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26-Nov-2017 21:17

However, the City Museum & Art Gallery in Birmingham valiantly took up the challenge with its 'Gallery 33', which was an attempt to re-define its ethnographic collections in the context of a multi-cultural society [2].A crucial element of the preparations was dialogue with local ethnic communities about the proposal.New displays on the slave trade and its abolition were installed in 1986 but were limited in terms of both the interpretative approach and the execution.Despite the shortcomings it is perhaps still surprising that the impact has been so limited.The gallery was based on inadequate research and it rightly drew criticism [7]. Understandably, these questions were most directly asked by people in our own Black community in Liverpool.It was not long after this in 1990, when we were considering what to do to improve the gallery and address the criticism, that the Peter Moores Foundation approached us with the suggestion of creating a display about the slave trade [8]. There were other pressures such as the Foundation’s requirement to be factual and accurate!Our own early contributions were meagre, some shackles and little more than a label were included in the Port of Liverpool gallery in the Liverpool Museum (now World Museum), opened in 1975.

For many, feeling uncomfortable meant that they did nothing and the collections either languished in out of date displays or were kept out of sight in store rooms.

At about the same time, the Museum of London also realised that its displays spoke almost exclusively to the white population.

It began a wide ranging project, the Peopling of London, which resulted in a major exhibition at the museum in 1993-4.

In particular Keith Piper’s video installation 'Trade Winds' explored the relationship between the slave trade and the development of contemporary global capitalism [6].

That is the cue for my own museum and the role that we at National Museums and Galleries on Merseyside (NMGM, now National Museums Liverpool) have played in this process.

For many, feeling uncomfortable meant that they did nothing and the collections either languished in out of date displays or were kept out of sight in store rooms.At about the same time, the Museum of London also realised that its displays spoke almost exclusively to the white population.It began a wide ranging project, the Peopling of London, which resulted in a major exhibition at the museum in 1993-4.In particular Keith Piper’s video installation 'Trade Winds' explored the relationship between the slave trade and the development of contemporary global capitalism [6].That is the cue for my own museum and the role that we at National Museums and Galleries on Merseyside (NMGM, now National Museums Liverpool) have played in this process.The initiative came from the Foundation’s founder and patron, Peter Moores, whose own interest in the subject had been generated by what he saw as a need to come to terms with the past by facing up to it. And there was the admonition from one of the other key players, that white people should not leave feeling guilty and that Black people should not leave feeling angry. We appointed a professional museum team, including an international group of academics to act as guest curators, and established an advisory committee drawn from people representative of interests on a local, national and international basis.