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Transatlantic Slavery and Legacies in Museums Forum

A new national forum with a focus on Transatlantic Slavery and Legacies in Museums launched on 23rd August 2021, to coincide with Slavery Remembrance Day.

Led by National Museums Liverpool in partnership with Black Cultural Archives, Bristol Culture, Hull Museums, Glasgow Museums and Museum of London, the Transatlantic Slavery and Legacies in Museums Forum is the first national network of its kind to share current discourse and support a narrative thread to fully represent slavery and its legacies in the UK.

There has never been greater demand to understand the origins of the Transatlantic Slave Trade and discuss its legacies. In 2020, the resurgence of the Black Lives Matter movement due to the continued racially motivated violence against Black people across the world, and the immense response from the public and inside the cultural sector, demonstrated the vital need for information around the subject. Many museums have started or are in the process of planning reviews of their collections and interpretation to better understand and explore links to Transatlantic Slavery and its legacies and links to the histories of Empire.

The public is increasingly turning to museums for better understanding and clear action. There is further recognition in the museum sector that although a lot of work is being done across the UK to review and deepen understanding of collections, the buildings they are housed and the communities they engage with, there is no collective dialogue to talk about this or the plans for development.

The Transatlantic Slavery and Legacies in Museums Forum will act as a central point for making connections and shared learning through regular activities and amplify the work being done across the UK. A further priority focus will be the emotional and mental impact this work is having on both practitioners, stakeholders and the wider public.

Laura Pye, Director of National Museums Liverpool says: “We are delighted to launch this forum which will explore the positive work that is already underway throughout the UK to highlight the history and profound impact of the transatlantic slave trade. This forum will also provide a safe and much needed support network for museums who are focusing their efforts to better tell, engage and contextualise this horrific part of our history, which is often ignored. By addressing this complex topic collectively, we can further spark discussions and transparent dialogue and continue to improve awareness within the sector. I look forward to working with our founding partners and wider sector as together we move forward in addressing our past.”

Duncan Dornan, Head of Glasgow Museums, said: “We are pleased to support this forum exploring Transatlantic Slavery and Legacies in Museums. Consultation shows there is a keen appetite from the public for museums to address the heritage of the transatlantic slave trade and to discuss its legacies. Glasgow Museums is committed to ensuring that the history of transatlantic slavery, legacies of empire and exposure of racism are dealt with clearly and robustly. The network will enable us to connect, share and collaborate on current discourse, best practice, and responses in museums across the UK.”

Finbarr Whooley, Director of Content at the Museum of London, said: “The Transatlantic Slavery and Legacies in Museums Forum comes at a critical time. It will provide support and vital investment into physical spaces and digital resources, build on the work already being done and broaden understanding via a sustainable, national network of partners committed to shared goal. The Museum of London is proud to be a core partner and, as the home of the London Sugar & Slavery gallery, one of only three dedicated galleries focussed on the transatlantic slave trade in the UK, we have a particular responsibility and commitment. We encourage the wider sector to take part and look forward to helping drive real change.”

The Forum is open to all museums, galleries, archives, heritage organisations and their community partners.

Two free events will take place in Liverpool later this year. The official launch event will take place on 8 November to coincide with the annual conference of the Museums Association and the second event will be a one-day symposium on 10 December at the International Slavery Museum and online.

To find out more and register your interest to become a member: