Director’s Blog – March 2021

Although we’re still closed, it’s been a busy month at the Brunel Museum, and there’s even light at the end of the tunnel as we start to rethink about restrictions easing. My second Directors blog brings you up to speed with what’s been going on in front and behind the scenes. 

Last month, staff and trustees undertook training on acknowledging privilege. The workshop helped us understand how systematic inequalities confer unearned privilege onto some groups of society, and disadvantages others. As a middle-class white person, I experience certain privileges not afforded to others. By the same token, I do not experience many privileges experienced by men. Recent events have shown us the frightening outcome of unearned privilege gone unchecked, and has hardened my resolve to use the privilege I have to remove as many barriers as possible for others. 

With that in mind, this month we’re telling the stories of those often overlooked by the historical record. For St Patrick’s Day, we commissioned Spectrum Drama to create The Navvy’s Tale a film telling the story of Seamus Fitzpatrick. Like many of the men who built the tunnel, Seamus worked 8-hour shifts, and slept in the dark, damp unfinished tunnel when he wasn’t working. Floods and explosions from gas lamps were a constant threat.

To tell more of the stories of the men who built the tunnel, we’re working with historian Sheldon Goodman to uncover more stories of the workers buried in the cemetery of St Mary’s Rotherhithe. We are also working with Museum as Muck, to look at the barriers to engaging with museums of those with working class origins, and tell more inclusive histories here at the Museum. 

Women as well as workers are also often overlooked in the history books. Our Women’s History Month Blog series tells the stories of women who made engineering history: from the less well known Brunel women, trailblazing female tunnellers from the past or the women making history today with their feats of engineering. 

Looking ahead to Easter, we’ve got plenty of exciting things for families. For those keen to get outdoors, we’ve got a series of family guided walks taking place over Easter weekend. For those still staying at home, we’re running a series of free Circus skills workshops for you to do at home inspired by the Thames Tunnel Fancy Fairs. 

We welcomed the plans for reopening up the hospitality and heritage sectors. We’re excited to be opening up our Terrace and Roof Garden for Midnight Apothecary events from Thursday 15 April. And for those couples who have been putting getting hitched on hold, you can soon get married in our Grade II* listed Tunnel Shaft. Check out our wedding packages here.