The Whitworth Art Gallery was one of eight heritage bodies in the ‘Revealing Histories: Remembering Slavery’ partnership in Greater Manchester. The project set out to explore the history, impact and legacy of slavery on Britain through collections and community links in the North West.
'Trade and Empire: Remembering Slavery' explored the themes of trade and empire, commerce and collecting, and the impact of the experience of slavery and its legacy. Four invited artists and academics (SuAndi, Kevin Dalton-Johnson, Dr Emma Poulter and Dr Alan Rice) worked with Whitworth curators and learning staff to create the exhibition. It comprised of selections from the Whitworth's collections, contemporary works by Black artists, and objects on loan from Manchester Museum, John Rylands University Library Manchester, Bolton Museums and Archives Service and private collections. Areas of focus included a history of the Benin Bronzes, representations of Black people in British art, photographs of West Africa belonging to Tom Singleton Gardner, and printed textiles designed by Althea McNish. The exhibition was accompanied by a series of community engagement events.
Penrhyn Castle on the outskirts of Bangor in Wales is owned by the National Trust. In 2007, the bicentenary was marked with a special exhibition and accompanying events exploring the connections between the Castle and the fortune of its former owners, the Pennant family, built on Jamaican sugar from one of the largest estates on the island. The exhibition featured the story of Richard Pennant, 1st Lord Penrhyn, a wealthy merchant and MP for Liverpool who fought against abolition in Parliament. Some of the research was carried out by members of the local community, who were trained in archival research by exploring the Penrhyn Jamaica papers held at Bangor University, which included Richard Pennant's letters as absentee landowner.
The project created links between a local school near the Castle, Banks Road school in Liverpool and Mavisville school in Kingston, Jamaica. All three schools provided art, prose and poetry to the exhibition. Workshops were held for all visiting schools. Accompanying events included art days where a local artist worked with visitors to explore the meaning of landscape painting in the context of slavery; a Caribbean weekend; and a day of activities and workshops with a multi-faith groups of teenagers from Liverpool. A DVD of all the information gathered was given free to schools and libraries.
The Hidden Connections exhibition was a result of partnership between the Public Record Office of Northern Ireland (PRONI) and the Linen Hall Library in Belfast. The exhibition explored Ulster's links with slavery after 1807 via people, events and places, and looked at both the pro and anti-slavery debates in Northern Ireland. It drew on documents from PRONI’s archives, artefacts from the Ulster Museum and contemporary books and pamphlets from the Linen Hall Library and elsewhere. After its launch at Linen Hall Library, the exhibition toured Northern Ireland, travelling to Down Museum, the Harbour Museum in Derry, Lisburn City Library and the Ulster American Folk Park.
The wider Hidden Connections programme featured workshops exploring archival sources, performances and lectures by leading scholars. There was a panel discussion on ‘Slavery Now’, a walking tour of Belfast sites associated with the slavery issue, and a boat trip on the Lagan focusing on the port’s links with slave colonies. Gerry McLaughlin’s ‘Blood sugar’ is a drama documentary devoted to the literature of slavery, music and song. 'Freedom and Liberty' was the theme of the UK-wide Archives Awareness Event. PRONI organised special events and produced a catalogue, 'Ulster and Slavery', listing the references to slavery to be found in the archive.
‘Am I Not a Man and a Brother?’, an online exhibition to mark the bicentenary, was launched by the Bodleian Library of African and Commonwealth Studies at Rhodes House. Some of the items were also on view in an exhibition at Rhodes House in April and May 2007. The exhibition included manuscripts and books from the Library, among them the manuscript journal of Rev. James Ramsay, who wrote and worked against slavery after seeing for himself the conditions on board a slave ship while a Royal Navy surgeon. Also exhibited were related artefacts from the collection of Franklin Smith, including a tobacco jar and a clay pipe bowl, both in the shape of the head of a slave (indicating that their owners may have been slave owners), and the late 18th-century engraving of a slave market in the West Indies, published by an anti-slave trade body.
An exhibition by the City of Westminster Archives Centre focused on the impact of the transatlantic slave trade and its abolition in Westminster, which drew on the Centre's archives and local studies collections. Links explored included the parish of St Anne's Westminster with St John's Antigua, and the large circle of planters living in Marylebone in the 18th and 19th centuries. The exhibition also documented the lives of the African residents of Westminster during the age of the slave trade. Some of the individuals looked at in the exhibition included James Somerset, Granville Sharp, Ignatius Sancho, Ottobah Cugoano, Olaudah Equiano, and the African activists who styled themselves 'Sons of Africa'.
Scratch the Surface at the National Gallery brought together two portraits, Johann Zoffany's 'Mrs Oswald' (1763-4) and Sir Joshua Reynolds's 'Colonel Tarleton' (1782), to explore the complex relationship between these sitters and slavery. Colonel Tarleton, as MP for Liverpool in the 1790s, argued in Parliament against the abolition of the transatlantic slave trade. Mrs Oswald, along with her husband Richard Oswald, owed part of their wealth to a number of plantations in the Americas. The artist Yinka Shonibare was invited to create a new installation in response to these two portraits, which was also on display. A varied programme of events and activities accompanied the exhibition, including tours, talks, workshops and films.
The Potteries Museum and Art Gallery in Stoke-on-Trent held the Seeing Slavery exhibition from October to December 2007, with an associated programme of events and activities. Objects from the museum's collection relating to slavery and abolition were on display, including an 18th century punch bowl, inscribed with 'Success to the Africa Trade'. The museum commissioned new work by the artist Pogus Caesar: the piece '80 lbs of chains' included a soundscape depicting the sounds of a slave ship. The museum held digital workshops in which visitors were able to create their own soundtrack to the exhibits.
M Shed opened in 2011 and is housed in a warehouse on Bristol’s dockside, a clear and tangible link to the history it interprets. The free-to-enter museum focuses on social history, exploring the development of Bristol as a city through people, places and daily life. It is a popular site, attaining over half a million visitors per year since 2013.
Through this local viewpoint, the museum explores Bristol’s involvement with the transatlantic slave trade and the abolition movement in its ‘Bristol People’ gallery which aims to ‘explore the activities past and present that make Bristol what it is.’ Voices from all factions of the slavery debate feature in the display, with proslavery, the enslaved, particularly those who fought for emancipation, and abolitionists all interpreted within dedicated cases. Each case contains a mix of objects, archive materials and text panels to tell the story. Quotations from key figures also bring to life the voices of those who were personally involved: for example, John Pinney, a plantation owner and sugar agent; Hannah More, a writer and Abolition campaigner; John Kimber, a slave ship captain accused (and acquitted) of murder; Silas Told, an ordinary sailor on slaving voyages. These Bristolian voices give different perspectives on how those involved in the trade saw it at the time. Quotations printed around the gallery also provide the views of today’s visitors to the trade. The exhibition also has sections about the legacies of the slave trade within Bristol, particularly in relation to the representation of African or Afro-Caribbean communities in popular culture, the presence of racism in the city, and the legacies of prominent slave owners in some of Bristol's public institutions.
The theme of antislavery also features as the starting point for a display on public protest movements. One case focusses on Thomas Clarkson’s visit to Bristol to collect information against the trade, another on the campaign to abstain from slave-produced sugar in the 18th century and the Bristol bus boycott against racist employment practices in the 20th century. This display then goes on to look at other popular campaigns and protest movements including women’s suffrage, riots, strikes and the Occupy movement. This perspective, situating the abolition campaign as the beginning of a British tradition of society campaigning, is a unique one across UK museums.
In the Bristol Life gallery, the stories of two Black Bristolians look at the new life for the runaway enslaved man, Henry Parker, and the Windrush generation Princess Campbell.