Identity Without Borders

Identity Without Borders display in the museum

The Identity Without Borders case display has been co-curated by museum staff and volunteers from Oxford who have come to the UK as refugees or seeking asylum. The display is in two parts: Part One, explains why this project has been developed and the processes involved; Part Two is made up of objects from the Museum’s permanent collections displayed alongside items loaned by community volunteers. Objects have been chosen by volunteers to reflect their own cultural heritage, interests and expertise. All labels in Part Two have been written by volunteers and represent unique personal perspectives.

Click on the photo of a volunteer to read their biography and to discover their research on objects from the collections.

Curating Identity Without Borders

Supporting community volunteers to access the collections and present their own perspectives has been vital to this project. Curatorial and engagement staff are working alongside volunteers, recognising them as peers with their own unique stories to share. Through gallery visits and behind-the-scenes sessions, volunteers are discovering the collections and sharing knowledge about objects originating from their home countries. In Part 2 of this display you can see the objects volunteers researched alongside the labels they’ve written. Through this process, the Museum team’s understanding of objects has been enriched and the information that the Museum is able to share with the public is fuller. 

Volunteers first came to the Museum to choose the objects they would like to explore in more detail. These objects were retrieved from display and made available in the on-site Research Space. Once volunteers had examined the objects closely, they undertook research in their own time, revisiting the Museum for further research sessions and trips to the off-site stores. Volunteers produced transcripts of their research which staff then helped to turn into display labels. Some volunteers wrote in their first language, some wrote in English.

Community Volunteers

The Identity Without Borders display is the outcome of independent research undertaken by community volunteers with varied cultural backgrounds, interests and life stories. While volunteers come from a range of countries  – Syria, Nigeria, China and beyond – each person shares the experience of coming to the UK to seek asylum and refuge. This display celebrates people of different backgrounds coming together and sharing stories about objects of personal significance. Click through to a page about each volunteer, a tile photo of each volunteer.