In the Footsteps of Mudlarks
Mon 2 Sep 10am-12pm, Sun 22 Sep 11:30am-1:30pm & Mon 23 Sep 12pm-2pmPast event
Curated by Florence Evans, Foragers of the Foreshore is the most expansive exhibition on Mudlarking that has ever taken place; it unearths the history of London through items recovered from the Thames. Discover the weird and wonderful world of mudlarking, from its origins in the Victorian era, to its popularity today. Meet the mudlarkers who have dedicated themselves to finding London’s lost treasures, and marvel at the fascinating collections that have shaped their lives.
The exhibition will feature photographic portraits of mudlarkers taken by Hannah Smiles, and a chance to meet Mudlarker in Residence Nicola White. Plus see spectacular work by artists who use mudlark finds in very unusual ways.
On top of all that, MOLA’s Thames Discovery Programme, Thames21 and Unruly Heritage relate mudlarking to inter-tidal archaeology and the topical issue of objects lost or discarded today becoming tomorrow’s archaeological treasures.
There will also be a programme of walks, talks, and guided mudlarking taking place as part of the project, search 'Foragers of the Foreshore' on our website for more information. Full details of what's on in the Bargehouse exhibition can be found below.
Photo © Hannah Smiles
Mudlark, Hannah Smiles
The range of objects eroding from the mud with every tide is astonishing: from Neolithic flint tools, to Roman detritus, pottery and glassware across the centuries to animal bones and human teeth, religious curios, relics of war, children’s toys or yesteryear’s fashions – pins, jewels, buckles, buttons, leather and cloth. These beautiful still-life images of mudlark finds and portraits of the mudlarkers themselves by Hannah Smiles illuminate the fascinating practice from a new perspective. You can also see a full exhibition of her work on the Southbank throughout September.
The Society of Thames Mudlarks and Antiquarians
Foragers of the Foreshore will feature historical artefacts found by members of the prestigious Society of Thames Mudlarks. Set up in 1976, and limited to 51 people at any one time, this select group of specialists have changed history on many occasions with the finds they have unearthed from the Thames foreshore. They work closely with the Museum of London and the Portable Antiquities Scheme (PAS), and have been granted special licenses by the Port of London Authority in recognition of their contributions to archaeology.
Nicola White, Mudlark in Residence
As Resident Mudlark at our Foragers of the Foreshore exhibition, artist Nicola White will be recreating her studio where she keeps her Thames finds and found objects, the inspirations behind her Tideline Art. Come and meet her, discover some of her favourite mudlarking finds and hear the fascinating stories behind them. Nicola will also be displaying her collection of messages in bottles from the Thames and will be creating a sculpture from plastic waste throughout the week. She will be in the Bargehouse each day and looks forwards to answering questions about her love of the River Thames and her 15 years of foraging along the foreshore.
Mudlarkers, Julia Fullerton-Batten
Julia Fullerton-Batten is a worldwide acclaimed and exhibited fine-art photographer. Growing up on the Isis in Oxford, she has been continually inspired by the River Thames in her work, and has a dedicated a series to researching and photographing a selection of cultural and historical narratives from along its banks, bringing the past into the present with a truly unique visual language. As part of Foragers of the Foreshore, Julia exhibits her epic portrait ‘Mudlarkers’ (2018)
Genius Loci of the Thames, Ashleigh Fisk
As the legend goes, the Genius Loci, or spirit, of the Thames was born into the newly formed Thames source. As it eventually flowed into the sea, the spirit witnessed the moon and her power over the waters, and they instantly fell in love, the spirit serenading the moon with its undying love. See artist Ashleigh Fisk perform as the Genius Loci and their ‘love song to the moon’ in an installation comprising of speculative ceramic artifacts as well as objects collected on the Thames foreshore. To interact with the Genius Loci is to create contact with the past, and enduring presence of the river itself.
Monster Soup, Irma Irsara
Monster Soup 2019 uses samples from different locations along the river to create projected time-lapses of melting frozen Thames’s water embedded with items found along the foreshore. A second microscopic time-lapse work shows what’s normally unseen with an emphasis on micro fibre plastic and its potential impact on the environment. Accompanying sound created by musician and soundscape artist Jonathan Lambert
History in your Hand, Anna Borzello and Monika Buttling-Smith
History in Your Hand lets you experience the thrill of mudlarking without getting your feet wet or your hands dirty. Slip your hand into the Magical Mudlark Machine - designed by creative technologist Jesse Wolpert - and pick up a virtual object from the virtual foreshore. Will it be a Roman lamp or a shard of Victorian pottery? Mudlarks Anna Borzello and Monika Buttling-Smith will be available to tell you more.
The River Thames and its foreshore are a living museum. When the foreshore is exposed at low tide, the Thames becomes the longest archaeological site in Britain. Every year mudlarks discover hundreds of historically important artifacts while beach-combing along the River Thames. Each of these treasures and the everyday objects from London’s past have their own fascinating stories to tell. The Thames Museum creates a voice for these objects, giving visitors a totally immersive experience, a time capsule transporting you back to the great Elizabethan, Georgian and Victorian maritime periods.
Susi Arnott and Crispin Hughes
Still obsessed with Thames tides, this pair of artists present a raft of new work attending to foreshore finds of man-made detritus and photosynthesising commuters. While Duck questions your point-of-view, Slimewatch and Keepers are supported by interactive events that offer a chance to make your own photographic and micro-photographic records – and perhaps some plasticine plankton.
Meditations on the River Thames, Micah Moore
London-based Multimedia artist Micah Moore was born and raised in Alabama, U.S.A. and has had a lifelong fascination with searching for hidden objects through metal detecting, fossil hunting and most recently, mudlarking.
“One of the main reasons I love mudlarking, is the meditative calm that comes over me while searching on the foreshore. I wanted to recreate that almost trance-like state through immersive video and soundscape.”
Raewyn is a London based ceramic artist who grew up in New Zealand. She creates porcelain collections with a strong narrative based on sites and structures that fascinate her. The Thames is a constant source of inspiration which led to the creation of her Mud Larking* series. She collects fragments from the foreshore, delves into archives for historical maps, and goes on expeditions to take photographs of decommissioned structures in the Thames Estuary.
Ask the Experts
Bring in your own foraged foreshore finds, and take up the opportunity to ask our resident experts all about them. Experts include: Forehsore Archaeologist Dr. Fiona Haughey and Archaeologists from the Museum of London (MOLA).
Unruly Heritage – An Archaeology of the Anthropocene
Unruly Heritage investigate how the haunting, ruined, and stranded material legacies of the Anthropocene challenge conceptions of heritage, and urge us to adopt more accommodating and complex understandings. This collective have joined forces with our Thames foragers of the foreshore, to complicate traditional delineations between past and present, and question how objects’ unruly afterlives allow for alternative memory practices and ecological ethics.
Lara Maiklem, the London Mudlark, has been scouring the banks of the Thames for over 15 years, in persuit of the objects the river unearths: from Neolithic flints to Roman hair pins, medieval buckles to Tudor buttons, Georgian clay pipes, the skulls of Napoleonic prisoners of war, and Victorian toys. These objects tell her about London and its lost way of life. She has been posting as London Mudlark on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter since 2012, and has recently written a book: Mudlarking, Lost and Found on the River Thames. Our Foragers of the Foreshore Exhibition includes a special display of the objects she has written about and she will be hosting an evening of mudlarking chat: Lost and Found on the River Thames with Lara Maiklem.
View the most intricate and delicate drawings of mudlark finds imaginable, by the talented Johnny Mudlark.
As a London born artist and mudlark, Jacqui re-imagines the journey of each object she has found; a lost toy once cherished by a child, an everyday object that was broken & discarded or a flint tool fashioned many thousands of years ago by our ancestors: “There is nothing quite like the magic of holding an object revealed by the tide and being transported back in time, the special peace & tranquillity the river creates, watching the sun rise, the frost on a shard of glass, catching a glimpse of a heron, the excitement of connecting with history. My aim as an artist is to capture a little of this magic in my work”.
Chris Orr RA
Chris Orr RA has been a life long Thames fanatic. His grandfather was a clerk working for the Port of London Authority and he has a very early memory in the 1950s of boat trips down the working river. As a young artist he had a riverside studio in a Wapping Warehouse and he now lives and works just by the Albert Bridge. Drawings and prints with the Thames as subject are made alongside his provocative social commentary which he likes to call “The Domestic Fantastic”. His works take in the panorama of London’s changing scene and then into the boardrooms, bars and living rooms of the metropolis.
The vibrant city of London and The River Thames is a constant source of inspiration for Ed’s art. He enjoys painting and sketching around the Thames and capturing the ever-changing skyline. As a mudlark, Ed uses found fragments of marble as a unique feature for his work, each custom piece resulting in unique and original Thames artwork.
Plus a host of wrap around talks at the Bargehouse including: