Blog

Together is better

19 August 2019 by Laura Pye

Laura Pye at Liverpool's waterfront

Laura Pye, Director of National Museums Liverpool. Picture by Gareth Jones

The International Slavery Museum welcomes the discussion around a London museum on slavery. The work we do here every day promotes education about this critical part of our UK and global history – which is by no means consigned to the past. Our very purpose is for more people to know, and confront, this history, so the more discussion about it, the better.

We opened in 2007 in recognition of the need for a major, national museum that addressed the UK’s role in the transatlantic slave trade and its legacies. Since opening, we have welcomed more than 4.5 million visitors. We hold the world’s first permanent modern slavery collection and have hosted over 250,000 visits by schoolchildren. The support for us in response to Sadiq Khan’s call for a London slavery museum has been quite overwhelming.

If the London museum proceeds, it should build on the work already done here at the existing International Slavery Museum in Liverpool, and the good work already established by many museums across the UK, including the Museum of London. Because the power of museums working together is immense. Read more…

National Museums Liverpool flies the flag for Human Rights

26 June 2019 by Sahar Beyad

This year marks 70 years since the UN Declaration of Human Rights. It was drafted in 1948, with no more than 50 countries getting involved – and today, we have over 190 who have co-signed this much needed legal text. And never before has this been such a vital piece of affirmation, than now in present day. When there is so much uncertainty in the world. Whether it’s politics, war, and economy – we need voices to stand up for basic rights now more than ever!

I was so happy to learn that National Museums Liverpool was taking part in the anniversary of the human right declaration. This year, to mark the occasion, artist and activist Ai Weiwei designed the flag which seems simple and unassuming at first glance, but then inspecting in detail, the footprint, which has lots of tiny white dots, actually represents those who are fleeing conflict – who are often barefoot – with nothing but the shirt (if) on their backs. It was inspired by a recent trip he took to the Rohingya refugee camp – this therefore became the symbol of the human struggle.

Ai Weiwei with the flag he designed

Across National Museums Liverpool, we have an array of programmes, events and exhibitions that give the voiceless and voice, and portray images of unity, peace and demonstrate our efforts to strive for a better world. Read more…

Behind the Scenes with Africa Oye

12 June 2019 by Sarah

Africa Oye 2014 – copyright Mark McNulty

We are always looking for new projects for our Student Ambassadors to work on. And this is what our Ambassador, and this week’s guest blogger, Laila Waraich has been working on most recently:

As part of my participation in the Ambassadors programme at the International Slavery Museum, I recently had the opportunity to meet with Dave McTague, part of the team at the Africa Oyé festival.

Although originally I had wanted to meet Dave to find out about the impact of Africa Oyé for a feature in an educational card game we are producing, ‘Civil Rights and Freedom Fights,’ I ended up discovering much more than I expected about the intricacies of producing an event like this, and it’s great cultural importance in Liverpool. Read more…

Why we need Harriet Tubman on the $20 bill

5 June 2019 by Sarah

Stamped bills

This week’s guest blog has been written by artist Dano Wall, who designed a stamp which puts Harriet Tubman on the $20 bill. Dano kindly allows us to use the stamp in some of our public education sessions at the Museum. Find out how and why he came up with this fantastic idea, as he writes:

On April 20, 2016, then-U.S. Treasury Secretary Jack Lew announced plans to add Harriet Tubman to the front of the revised twenty-dollar bill, moving President Andrew Jackson to the rear. Lew instructed the Bureau of Engraving and Printing to expedite the redesign process, and the new bill was expected to enter circulation sometime after 2020. Read more…

Sports Pages take one for the team in Racism Row

12 April 2019 by Sahar Beyad

Emy Onuora

Guest blog from Emy Onuora

(Emy Onoura is the author of Pitch Black. Emy Onuora has an MA in Ethnic Studies and Race Relations from the University of Liverpool and has lectured extensively on issues of Race and Sport within higher education)

Raheem Sterling’s willingness to put himself forward as the spokesperson for a generation of black footballers is commendable, if only in the context of previous generations of footballers who were forced to suffer racist abuse in silence, even in some cases going as far as to insist that they used racist abuse as a motivator for improved performance. His challenge to the game’s leaders and opposition fans, and support for his team mates has marked a significant shift in black footballers demand to be treated with respect and dignity, has given other players the confidence to speak out and demand change. However, it’s his focus on racist attitudes within the media that’s had the most wide-ranging impact.

Sterling highlighted how his City team-mates, one black and one white received very different treatment by the Daily Mail. Tosin Adarabioyo and Phil Foden had each purchased a home. The headline on the Adarabioyo story read “Young Manchester City footballer, 20, on £25,000 a week splashes out on mansion on market for £2.25 million despite having never started a Premier League match.” The headline for his white team mate Foden, read “Manchester City starlet Phil Foden buys new £2m home for his mum.”

Sterling’s exposé prompted several days of hand-wringing and self-reflection from both the print and TV media. They openly wondered how it could be that they could be so discriminatory and how it was they had no or few minorities in their newsrooms or making editorial decisions. They began to throw around terms like unconscious bias and wondered what they could be done to make sports media more reflective of the range of diverse groups who love and have a stake in the game.

However, clearly missing from the debate was any detailed discussion of the role that the mainstream media plays in generating and supporting a climate of outright hostility and overt racism against immigrants, their children and grandchildren, inner-city youths, black music, black crime,  black gangs, black parents and so on and so on, all of it designed to generate click-bait and sell papers and generate advertising revenue.

Football as has been said often and quite correctly, reflects society, and the rise in racist incidents both in English and European football, is a reflection of an environment that serves to empower the far-right and racists more widely, and is fuelled by the normalising of hateful ideas, speeches and actions by mainstream politicians and mainstream and social media.

Outside the rarified environment of football, there has been a significant rise in racist violence against groups and individuals, and increased racist attacks on mosques, synagogues and Jewish cemeteries, but the media’s willingness to support opposition to racism on its back pages, enables the same business-as-usual hate-filled, opinion pieces, leader comments, headlines and articles to be written about minority groups on its front pages. What’s happened, is that In football parlance, the sports departments have taken one for the team. This has allowed the blame to be shifted to sports journalism, and enable the media to state its commitment to anti-racism in football while its hostile reporting continues.

Of course, the fact that in 2019, Sterling, Danny Rose and other black footballers are still the cause of debate as to how they should be protected, reflects the fact that football’s leadership has never prioritised their duty of care, to allow them to play free from racist abuse is an indictment of the game we all love and of the society we are all a part of and have a stake in. Raheem Sterling, Danny Rose, Wilfred Zaha and many other high profile and not so well-know players are doing us all a favour and reminding us that to create a society free from discrimination, requires opposition to racism not just when it concerns football, but also when it is actively fostered by those with the means and power to shape and form opinions.

Meet the author: Sara Collins

8 March 2019 by Sarah

Sara Collins. Credit: Justine Stoddart

Who is Sara Collins?

I studied law at the London School of Economics and worked as a lawyer for 17 years before pursuing my lifelong ambition of writing a novel. I obtained a master’s degree in Creative Writing from Cambridge University, where I started writing my novel in late 2015.

Why are you going to know all about Sara next month?

The Confessions of Frannie Langton will be published by Penguin (Viking) in the UK on 4 April 2019. Read more…

New Women Celebrated on our Black Achievers Wall

8 March 2019 by Sarah

Black Achievers Wall at International Slavery Museum Image credit: Redman Design/ International Slavery Museum

We are proud to have added two exceptional BAME women to our Black Achiever’s Wall this International Women’s Day (8 March 2019). Sandi Hughes is a feminist film-maker, DJ, poet and activist. And Lady Phyll is a celebrated speaker, writer and LGBTQI campaigner. Read more…

Vote for us!

13 December 2018 by Sarah

Our ‘Am Not I a Man and a Brother’ painting has been shortlisted for Art Fund Wok of the Year 2018. Shown here as it was acquired, and before conservation work. Image courtesy of National Museums Liverpool.

Fantastic news! Our new painting ‘Am Not I a Man and a Brother’ at the International Slavery Museum is on the shortlist of 10 works to be Art Fund Work of the Year 2018.

The annual poll aims to find the public’s favourite Art Funded work of the year, and to celebrate a year of helping museums and galleries acquire great art. You can help and support us by voting!

‘Am Not I a Man and a Brother’ is a significant acquisition for the Museum- and the UK.

It is the first painting in our collection to show the powerful and resonant iconography of abolition. The artwork dates from around 1800 and the artist is unknown. The foot of the canvas reads, ‘Am Not I a Man and a Brother’, a variation on the more common version, ‘Am I Not a Man and a Brother’. Read more…

UK’s 2nd Female BAME Stunt Actor : Shaina West aka The Samurider

12 December 2018 by Sarah

Images: Steve Brown Creative

Shaina West is a real life superhero, with a backstory to rival an Avenger and an alter ego fighting to change the stigma around Black women on screen. In this guest blog, Shaina explains how she overcame the adversity of a road accident to reinvent herself as a pioneering stunt actor and the anime-inspired Instagram star: The Samurider:

“The choice to become a stunt actor was not a particularly hard one, I feel like through minimal shaping of my own, my life led me towards it – it’s been an incredible ride! It all started when I was 20 and the unthinkable happened. I was in a terrible motorbike accident. It left me stranded in hospital for weeks with a fractured neck and broken thumb. My boyfriend of the time broke up with me and I lost my job. A series of unfortunate events indeed!  Read more…

Helen Woolstencroft: from migration to me

30 October 2018 by Stephen Carl-Lokko

Dress with family photographs printed on the fabric

Detail of Helen’s dress ‘Eva’.

In this guest blog for the Sankofa project and as part of Black History Month, artist Helen Woolstencroft reveals how family and history play an important role in her sense of identity as an artist. In this moving tribute to her grandparents,  Helen tells us about the source of inspiration for her work:

“From a young age, I was always curious about my family. Being of mixed race heritage, I always wanted to know where I fit into the world. I was captivated by my Grandad Lionel, and always wondered what his life was like in Barbados before he came to England during the Second World War.  Read more…



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Welcome to the National Museums Liverpool blog! Written by our staff and volunteers, we’ll give you a peek behind the scenes of our museums and galleries.

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We try to ensure that the information provided on our blog is accurate and that appropriate permissions to use images have been sought. The opinions in each blog are very much those of the individuals writing.