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Shelf Life

A film showing in the Home Galleries

The things we display in our homes are full of personal meaning, whether on a mantelpiece or shelf, or on top of the television.

This film, directed by Mina Salimi, explores how east London residents express their identities through the things they display in their homes.

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About the participants

A person clasping their hands looking at the camera Amarjit in her living room in London Fields

Amarjit, London Fields, Hackney

Amarjit has lived in Dalston for nearly 40 years in the home where she raised her children. She moved to the UK from the Punjab, in India, in the 1960s as a child.

Amarjit had a long career as a physicist. Now retired she teaches yoga, paints and writes poetry.



Two people smiling and looking at the camera Clair (right) with her partner Ade, in their home in Hackney Downs

Clair, Hackney Downs, Hackney

Clair is a retired teacher and now works as an urban food grower. She shares her home, part of a housing co-operative, with her partner Ade.

She was born in America and grew up in the Italian community in New York. Her heritage forms a strong part of her identity.



A person looking straight at the camera Kollier in his home in Dalston Junction, Shelf Life

Kollier, Dalston Junction, Hackney

Kollier, an artist, lives in Dalston in a flat he rents with a friend.

Born in Sierra Leone, Kollier came to the UK with his family aged nine. After years of complications and difficulties, he recently obtained British citizenship. Much of his art reflects the struggle to create a sense of belonging when the place you call home does not recognise your right to be there.



A person sitting in an armchair Sam in his home in Petticoat Tower, Aldgate

Sam, Petticoat Tower, Aldgate

Sam, a retired taxi driver, has lived in a council owned flat in a tower block in Aldgate for more than 40 years. From his home on the 21st floor he has watched London change and evolve.

For many years he lived with his wife Sandra. Since her death in 2001, Sam has lived alone.



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

Farhana, Wapping Housing Estate, Tower Hamlets

Farhana shares her flat, in the Wapping Housing Estate, with her husband and their two children.

Farhana is committed to community activism, striving for justice, equality and peace. Her activism is deeply rooted in her Muslim faith. She keeps reminders of her work in her front room to inspire her to continue. 



Two people looking at each other Lynda (right) with her husband in their home in Lower Clapton

Lynda, Lower Clapton, Hackney

Lynda owns her home in Hackney, where she lives with her husband and their three children. Her Christian faith plays a large part in her family life.

Lynda works for a humanitarian charity, on projects across the world. She brings keepsakes back home with her as a reminder of the people she has met and their stories.

Co-curated by the Faith and Culture Forum

The Museum's Faith and Culture Forum commissioned the film. Its members advise the Museum on diversity, culture and religion. They are a catalyst for change for us and our community.

A backdrop to our domestic lives

Mantelpieces: a space that people used to express some kind of identity

Online festival

A Little Festival of Mantelpieces was hosted by Bolton Museum in collaboration with us and the Mass Observation Archive in November 2020.