The Road to Germany map. Image: National Maritime Museum

National Maritime Museum acquires digital map used by Syrian refugees

Geraldine Kendall Adams, 20.06.2019
Museums across the UK are marking Refugee Week 2019
A digital map depicting the route used by refugees from Syria and the Middle East to get to Germany has been acquired by the National Maritime Museum in London.

The Road to Germany map, which was widely circulated among refugees on Whatsapp and other digital channels during the refugee crisis of 2015, will be added to the museum’s 50,000-strong collection of maps and historical sea charts. It shows the perilous route taken by refugees through Turkey, Greece, Serbia, Macedonia and Hungary to reach Western Europe.

The map has fallen out of use since the Hungarian government erected border fences in late 2015. The museum said it was an important artefact that would ensure that the stories of refugees are preserved.

The National Maritime Museum unveiled the acquisition as part of this year’s Refugee Week (17-23 June). A range of museums across the UK are marking the event, which celebrates the contribution of refugees and promotes understanding of why people seek sanctuary. This year’s theme is “you, me and those who came before”.

St Fagans National History Museum in Cardiff is hosting an afternoon of workshops, performances and storytelling to celebrate the lives of refugees on 23 June.

Events are taking place across Scotland throughout the week as part of Refugee Festival Scotland, including a language workshop at Kelvingrove Museum in Glasgow, and two visual art installations by the Iranian artist Iman Tajik, which can be seen outside the V&A Dundee and Riverside Museum in Glasgow.

The Pitt Rivers Museum in Oxford is holding a networking day on World Refugee Day (20 June), which will bring heritage organisations together with organisations working with refugees to explore how the heritage sector can support forced migrants who have settled in the UK. The event is part of Multaka-Oxford, a project funded by the Museums Association’s Esmee Fairbairn Collections Fund that enlists refugees to contribute to the museum’s collections research and act as tour guides.

A temporary exhibition at the museum, which opened in April, displays material and visual culture assembled from the “Jungle”, the Calais migrant camp that was home to thousands of displaced and undocumented people before it was disassembled in 2016. The items were collected from those who lived and worked in the camp.

In London, the contemporary art gallery P21 is running an exhibition, Sink Without Trace, on migrant deaths at sea. The exhibition includes artistic responses on the subject, as well as objects and materials collected from shipwrecked migrant boats in Sicily, anonymous drawings made on migrant boats and works made by unaccompanied minors in transit camps.

The Migration Museum, which is housed at the Workshop in Lambeth, London, is running a range of events all week, including cookery classes and immersive performances.

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