National Portrait Gallery Creating Heathrow Archive

Documenting the impact of the airport on local people

The Heathrow Exhibition, with two interested visitors

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A major project has been launched by the National Portrait Gallery to create an archive of work documenting the impact of Heathrow in the areas surrounding the airport.

The People Powered project Heathrow: Our Local Airport archive project aims to create an engaging visual response to the airport and its impact.    

In partnership local artist Navir Singh, the University of West London (UWL) and local schools and community groups, there will be video masterclasses for children, visual arts, poems and weekend clubs where content is created. It will be on display across the university once complete before some of the content is moved to a display in the National Portrait Gallery.

There is still time to share your family’s history and memories of the impact of Heathrow Airport.

Staff and students at UWK are encouraged to take part in two oral history projects throughout 2022, sharing memories, stories and family history of the major site in West London as archivists work to capture the stories, sights and sounds of Heathrow Airport.

Outreach teams from UWL are working with filmmaker Narvir Singh and nearby schools to use poetry, portraits, and photography to create a film exploring 75 years of continued development at the landmark.  

Alongside this, stories collected from residents and workers will become part of the Heathrow Archive, a collection of documents and artefacts all held by UWL.  

The team is now calling on students, residents, and anyone who has worked on the site to share pictures, memories or family stories from the past.  

For the second project, families of South Asian origin who moved to the region for work can contribute to the dedicated South Asian Heritage Oral History project to see how people have built their lives around the airport since it opened in 1946. 

Speaking about the importance of the work, Andrew Preater, Director of Library Services at UWL, said, “The airport has been a major aviation hub here in West London for so long, serving as the central site where people have lived and worked and even had their first taste of life in the UK.

“We want to capture all of this rich history through our partnerships, and hope to draw on the links with our students and staff so we can discover as much as possible to paint a vibrant picture of life on the site over the past 75 years.

“No matter how small your memory, we would love to hear it and help record these moments in a lasting community archive.”

After being displayed at UWL, parts of the collections will move to the NPG once it reopens in 2023 following major refurbishment. 

To find out more information, contact the UWL library team at

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March 3, 2022

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