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Museum of London joins 'Creative Cities' at the BFI

Above: CGI of exterior of planned re-modelling of market buildings at West Smithfield to house the Museum of London (Stanton Wiiliams for the Museum of London)

Future Cities Forum is delighted that the Director of the Museum of London, Sharon Ament, will join discussions at our 'Creative Cities' event to be held at the BFI in Stephen Street, London this March.

Sharon is overseeing the move of the Museum of London to its new location in Smithfield and its role in the development of the 'Culture Mile' in the City of London. At our BFI event, she will be discussing how to attract new audiences to the museum's new campus and its future place in the community.

The Museum of London will occupy market buildings that have lain derelict for over three decades – saving the historic General Market site for generations to come. The opening of the new museum will see the historic General Market brought back to life for all Londoners to enjoy, opening up to millions more visitors and showcase more of The London Collection than ever before, giving Londoners and visitors to the capital the opportunity to explore London’s story.

The new museum will sit in atmospheric but currently dilapidated market buildings, at the heart of one of the capital’s most historic and creative quarters, Smithfield. The Museum of London described the approach to creating the new campus in the historic market buildings:

'We have developed a way of thinking about the main spaces that is based on time – the immediacy of real time, the shared experience of our time, the endless fascination of past time, the interrogation of our collections in deep time, the temporary time of changing exhibitions, and the creativity of imagined time. This will shape how we curate the museum’s content and experiences.

'The Annexe buildings hold great potential to expand the cultural presence in West Smithfield, creating a campus that will truly transform the area. Removal of the 1960s infill will enable a sensitive architectural intervention that stitches together the two buildings and reveals their striking decorative elevations.

'The design creates a large covered arena, open on one side to the street. This will provide a great new public space for performances and installations, making it an ideal venue for museum and Culture Mile activities. We are beginning to imagine the possibilities of these streets by staging a series of festivals in the area, working collaboratively with many exciting partners. Over the coming years, we will continue to invite London to join us at great Smithfield events.'

'The latest chapter in our long history as the city’s museum began in 2015. The City of London Corporation asked us to consider whether the market buildings at the western end of Smithfield might make an appropriate new home for the museum. A detailed options appraisal concluded that they would.

'In 2016, we ran an international architectural competition. From a 100-strong field, we appointed Stanton Williams Architects and Asif Khan with Julian Harrap Architects. We were excited by their melding of a sympathetic approach to the buildings with their ideas for creating a truly contemporary museum.

'For the next four years we set about exploring the buildings in minute detail, developing our design proposals and mapping complex museum requirements into the spaces – from object stores and conservation laboratories to extensive galleries, learning spaces, shops and cafes. At the same time, we engaged with thousands of Londoners, who helped shape the vision for the new Museum.

'In June 2020, the City of London Corporation’s Transport and Planning Committee voted in favour of the plans in June 2020, paving the way to making the move a reality.

'Since then, we have continued with a programme of enabling works which have stabilised the fabrics of historic buildings that make up the site and started to prepare them for the main works at West Smithfield.'

Sharon Ament joined the Museum of London in September 2012 to steer the world’s leading city museum through to the next phase of development by inspiring a passion for London and reflecting the capital’s energy and dynamism. Throughout her career Sharon has been driven by the simple premise of “turning people onto great ideas and causes”.

This started early with her work for a number of social causes in Liverpool, thereafter she became involved in wildlife conservation and worked with the Wildfowl & Wetlands Trust, moving from Lancashire to Slimbridge to oversee a national portfolio of wetland centres. In the 1990s she worked at the Zoological Society of London and from there joined The Natural History Museum. This built her passion for the power of museums, her skills at fundraising and creating new visitor facilities such as the Darwin Centre.

Sharon sits on the International Panel of the ArtScience Museum in Singapore. She is a member of the Arts Council England’s London Area Council; the Mayor’s Cultural Strategy Group and chaired the City of London Corporation’s planning board to create an impactful Great Fire 350 anniversary event in 2016. Sharon chaired the Jury of the Ecsite 2016 Mariano Gago Awards for excellence in public engagement with science, and is a Fellow of the Noyce Leadership Institute which focuses on community impact.

Sharon lives in East Dulwich close to where she was born in Peckham, South East London. She grew up in both the country (Thetford, Norfolk) and the city (Liverpool). Sharon was the first person in her family to go to university. She cites the impact of the Museum of Liverpool, the Walker Art Gallery and the Picton Reading Room as being formative for her in her own learning in her early years. She studied History of Art at Leeds University and graduated in 1985. In her free time, Sharon enjoys wild spaces, gardening and travel, and has a passion for art, cycling, walking and is currently learning French.

Sharon teaches, advises and presents internationally; and together with partners including the Barbican Centre, Guildhall School of Music and Drama and City of London Corporation is nurturing the development of Smithfield as a new cultural destination. She is the Chair of the London Screen Archives and Co-Chair of the Women Leaders in Museums Network, a member of the Worshipful Company of Bakers, a Noyce Leadership Fellow, and on the Conseil Scientifique of Universcience in Paris and the International Advisory Board of the ArtScience Museum in Singapore. In 2021, Sharon was awarded the Freedom of the City of London.


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