NML Exhibition: The Secret Life of Smithdown

The Secret Life of Smithdown
Uncovering the story of a South Liverpool community

National Museums Liverpool is opening a mini-exhibition this week as part of a new project to uncover stories about the Smithdown Road area in South Liverpool.

Culminating in a special exhibition in the People’s City gallery of the new Museum of Liverpool, The Secret Life of Smithdown project will explore how over time, local shopkeepers have helped shape the neighbourhood.

The mini-exhibition will open at Oomoo Café, 349-351 Smithdown Road, and will run throughout September.

There will be special drop in days starting this Saturday 5 September from 10am – 4pm.

Kay Jones, curator of community history for the Museum of Liverpool said: “Smithdown Road is home to many different vibrant and diverse communities, including students from Liverpool’s three universities.
“People across the city are really fond of the area and the quirky independent shops that span the length of the road. Just looking at the popularity of the Facebook group we’ve set up for the project, shows how much people have taken it into their hearts.”

The Museum of Liverpool team are currently undertaking historical research of the area utilising newspapers, trade and street directories, maps and old photographs to discover how the road has changed over time, and continues to change today.

The team have worked with local photographer Stephanie de Leng to capture Smithdown shopkeepers at work, in or outside their shops with their staff and families, producing a photography display in the mini-exhibition that works retrospectively alongside old images of the road.

The mini-exhibition has been set up so that local residents can find out more about the history of the area, and contribute to the development of the exhibition by sharing their own ‘Smithdown Stories’, photographs and opinions.
Kay continues: “It’s been fascinating to study old photographs and compare them to the images we’ve collected of Smithdown Road today. In some ways the area’s been developed and changed a great deal, but it’s interesting to know that a lot has remained the same, and different generations have been able to share memories of the same places.”

Curators and researcher Joanne Lacey have also interviewed 19 shopkeepers from a cross section of both established and new businesses on Smithdown Road, in order to use their personal stories to investigate the opportunities and barriers associated with their livelihoods, and the wider social roles they play within the community.

Their stories will be included in the mini-exhibition at Oomoo, and will go on to become part of the Museum of Liverpool’s social history collection and The Secret Life of Smithdown display.

The mini-exhibition at Oomoo will be open every day throughout September, and people are welcome to come along to the drop-in sessions to chat to the Museum of Liverpool team, share their opinions and memories and bring photographs along for scanning.
Three special evening events will also take place on 15, 22 and 29 September from 7pm, providing opportunities to learn more about the history of the area and the new Museum of Liverpool.
For further information on the project and dates and opening times of the mini-exhibition, please visit www.facebook.com/smithdownroad and www.liverpoolmuseums.org.uk

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