Naima’s Story

“How this project made a difference in my life”


Naima Ahmed


New Curator with the New Curators project

Area or borough

Tower Hamlets

What attracted you to taking part in the project?

I wanted to take part in this project because I really like going to museums and theatres, but also because I wanted to gain experience with archiving as I originally wished to find a job in a library.  It provided me with so much insight into the life of a curator and really opened my eyes to other careers in this sector. More than anything, it was so fun to be able to research all these different things and see it translate into something tangible. On top of this, it appealed to me because of its focus on East London. It’s always interesting to find out about history that relates to yourself or is something you don’t often learn about.

What challenges did you face in applying?

Thankfully, I didn’t face too many challenges when applying. In fact, I was grateful for the extended deadline, as I found out about the project much later on. The form was pretty standard and had an easy layout to follow. There was also the option to record a video so it was nice to have that variety, though I chose to stick with writing up my answers.

What is it like being on the project and how is it different to what you imagined?

I’d imagined I’d feel a bit awkward and out of place, but I really enjoyed all the guest speakers and felt really engaged throughout all the sessions! The cohort I was with was also great and everyone including the facilitators were so friendly and helpful. The delivery of the project was also always professional yet it also felt personal in that we all able to say what we wanted and share things with one another.

How has this project changed your relationship with the local area?

Oh, it has definitely impacted my relationship, especially with perception of the local areas. I realised how innovative East London residents can be and how there is a deep sense of social justice, community and resilience ingrained in the people living here. However, I also realised that a lot of people simply don’t realise how rich the history of East London is, and I hope this project reaches people like that so that they can also find something of interest.

What do you think would have happened if you hadn’t taken part?

The project has definitely been a huge part of my life, especially at this time with the coronavirus. It has given me something to direct my energy towards and as cheesy as it sounds, has really helped with my own self-confidence.

Was there anything unexpected that came out of the process for you?

I already had an interest in history and the heritage and arts and culture sector so I knew I’d enjoy the project. However what surprised me was that I really enjoyed the collaborative parts as well as the independent research. I don’t think I have the best social skills but something I wished we had done more in this project was actually do more team exercises! Perhaps it was because it was online so there was a sort of protective shield but I really hope I can use this experience to build on this newfound ability to be comfortable in group settings.

 Have you built any new relationships that you will continue with?

Although we, as participants, didn’t get to interact much with each other — probably due to the project being conducted entirely online– I have still met lots of interesting people and have forged deeper friendships with some of them too. I hope we stay in touch! On another level, the project has given ample opportunity to network and connect with professionals throughout the sector, which is something I never thought I’d have the opportunity to do.

The New Curators project is run by UCL Special Collections and Newham Heritage Month and supported by our Foundations Programme, co-funded by City of London. Make sure to catch the curators’ talk ‘Fast Food-ward: Understanding Newham History Through Food Production’ on 28 May 4-5pm as part of this year’s Newham Heritage Month programme.

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