This weekend the London Transport Museum unveils Overground Uncovered, a new exhibition that coincides with the opening of the London Overground.
The exhibition is comprised of three galleries: Connecting Communities, The Thames Tunnel, and A New Train Set For London. Each offers a different perspective on the East London Line which now runs from Dalston Junction to West Croydon.
The exhibit allows visitors to immerse themselves in both historical and contemporary installations through art works, videos, audio, photography and artefacts.
This is London’s first major transport development in ten years. Wendy Neville, Communications Manager at the museum, said: “I think the exhibition is fantastic. It really celebrates the fact that this wonderful, new transport development has happened in an area that for so many people is largely undiscovered.”
“I think it’s really going to put the areas it runs through on the map – and the exhibition is an extension of this.”
Connecting Communities is a grass roots exhibition which largely consists of pieces created by those who live in boroughs along the Overground. Featured stations are individually displayed and depict both the past and present of the particular station.
Anerley features a video presentation made by a youth group detailing what it’s like to live there. New Cross is represented by art works created by successful Goldsmiths alumni such as Jenny Tuffs, to reflect the area’s now heavily artistic nature. Hackney’s display depicts the communities’ constant battle for better transport links.
Along with various other forms of multimedia, the gallery also reveals how the areas came to be named – interestingly, Sydenham is derived from the Anglo-Saxon translation for ‘drunkard’s settlement’.
Martin Harrisson-Putnam, Senior Curator of Overground Uncovered, explained the idea behind the Connecting Communities gallery. “We were interested in how transport shaped the identity of an area historically, but we also wanted to bring it up to date and consider how the Overground may impact people today so we’ve also lifted the lid on some of the new opportunities in the areas.”
Tim Shields, who installed the exhibition, talked us through The Thames Tunnel gallery, a historical look at Marc Isambard Brunel’s revolutionary underground tunnel. “It’s my favourite piece in the exhibition. The Thames tunnel was a fantastic piece of civil engineering, going back to the 1820s.”
“It’s particularly interesting because even though the tunnel was originally built for transport, it became somewhat of a spectacle and a tourist attraction – some even called it the eighth wonder of the world.”
Brunel’s tunnel is the oldest part of the railway that the Overground runs though and it was the first ever underwater tunnel in the world. The building process of the tunnel began in 1825 and was highly praised; only nine tunnellers died during its construction which was an amazing achievement at the time.
The gallery displays historical artefacts from the tunnel, including souvenirs from it’s time as a tourist attraction. One souvenir integral to the gallery’s form is the Victorian pocket ‘peep show’ recreated the view along the tunnel from Rotherhithe to Wapping.
Mr Shields noted, “We modelled this gallery space on the peep show and created a life size version, so visitors will feel like they are in the tunnel”. To accompany this, music and other sounds play continuously in order to generate the feel of the historical tunnel.
The final gallery, A New Train Set For London, focuses on the construction and technology used on the London Overground. Visitors can listen to interviews with those who made the new line, see the old and new trains compared in the Top Trumps exhibit and have an interactive lesson in regenerative breaking, the innovative breaking system which means the new trains will use 16% less energy.
In accordance with the gallery’s futuristic feel, it also displays images of the construction of Shoreditch High Street Bridge, the visually striking landmark that required Britain’s largest crane to install. This gallery also reminds visitors that the line isn’t yet at its full potential; by 2012, the London Overground network will serve an impressive 21 of London’s 31 boroughs.
The exhibition is an illuminating, three-way juxtaposition of the past, present and future of the Overground. The merging of the historical and the contemporary gives this exhibition an all encompassing take on transport past and present in Dalston Junction, West Croydon and all the stations in between.
Allan Ramsay, press officer for Transport for London, expressed his enthusiasm for the exhibition. “From day to day we rush to work and we rush back home but we never think about the stations we walk through, how old they are or how they were built. The exhibition will peel back this history and make people take a few seconds during their commute to look around and consider the station they are standing in.”
“In addition, I think London can be quite ‘stay at home’, meaning people tend to stay in their own patch. We rarely see London as one big melting pot, but more a series of little pots on the same stove. The Overground allows people to integrate. All these fantastic communities are now easily accessible to one another and that’s what I hope people will take from the exhibition.”