden, 1862 Object number 39/2004

How our ideas of comfort have changed, including lighting and furniture.

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HG.RD Rajahan B in Tower Hamlets © Sophie Verhagen

How for many home is a place to pray, to celebrate festivals, to express religious identity.

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Love and loss

300 2012 7 Portrait of L from the Growing Care series © Kyna Gourley

How positive and negative relationships at home can build or disrupt our sense of comfort and belonging.

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HG.EN Maggie H’s granddaughter, daughter and son-in-law, playing a game in her home in Exmouth

How our leisure time at home has evolved, with devices changing the way we interact with each other.

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Table Talk

Take a seat at our kitchen table and tell us your thoughts and opinions about home.