News: Museum of London acquires Mayor of Lambeth’s homemade ceremonial chain as part of Collecting COVID project

The Museum of London is pleased to announce that it has acquired a ceremonial chain created by Councillor Philip Normal, Mayor of Lambeth, as part of its ongoing Collecting COVID initiative.

Normal made the chain, or collar, for his virtual appointment to Mayor of Lambeth on 22 April 2020 during the first national lockdown. Created using card and plaited t-shirt fabric it displays Lambeth’s coat of arms painted within a fluorescent pink oval with the words ‘Spectemur Agendo’ meaning, ‘Let us be judged by our acts.’

Prior to his appointment to Mayor of Lambeth, Normal had been councillor for the Oval Ward in Lambeth since May 2018 and is well known as a LGBTQ+ activist, ambassador for HIV awareness and owner of a popular shop in Brixton Village. He is now the first openly HIV+ Mayor in the UK.

Beatrice Behlen, Senior Curator of Fashion at the Museum of London, said: “Councillor Philip Normal’s ingenious interpretation of a mayoral chain provides a marvellous example of the creativity employed by so many Londoners to cope with the hardships and changes we are all facing as a result of the pandemic. It was one of the earliest objects we wanted to acquire when we began our Collecting COVID project, not only because the object documented the change from physical to online life as it was made for a virtual Mayoral ceremony, but also because of Philip’s activism. This acquisition, announced in LGBTQ+ History month and 40 years since AIDS was first reported upon in 1981, marks an important addition to our permanent London Collection by documenting the appointment of the UK’s first openly HIV+ Mayor while also reflecting the spirit of Londoners to carry on in sombre times.”

Councillor Philip Normal, said: “Taking office as the Mayor of Lambeth in a virtual ceremony was, of course, not what I had imagined, but it was unique and part of socially distanced life which has, unfortunately, become normal over the last year. I am really pleased that my ceremonial chain will become part of the Museum of London’s permanent collection to inform future generations not only about the COVID-19 crisis, but about the stigma still faced by many living with HIV.”

The Collecting COVID project, first announced in April 2020, is an active collecting project that seeks to reflect Londoners’ lives during the time of the COVID-19 crisis in order to keep a record to ensure future generations of Londoners will be able to learn about and understand this extraordinary period. 

To stay up to date with the project and all other Museum of London online updates including their diverse online programme of talks, tours and content for LGBTQ+ History Month please visit or follow us @MuseumofLondon #CollectingCOVID.

Photo credit: Museum of London


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