An exhibition at the Royal Naval Museum at Portsmouth Historic Dockyard explored the role of the Royal Navy squadron established after 1807 to patrol the West African coast and suppress the transatlantic slave trade. Using illustrations, contemporary accounts and original diaries of Royal Navy personnel, the exhibition examined key aspects of the campaign against Atlantic slave traders. It also looked at the Royal Navy's efforts against human trafficking and in the pursuance of humanitarian rights today. There was an accompanying programme of schools workshops and community events. Two specially produced films discussed the legacy of the squadron's work and recreated the abolition debates of the time.
The National Museum of the Royal Navy is located in Portsmouth’s Historic Dockyard. Its aim is, ‘to make accessible to all the story of the Royal Navy and its people from earliest times to the present.’ The museum, housed in a former naval storehouse, receives almost one million visitors per year.
Through five galleries, the museum charts the development of the Royal Navy and the experiences of the people who served in it. In the ‘Sailing Navy’ gallery, visitors can find out about the initial professionalisation of the navy during the eighteenth century. There are exhibits which discuss rations, health, hand-to-hand combat and available honours.
In this gallery, there is also a section of the display which discusses the other roles played by the Royal Navy, in addition to participation in conflict. The most striking exhibit in this section is a diorama model which depicts the use of the Royal Navy in the suppression of the slave trade, after the abolition of 1807. A little-known story in the British antislavery narrative, the model is accompanied by interpretive text which provides some context about the transatlantic slave trade and the campaign to abolish it. In addition, it also goes some way to outlining the prolonged involvement of Britain in eliminating other European slave trading in the years following 1807. While there are no artefacts used in narrating this story, the diorama itself provides a visualisation of the practice of suppression.
This photographic exhibition focused on human trafficking was produced by a partnership of Panos Pictures, Anti-Slavery International, Amnesty International, Eaves and UNICEF. Photographer Karen Robinson’s portraits and tales of women trafficked into prostitution explore the devastating impact on their lives. Also on display were David Rose's panoramic photographs of the ordinary British streets where the stories of modern-day slavery have been played out. The photographs were mounted on a cage-like structure which was specially designed for the exhibition at St Paul's Cathedral. The exhibition was also shown in Edinburgh, Hull and Warsaw, and in 2008, in York.