Swept under the carpet? Servants in London households, 1600-2000
Open now until Sunday 4 September. Free.
High Life Below Stairs by James Caldwell after John Collet, 1772
Servants are taking over the Geffrye’s parlours, drawing rooms and living rooms…
This special exhibition explores domestic service and the experiences of servants living and working in middle-class homes over the last four hundred years, giving a glimpse into a world often overlooked by historians.
New scenarios and subtle interventions in the museum's period rooms illustrate the changing nature of the servant's work and the relationship between master and servant over time - from the intimacy of a maid checking her master's hair for nits in the late 17th century, to an ayah caring for the children of an Angle-Indian family in the late 19th century, to a French au-pair picking up after the children she looks after in 1960.
These narratives highlight how servants - once part of the household family; and enmeshed in intimate relationships with their employers, gradually disappeared from the spaces of family life to the kitchens and garrets.
Swept Under the Carpet? is guest curated by Tessa Chynoweth and Laura Humphreys, AHRC-funded Collaborative Doctoral Award researchers from the Centre of Studies of Home - a partnership between the Geffrye and Queen Mary, University of London.
Read the press release here. View our image gallery. See our exhibition talks programme.
Supported by Queen Mary University of London
Open Evening: The Servant Problem
Thursday 16 June, museum opens at 6.30pm, performance 7 - 9pm. Tickets £16 / £13 concessions
Join us for a special evening uncovering the lives of servants, their relationships with their employers and the etiquette expected of them from the eighteenth to the twentieth century, through drama, songs and anecdotes.
Book tickets here.
The Aylesbury Estate as Home
Open now until Sunday 18 September. Free entry. Lower concourse
High-rise on the Aylesbury Estate (c) Richard Baxter
This free display explores the Aylesbury Estate, a large modernist high-rise estate in South London, as home. It focuses on the history of the estate for its thousands of residents, from its utopian beginning in the late 1960s, to its emergence as a more ambiguous place in the 1980s, and current demolition and regeneration. Two artworks by Nadege Meriau feature alongside the display: a metaphorical film that relates to the gradual unmaking of the modernist architectural dream and a sculpture involving artist-led community participation.
Read the Aylesbury Estate press release here.
A collaboration between Dr Richard Baxter, a Lecturer at GEDS Birkbeck, University of London, and artist Nadege Meriau.
Supported by the Leverhulme Trust, QMUL’s Centre for Public Engagement and AHRC Creativeworks London.
Unlocking the Geffrye Display
We are embarking on a major capital project which will develop our existing buildings and create new spaces. Come along to the museum to see a display and an architect’s model of our planned new development – please tell us what you think of our plans when you visit. Or complete a short survey or email firstname.lastname@example.org