Migration Museum Project

Cultural Impact Development Fund

The Migration Museum explores how the movement of people to and from Britain across the ages has shaped identity – as individuals, as communities, and as a nation. The organisation will use social investment to develop its online gift shop capacity and to expand its digital audience.

Migration Museum Project

Region: London
Discipline: Museum
Investment size: £57,000 (£42,000 loan, £15,000 grant)

The Organisation:.

The Migration Museum Project (‘Migration Museum’) explores how the movement of people to and from Britain across the ages has shaped identity – as individuals, as communities, and as a nation. Migration is a pressing contemporary issue and is at the centre of polarised political and online debate, yet few of Britain’s thousands of museums comprehensively focus on this important theme that connects all people. The museum’s objective is to provide human stories and educational content as a counter-narrative to the increasingly negative political and media representation of refugees, asylum seekers, migrants. Focusing on changing attitudes about migration, generating greater empathy, and developing cultural awareness of British immigration history and impact, the museum hopes to spark more meaningful dialogue on the topic of migration. 

The museum delivers a number of activities including staging exhibitions and events, providing workshops and educational programming for primary, secondary, university and adult learners, as well as convening a sector-supporting Migration Network of museums and galleries across the UK to share knowledge and best practice on how to increase and improve work on migration themes across all regions and nations of the UK. Notable exhibitions include Departures– an exploration of 400 years of emigration from Britain from the Mayflower to the present day through personal narratives, contemporary art and a podcast series and Football Moves People– a campaign coinciding with the UEFA European Football Championship (‘Euros’) sharing a range of personal stories to highlight how migration has shaped football at all levels in the UK.

The Opportunity: 

The Migration Museum’s journey for a permanent location began in 2013 with staged pop-up exhibitions, events, and education workshops at a wide range of venues across the UK, including the Southbank Centre, the National Maritime Museum, the Museum of Oxford, Leicester railway station, and the National Records of Scotland in Edinburgh. Following this success, the museum moved temporarily to a former London Fire Brigade station in Lambeth before settling in the Lewisham Shopping Centre in 2020. In its next phase of growth and transformation, the museum has ambitions to secure permanent premises and to expand its reach to a number of satellite locations across the UK. To finance this phase of digital growth and development the museum was keen to explore social finance to maintain a strong balance between expanding commercial opportunities and generating social impact. Approaching the Cultural Impact Development Fund in the summer of 2021, The Migration Museum requested a £57,000 investment to expand its digital presence and diversify its income. This investment was financed through a blended package of grant and loan and has been used to launch the museum’s online gift shop, and engage with the services of a reputable e-commerce social media agency to improve brand awareness.

The Process: 

The investment due diligence process focused on assessing risks associated with expanding existing activities in the middle of a pandemic. One of the risks identified in the due diligence process was uncertainty around the museum’s premises. At the time of the application The Migration Museum was located temporarily in the Lewisham Shopping Centre. CIDF was reassured that the council was keen to find the museum a permanent home in Lewisham, should it need to relocate in 2023. Lewisham was also named a borough of sanctuary and borough of culture and the council had developed a strong working relationship with the museum. CIDF also took into consideration risks associated with a highly competitive grant funding landscape and decreased discretionary spending for individuals who may donate or purchase gifts in the shop. The museum’s successful track record with Trust and Foundation applications, as well as the management team’s strong command of marketing and sales data for its physical gift shop gave CIDF confidence in the projected cash flows for the investment.  

The Impact: 

The Migration Museum’s overarching aspiration is that the museum and its work will better inform people about migration, and close the perception gap to make refugees, asylum seekers and migrants (‘RASMs’) feel more welcome in the UK. Through education programming with primary and secondary school aged children and young people, citizenship curriculum development and curated exhibitions, the Migration Museum attempts to interpret a unique and complex international geopolitical issue on a local level informed by individual experiences and circumstances.  

While the investment was not initially tied to activities that generate social impact, increased brand awareness and a viable online and physical gift shop model have supported the museum’s efforts to launch an exciting new exhibition, Taking Care of Business: Migrant Entrepreneurs and the Making of Britain which will bring to life the many stories of migrant enterprises that have shaped Britain in enthralling and creative ways. New exhibitions and enhanced digital marketing efforts will bolster the museums’ growing earned income offers which include venue hire, gift shop inventory, private tours and away days for teams. Alongside the investment, The Migration Museum will receive one-to-one support from CIDF to strengthen its approach to monitoring and evaluating its social impact.