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Posts by Richard

Money (That’s What I Want)

25 July 2013 by Richard



Well in the words of the great Barrett Strong Money (That’s What I Want)”*Recently there has been some debate around the Bank of England’s plans to replace Elizabeth Fry with Winston Churchill in 2016 as the face on our £5 notes.  However, it has also been announced that Jane Austen will be the new face of the £10 note in 2017, an attempt at counterbalancing the lack of women.  People are right to scrutinize the individuals who are being considered-and that have appeared on previous notes-which clearly shows a lack of diversity, not becoming of a modern society. Now it is positive that Austen will indeed be seen on future currency but there will still be a lack of Black and Asian and other ethnically diverse faces.   Tokenism some may shout, maybe, but visibility and presence are often the first steps in people understanding how British society has “no singular ‘island story.’” Read more…

Talking the talk, walking the walk

14 June 2013 by Richard

cutting the ribbon at the start of the Walk for Freedom

2013 Walk for Freedom


It has been a varied month since my last blog.  It was a pleasure welcoming Garvin Nicholas, the High Commissioner for Trinidad and Tobago at the end of May for a tour of the International Slavery Museum (ISM).  My colleague James Hernandez came along to meet the delegation, a nice dimension was that he has Trinidadian roots.  As part of the tour we went into the Anthony Walker Education Centre which among other things has a display of Caribbean flags, except, quelle surprise, Trinidad and Tobago.  The High Commissioner kindly offered to send the Museum a flag for our collection.  He was very impressed with the Museum, especially the inclusion on our Black Achievers Wall of a number of Trinidadians & Tobagonians such as Lord Learie Constantine, Dr Roi Kwabena and CLR James. Read more…

Remembering to forget

17 May 2013 by Richard

The image shows the railings and the remains of the Auscwitz ii concentration camp

Auschwitz II-Birkenau concentration camp near the Polish town of Oświęcim

On Wednesday I gave a talk for the West Derby Society at the very grand Lowlands built in 1846.  The taxi driver, on being told what I did for a living, said something along the lines of ‘great museum, but not everyone in Liverpool supported and profited from slavery.’  I explained that we don’t say that, we talk about Britain’s role in the transatlantic slave trade, and of course we focus on Liverpool, it is after all where we are located, Liverpool took the trade to a new level, there were over 5,000 slave voyages made from the port plus several other  facts. I also pointed out that new research is shedding light on the diverse range of people (plantation owners/profiteers not the enslaved) that were awarded compensation under the 1833 Abolition Act (there was a Slave Compensation Commission) which shows that it was not just MP’s or the well-known merchant families but regular business folk too who profited from the enslavement of Africans.  Read more…

Back on the road

18 March 2013 by Richard

The Chapman Family Collection in Tate Britain

Objects from the collection of artists Jake and Dinos Chapman.


I was in London recently for a series of meetings. I usually have a few hours to kill before getting the train back so I often have a bit of a busman’s holiday, checking out a new exhibition or snooping around some gallery.  I always seem to end up frantically rushing back to Euston in rush hour too.  This trip was no different and although I like to think I’m an experienced visitor to the capital at one stage I had to ask a postman, a shop assistant in Liberty’s, and two bobbies where the nearest tube station was.
Read more…

Republic Day in the Land of Many Waters

22 February 2013 by Richard

Guyana flag

The image shows the colourful Guyana flag


First of all I would like to wish members of the global Guyanese family a Happy Republic Day for tomorrow.  On 23 February 1970 the Forbes Burnham led government proclaimed Guyana, The Co-operative Republic of Guyana and ended Guyana’s constitutional tie to Britain. Guyana though remains a member of the Commonwealth.

The birth of Guyana as a republic is now also closely associated with the annual Mashramani festival or ‘Mash day’, derived from the Amerindian language which according to the Guyanese Ministry of Culture, Youth & Sport means ‘the celebration of a job well done’. The festival has a carnival atmosphere and is one of the most spectacular annual celebrations in Guyana. Read more…

Breaking the heart of darkness

14 February 2013 by Richard

Hello all,

Conrad’s classic Heart of Darkness is a powerful indictment of imperialism at its height which swept across Africa and in particular the repressive and brutal reign of the Belgians in the Congo, which had become the fiefdom of King Leopold II. The book centres on Marlow, a sailor who works for a Belgian ivory trading company, and encounters widespread brutality by the company. At the end of the book Conrad’s narrator encounters Kurtz (Brando in Apocalypse Now), who had worked for the company but turned himself into a demigod and who was guilty of carrying out horrifying atrocities. Read more…


31 January 2013 by Richard

group photo in the museum

Beverley Knight, Nicola Green, Richard Benjamin and David Lammy MP

Hello all,

Unfortunately we had to cancel the planned event with the artist Nicola Green at the Walker Art Gallery on Friday 18th due to the bad weather. However, before the venues closed I was able to give Nicola and her friends and family a tour of the International Slavery Museum. Amongst the group was the singer Beverley Knight who had a very thought provoking visit and David Lammy MP – long time supporter of the International Slavery Museum. It’s a lot to take in for some people on their initial visit, and they might experience a number of emotions, so I am sure that many of the group will come back in the future. Read more…

Radical Resolutions

15 January 2013 by Richard

Bronze bust of W.E.B Du Bois

W. E. B. Du Bois was an American sociologist, historian, civil rights activist, Pan-Africanist, author and editor.

Hello all,
Happy New Year to regular and new followers of my blog.  New Years resolutions are often doomed before they even start and as a pragmatist I don’t expect the world to change at the chimes of Big Ben. That said it would be a positive start to 2013 if people with dispositions towards intolerance educate themselves about “others” and denounce their particular prejudice, racism, sexism, ageism, their homophobia or hostility towards disabled people – to name just a few – rather than make a resolution to eat less cake or exercise more.   Regardless, those of us who abhor such behaviour should not be downhearted, stay resolute and when we can, question, challenge and inform. Read more…

A tale of two Eleanors and a Kidd

6 December 2012 by Richard

Eleanor Roosevelt holds up a copy of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights

Eleanor Roosevelt with the Universal Declaration of Human Rights

With International Human Rights Day approaching on 10 December I wanted to highlight often forgotten human rights activists, in this case Eleanor Roosevelt, Eleanor Rathbone and Ronald Kidd.

Roosevelt, a former U.S. First Lady, chaired the committee that drafted and approved the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in 1948, one of the most important and significant documents of modern times.   Some of the articles are more known than others, for instance, Article 1 declares “All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights whereas Article 4 states No one shall be held in slavery or servitude; slavery and the slave trade shall be prohibited in all their forms.”  However, of equal importance are such articles as Nos. 16 which states that “Marriage shall be entered into only with the free and full consent of the intending spouses”.  Human rights abuses which the Declaration has striven to fight are still taking place today, not just in other countries, but the UK, your own town, your own street.  Young women in some communities can’t marry who they want and can suffer domestic violence as a result.  People of all ages and nationalities are held in domestic servitude, often mistreated by professionals and not everyone is born free with their rights in place. I could go on.
Read more…

The Long March from 54th to 1600 Pennsylvania

15 November 2012 by Richard

War memorial to the Massachusetts 54th Regiment Memorial, Boston

Image shows the war memorial to the Massachusetts 54th Regiment Memorial, Boston


Regardless of the fact that President Obama’s recent election victory brought about a tangible sigh of relief in many parts of the world, these next few years will be a tough test for him and his administration.   For those of you interested in Obama, from next January our sister venue the Walker Art Gallery hosts the exhibition In 7 Days by the artist Nicola Green, who between August 2008 and January 2009 had the opportunity to follow Barack Obama on his Presidential campaign. One of the images ‘Change’ has the then Senator Obama in a John Wayne-esque pose.  The similarities end there though; it could be said that Wayne had rather more conservative political values.
Read more…

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