Lara Maiklem runs a mudlark Twitter account in London

London “Mudlarking” Twitter Account Provides the Joy We Need Right Now

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I don’t remember how Lara Maiklem’s Twitter account first crossed my timeline, but I’m grateful every day that it did. Maiklem is a “Mudlark,” which the dictionary defines in its old-fashioned usage as “a person who gains a livelihood by searching for iron, coal, old ropes, etc., in mud or low tide.” But Maiklem has made modern mudlarking both an art and accessible to her global audience, opening up a door to the past with every new discovery.

Maiklem searches the banks of the River Thames in London, where you must be licensed to do so, and shares her finds with her many thousands of followers at @LondonMudlark. She’s also written a delightful bestselling book, Mudlarking.

There’s always something wondrous to be found on Maiklem’s Twitter account, as she evinces a keen eye for both objects and the history behind them, and writes evocative captions that let you tag along for the ride. In July, followers rejoiced when she made the discovery she’d long been hoping for:

How can you not feel pure happiness at the success of someone’s 15-year-long search? Maiklem’s enthusiasm for objects from the past that were discarded or accidentally made their way into the Thames is addictive. You can’t wait to see what she’ll uncover next, and something you might glance over without a second look—like a bone button—suddenly becomes a treasured find.

Maiklem uses only her eyes to discover the items that the Thames has given over that day. A staggering amount of eras are intermingled in the London mud, and she’s collected from across the centuries:

One of my favorite things about Maiklem’s account is that she’ll often provide historical context for the objects, or show what they looked like in the original. It’s like watching history come to life, as otherwise forgotten facts and creations are resurfaced.

Think you’d make a good mudlark? Give it a shot:

Maiklem has helped put wider knowledge of mudlarking on the map, and interest is only growing. If you’re in London, there’s currently an exhibition of found objects at Southwark Cathedral!

Some of the discoveries by London’s dedicated mudlarks are of such value or historical importance that they end up in museums. But I adore that Maiklem’s account showcases so many interesting items that you wouldn’t find in a museum—so you might never have seen or heard of such a thing before. Many pieces in museums are, well, “museum quality,” pristine and sometimes unused. There’s far less “every day” representation as well: how many jeweled cups have you gazed upon behind glass versus a cup a regular Londoner used ages ago?

Getting a chance to look at what Maiklem has found makes me feel closer to the people who actually handled these objects, and to dream up stories of how they came to be in the river.

In a time when the present can seem dark and hemmed-in, Lara Maiklem is opening an insightful door into the past every day on her Twitter account. Seeing her posts is a reminder that there’s a more expansive world out there and puts our own history into perspective. And there’s something immensely comforting about mudlarking. It assures me that we are never really forgotten, so long as there are people willing to look for what we’ve left behind.

Don’t forget to pick up a copy of Mudlarking (titled Mudlark: In Search of London’s Past Along the River Thames on this side of the pond) if you want to learn more. You can follow Maiklem on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook. I’ve only just scraped the surface of the treasures that lie in wait for you there.

(via @LondonMudlark on Twitter, image: Pexels/Lara Maiklem/screengrab)

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Kaila Hale-Stern
Kaila Hale-Stern (she/her) is a content director, editor, and writer who has been working in digital media for more than fifteen years. She started at TMS in 2016. She loves to write about TV—especially science fiction, fantasy, and mystery shows—and movies, with an emphasis on Marvel. Talk to her about fandom, queer representation, and Captain Kirk. Kaila has written for io9, Gizmodo, New York Magazine, The Awl, Wired, Cosmopolitan, and once published a Harlequin novel you'll never find.