Author: Mary Wills

‘Gentlemen slavers’ and other themes of wealth and enrichment in the Remembering 1807 archive

The recent announcement from the University of Glasgow that it benefited from donations from the profits of slavery amounting to the equivalent of tens of millions of pounds serves as another reminder of the long and complex money trail behind Britain’s role in transatlantic slavery. The way that universities, museums, religious bodies and other institutions around the world deal with the legacy of benefactors with links to slavery has become a major area of debate. These difficult histories must be acknowledged and confronted when assessing the place of transatlantic slavery in Britain’s public history. The Remembering 1807 archive highlights the ways in which heritage organisations and community groups around the UK tackled such uncomfortable questions in 2007.

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Museums of Forgetting and Remembering

Guest blog by historian David Alston, contributor to the Remembering 1807 archive

It is now about twenty years since I became interested in the involvement of Scots in the slave plantations of the Caribbean. From my own still limited research I could see that it was extensive. Yet on my first visit to The Museum of Scotland in Edinburgh, shortly after it opened in 1998, I noted that there was not a single reference to slavery, the slave trade, or slave-worked plantations. While migration from Ireland to Scotland in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries was deemed to be important, with a whole gallery devoted to the ‘movement of peoples’, the involvement of Scots in the forced migration of twelve million Africans to the Caribbean and North America did not merit one word. How could a national institution, with all the benefits of modern scholarship, not notice this?

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Launch event for Remembering 1807 digital archive

pjimage (9)Please join us to launch Remembering 1807, a new digital archive of commemorative activity relating to the transatlantic slave trade and its abolition. This free event will take place at the Museum of London Docklands on 20 September, 6.30 – 8 pm.

Please register for the launch to hear more about this new resource, a collection of the Antislavery Usable Past Archive.

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Remembering 1807, Archiving 2007

By Dr Mary Wills

At the Wilberforce Institute we are in the final stages of collecting materials for ‘Remembering 1807’, a digital archive of materials from UK projects which in 2007 commemorated the bicentenary of the abolition of the British transatlantic slave trade. The archive will go live this September, and will be one of the major resources in the Antislavery Usable Past’s online portal, providing primary source materials to be used in future antislavery scholarship, teaching and learning.

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The Iron in the Ivory Towers: Dealing with Georgetown’s legacies of enslavement

This post by Katarina Schwarz also features on the blog of the Re-presenting slavery: making a public usable past project.

Many universities and colleges benefitted from human enslavement and exploitation, and Georgetown University, Washington was no exception. What is exceptional about Georgetown’s case is how well documented those connections are, and now the nature of the attempt to reckon with them.

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A New Curriculum for Hull – Usable Past in Action

By Rebecca Nelson, Wilberforce Institute

Since September I’ve been working as an intern with Hull’s Heritage Learning team. They are responsible for the educational offers across the museum sites in Hull, working with schools from the local area and beyond. For 2017, coinciding with the City of Culture programme, Heritage Learning are launching a new history curriculum for schools in the Hull area. This explores the history of Hull from its origins in the medieval period, to the modern day, through key events and characters. Teachers were consulted about the topics they wanted to see on the curriculum, with an original list of over 150 being whittled down to just 20.

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Stay Safe from Slavery Conference

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Unchosen are delighted to announce an innovative conference called Stay Safe from Slavery, focusing on new ways of preventing Modern Slavery in the UK. The conference takes place at the University of Nottingham on 21 June 2017. The university’s Research Priority Area in Rights and Justice and Antislavery Usable Past project is partnering on the conference, in conjunction with work to make Nottingham a slavery-free city.

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Empires of Charity Workshop

Mary Wills will be presenting at the University of Warwick’s Poverty Research Network workshop on 3 March 2017. The Poverty Research Network brings together scholars from different disciplines, working on broad themes of poverty and social justice from the local to the global level. The ‘Empires of Charity‘ workshop looks to explore the relationship between systems of charity and imperialism broadly defined within a global framework. Mary will be speaking on the British anti-slavery cause in nineteenth-century West Africa, and how abolitionism became intertwined with concepts of imperialism, philanthropy and humanitarianism.

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Seminar at the Centre for the Study of International Slavery, Liverpool

Three members of the Antislavery Usable Past team – Katie Donington, Rebecca Nelson and Mary Wills – will speak about the project and their own research at a seminar organised by the Centre for the Study of International Slavery at the University of Liverpool on 7 February, 5pm-7pm. Mary Wills will be speaking on ‘Commemorating slavery and abolition in the UK: heritage, memory and activism’, Rebecca Nelson on ‘The Many Faces of the Modern Museum’ and Katie Donington on ‘Red rubber in sepia: slavery, memory and representation in the Democratic Republic of Congo’.

Admission is free. Details of how to register, and more info, can be found on the Centre for the Study of International Slavery website.

A valuable experience at the International Slavery Museum

By Rebecca Nelson, Wilberforce Institute

Alongside being part of the Antislavery Usable Past project, my PhD experience also includes academic training with the Heritage Consortium. This comprises a group of Northern universities, committed to enhancing applicable heritage skills among students with related research interests. This has worked very well with my interest in museums and their engagement with and interpretation of antislavery across Britain. Part of the assessment for this training was a placement, which I wanted to do somewhere that had real relevance for my research – what better place than Liverpool’s International Slavery Museum (ISM)?

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