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Posts by Richard

The power of images

2 August 2011 by Richard

woman looking at framed photographs

Visitor at the Living Apart exhibition


Well there have been plenty of things happening here at the museum since my last blog post. We have launched three very successful and eclectic exhibitions: Living Apart: photographs of apartheid by Ian Berry; ’42’ Women of Sierra Leone, a series of photographs of Sierra Leonean women, highlighting the alarming fact that life expectancy for them is only 42 and Toxteth 1981, a community exhibition developed in collaboration with the Merseyside Black History Month Group to mark the 30th anniversary in July 2011 of the 1981 riots in Toxteth, Liverpool. The latter involved members of the Liverpool Black community who lived in Toxteth during the disturbances loaning photographic material for the exhibition. The images gave them a voice which I believe is very important if museums are to be truly seen as a resource by the local community in particular. Read more…

Foundations for the future

25 January 2011 by Richard

mechanical digger digging foundations

A Happy New Year to everyone and as someone with Chinese ancestry it is fitting to wish you all a fruitful Year of the Rabbit. Liverpool has a long established and rich Chinese community, one that adds to the diverse fabric of the city. There has been a Chinese community since the mid-nineteenth century which originally settled around the docks but in more recent times settled in and around Berry and Duke Street. Interestingly Liverpool’s Chinatown has the largest Chinese arch in Europe and indeed outside of China. The New Year celebrations in Liverpool are fantastic and well worth attending.

The museum sector has a number of challenges in 2011 but I believe that the International Slavery Museum will continue to have a strong offer and build on the success of 2010. A year which saw us pass the 1 millionth visitor mark; launch the new International Slavery Museum book Transatlantic Slavery: An introduction; host a series of successful exhibitions; develop our contemporary slavery collection and open our new Campaign Zone.

For many years there has been the debate within the sector as to whether museums should be places of neutrality, islands of objectivity in an often subjective world. I wrote about this in a recent article. Those of us involved in the International Slavery Museum disagree and feel that museums are by their very nature active agents of social change and should actively seek to do so. Janet Marstine in ‘New Museum Theory and Practice’ (2006) has echoed similar sentiments;
Read more…

Breaking boundaries

8 March 2010 by Richard

old photo of a man in cricket whites by the sign for an RAF base

Conrad Benjamin, RAF Steamer Point


I am pleased to report that the February visitor figures for the International Slavery Museum were extremely good and we are now very close to receiving our millionth visitor. A fantastic achievement considering we have only been open since 2007. 

We are always looking to enhance the visitor experience and this can often mean covering sensitive and challenging issues. An example is Missing (2007) by the artist Rachel Wilberforce, a series of photographs of urban and suburban Britain which depict sex-trafficking and prostitution through the interiors and exteriors of brothels and so-called massage parlours. This newly acquired part of our contemporary slavery collection is now on display. Rachel will be giving a public lecture about her work on Wednesday 10 March 6-8pm at the Merseyside Maritime Museum as part of International Women’s Week. Check the International Women’s Day events page for further details. Read more…

News from the Grand Rue

10 February 2010 by Richard

Man holding a bracelet

International Slavery Museum collections development officer Stephen Carl-Lokko with ankle bracelet from Niger


I am sure most people like myself and the staff at International Slavery Museum have been keeping up-to-date with the unfolding humanitarian tragedy in Haiti, a result of the catastrophic earthquake on 12 January. Out of this disaster we received some welcome good news recently that one of the Haitian artists involved with the Freedom! sculpture on display in the museum, Guyodo (Frantz Jacques), along with his family, are fine, as well as several colleagues from the Grand Rue artists collective, but sadly his home was destroyed. We are currently looking to develop a long-term sustainable partnership with Haiti, possibly with an artists collective. Due to the imagination and creativity of Haitian artists this is a real possibility. Interestingly the Ghetto Biennale was held in Grand Rue in December which is a fascinating project and a good starting point for any future collaboration. Read more…

Haitian artist lost in the earthquake

18 January 2010 by Richard

artists standing next to sculpture

Atis Rezistans artists at the unveiling of the Freedom! sculpture in 2007


Well it is with great shock and sadness that I write this blog in light of the devastating earthquake in Haiti. Nobody could not have been shocked at the images shown in the media this past week but it was particularly difficult for those of us associated with the museum as Haiti is central to the museum’s history and ethos for several reasons.

On 23 August 2007 the International Slavery Museum was opened. This is a significant date as it commemorates an uprising of enslaved Africans on the island of Saint Domingue (modern Haiti) in 1791. The date has been designated by UNESCO as Slavery Remembrance Day, a reminder that enslaved Africans were the main agents of their own liberation. Resistance to injustices and discrimination is a central theme of the International Slavery Museum. Read more…

Another great year for the International Slavery Museum

21 December 2009 by Richard

woman holding a certificate

Rebecca Watkin, curator of transatlantic slavery, with the 2009 UNESCO-Madanjeet Singh Prize certificate, in front of the Trafficked exhibition

Hello thereWell it has been another great year for the museum in so many ways, not least the fact we have now had over 850,000 visitors, but it has also been challenging, thought provoking and indeed humbling. There have been many highlights and some not so highlights of 2009. We were extremely proud that we achieved an Honourable Mention as part of the 2009 UNESCO-Madanjeet Singh Prize for the Promotion of Tolerance and Non-Violence which rewards significant activities in the scientific, artistic, cultural or communication fields aimed at the promotion of a spirit of tolerance and non-violence.  It showed the museum was seen as a human rights campaigner by its peers. We also made the final of the National Lottery Good Causes awards and the European Museum of the Year awards in Bursa, Turkey.  We did not win but it was still a significant achievement for a museum which is only 2 years old.  We have hosted several very successful exhibitions including Black Britiannia and Trafficked and been visited by a host of important, interesting and often well known people such as the civil rights activist Diane Nash, who give the annual Slavery Remembrance Day memorial lecture, and the Liverpool boxing legend John Conteh. In February Richard LeBaron, Chargé d’Affaires at the United States Embassy and Simon Woolley, national co-ordinator of Operation Black Vote, unveiled a plaque of President Barack Obama. Added to all this we continue to offer a vibrant learning programme which is both original and often groundbreaking.  There have unfortunately been some less celebratory events. In particular the loss of John Hope Franklin, one of the most important American historians of the 20th century and a great advocate of the International Slavery Museum. He will be fondly remembered by myself and all those fortunate to have met him. The year shockingly also saw the British National Party gain a degree of political kudos by winning seats at the European elections. Rather than sit idly by I hope that like the museum you support the Hope Not Hate campaign and make a stand against such organisations.Looking ahead I am convinced that International Slavery Museum will have an exciting, challenging and successful 2010. We are planning many events, for instance on 18 January (Martin Luther King Day in the US) we will be showing the film ‘Boycott’ about the 1955 Montgomery Bus boycott as a mark of respect. The inaugural Federation of Human Rights Museums (FIHRM) conference will also be held at the International Slavery Museum, which will bring together some of the leading human rights museums and institutions across the globe to see how we can work together to challenge issues such as racism and discrimination and the rise of the far right. The museum will continue to support Black History Month in October and there will be the annual Slavery Remembrance Day events. In March we will be launching a new exhibition called Beyond the Boundary which explores the relationship between cricket, culture, class and politics. There will be much much more so watch this space. By for now and I hope that many of you have a visit to the museum as one of your New Year resolutions!

Keep on smiling

17 July 2009 by Richard

crowd in front of the Mona Lisa

Hello there

Thank you to everybody who voted for the International Slavery Museum in The National Lottery Good Causes Awards. We find out if we have made it through to the final on 3 August so watch this space. If we do make it through to the live TV show then I’ll have to get my suit down to Johnson’s, dig out my Homer Simpson tie and practice my TV smile!

Talking of smiles (now that is a good link) I saw the most famous in the world recently whilst I was on a weekend break to Paris. We spent nearly a whole day in the Louvre and ‘tried’ to get a close look at Leonardo Da Vinci’s ‘Mona Lisa’ or ‘La Gioconda’ (an alternative title as the sitter is probably the wife of an Italian merchant called Francesco del Giocondo). As you can see from the picture the Mona Lisa draws crowds of visitors most museums can only dream of. It really is a sight to behold although there is hardly any room to stand and admire the picture as people are busy barging past. As a museum professional I am almost as interested in the behavior of the visitor as much as the collections themselves though. Don’t expect to be able to stand in front of her and act like an art connoisseur but still worth the effort if you ever visit. Read more…

It could be us!

30 June 2009 by Richard

logo with text 'National Lottery Awards. Celebrating the difference you've made'

Hello there

We’ve had some really good news – the International Slavery Museum has been shortlisted for a National Lottery Good Causes award under the Best Heritage Project category. If you are a regular reader of my blog or indeed this is your first time, we need your vote to make it into the final. Votes can be made online by visiting the National Lottery Good Causes website or by telephone on 0844 686 6957 (calls costs 5p from BT land lines and as they say on TV don’t forget to ask an adult or whoever pays the bills!!).  Voting ends Friday 10 July. Every vote counts so we really do appreciate your support. I realise that blog readers are located around the globe (as well as my dear old Yorkshire) so please tell friends, family members and colleagues. Read more…

That Obama feeling – hope not hate

8 June 2009 by Richard

exterior of the 'Obamabar'

Obama mania hits Antwerp

Hello there

One of the most unexpected but satisfying things I have seen in my recent travels has to be during a trip to Antwerp when I was invited to speak at the ‘What’s in a name? Knowledge and Research in Museums’ symposium held in the library of the Rubens Museum. It was organised by MAS (Museum aan de Stroom) which opens in 2010. MAS staff members as well as speakers from Amsterdam (such as the National Maritime Museum and the Tropenmuseum), London (Museum of London and Greenwich Maritime Institute) and my good self presented a series of papers explaining how knowledge, information and research is dispersed within their institutions.   Read more…

Going green in Bursa

21 May 2009 by Richard

dancers in traditional Turkish costume performing energetically

Civic welcome in Bursa, Turkey

Hello there

As you can see from the photo, I’ve been travelling again, this time to Bursa in northwestern Turkey, a three hour plus minibus ride (plus a ferry crossing) from Istanbul. The reason for this exciting venture was that the International Slavery Museum had been shortlisted for the very prestigious European Museum of the Year Award, awarded by the European Museum Forum to a museum which offers an excellent example of innovation in museums.

Well I will not keep you in suspense; we did not win the top prize, which went to Salzburg Museum in Austria. There were also three museums who were specially commended, one of which, the Museum of Life Stories in, Speicher, Switzerland I thought particularly worthy. The artist involved in the project, HR Fricker, explained to me that in the public areas of a home for seniors, their lives are shown around them, through exhibits and documentation. This might well challenge people’s view of what a museum is, which I think is a good thing. Of course I was disappointed at not even having been commended (by the amount of people who came up to me afterwards I think we were one of the favourites) but if success is also measured by fellow museum professionals wanting to work with you in the future, then the trip was well worth it.  Read more…

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