The Story

Smartphone suitcases

The project was inspired by collaboration with Syrians who had recently arrived on a UNHCR resettlement programme to Coventry, a UK city of sanctuary.

An archive of keys dating from the 11th Century to 1940 in the city musuem, led us to focus on SIM cards as “keys” for unlocking ‘smartphone suitcases,’ that open up channels to loved ones and personal digital archives.

‘The sim card is like the petrol in the car, the phone is the car. I would feel imprisoned without it…. It provides a way for my children to remember the faces, the places, the language of Syria, and for our family to build a secure future life here.’

Participant, Coventry 2018

Crafting Messages 

A local silversmith engraved SIM-scale artworks with participants hand drawn illustrations that act as messages to the future.

Participants asked for their bespoke pieces to be made into wearable pendants, and for their portraits to be taken so that they could share them with loved ones over digital messaging platforms.

Connecting archives 

The gold plated SIM artworks combine histories of craft and place making to materialise individuals hopes for the future. They were added to the Herbert Museum and Art Gallery collection in 2017 and put on display next to the city’s collection of keys.

This first chapter of the project was commissioned by GRAIN projects and led to a residency in the Department of Digital Humanities, Kings college London (2020-22). 

‘A key to home: The role of the SIM card in refugee resettlement’ (Hingley, 2022) is published in the journal Imaginations: Special Issue on Migrations.

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