Millions of visitors have set foot in the Council-run Hackney Museum and Library since they opened their doors on Reading Lane 10 years ago. People of all ages and backgrounds have borrowed books, enjoyed a wealth of free exhibitions, educational sessions and workshops as well as participating and informing a number of projects and initiatives run by the venues, which reside in the heart of Hackney Central.
Since its opening the Hackney Museum has run a combination of permanent and temporary displays alongside special community exhibitions to explore the reasons why people have moved to Hackney from all over the world for more that 1,000 years, from Anglo-Saxon settlers to early Victorian villas and recent refugees. Hackney's tradition of welcoming newcomers means that its history encompasses the world-wide roots of many communities. The displays reveal this diverse and changing history through fascinating interviews, objects and images.
The Museum has hosted more than 50 changing exhibitions at its Reading Lane site, covering subjects such as the abolition of slavery, healthcare in Hackney through the ages and the exploration of personal and historic life stories in celebration of some of Hackney's ancestors. The promotion of learning is an integral part of each exhibition, which is always complimented by an interactive educational programme.
In its 10 years Hackney Central Library has seen visitor numbers double to almost 600,000 visitors last year. The most popular adult book in 2002 was The Summons by John Grisham and in 2011 it was Before I go to Sleep by S.J. Watson. For children the most popular book last year was The Gruffalo’s Child by Julia Donaldson and in 2002 it was Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire. Free computer use is very popular with people using them for around 59,000 hours per year, and the study space provides a lifeline to many students within the borough. The library also offers a wide programme of events, which includes: drop in sessions for mums and toddlers and older member of the community, NHS health checks, work with ex-offenders as well as informal reading groups and book readings from major authors.
Cllr Jonathan McShane, Hackney Council Cabinet Member for Health & Community Services said: "This past decade seen Hackney Museum and the Central Library deliver many challenging and thought provoking events, exhibitions and educational programmes as well as providing excellent learning resources for the local community. Their dedication to involving Hackney residents to promote learning has been key to their success and we hope many more people will make use of these free facilities as well as discovering more about Hackney's proud heritage for years to come."
The Hackney Museum's current exhibition Mapping the Change has just opened and is the culmination of a four-year project recording the changes to East London people's lives in the run up to the London 2012 Games. Entry to Hackney Museum is free and the exhibition will run until 15 September. To find out more or get involved visit www.hackney.co.uk/museum.
Hackney Central Library has computers that are free to use, an under 5s zone, study space and self-service technology and it regularly holds events and reading groups. It’s really easy to join Hackney Libraries, just visit a local library or fill in the online form. Find out more at; www.hackney.gov.uk/libraries or; call 020 8356 3000.