Our Slave History Goes out to World; SLAVERY MUSEUM READY TO OPEN Museum Staff Forge International Links and Freedom Icons Visit Liverpool, as Liza Williams Discovered on Her Preview Tour

Daily Post (Liverpool, England), August 21, 2007 | Go to article overview

Our Slave History Goes out to World; SLAVERY MUSEUM READY TO OPEN Museum Staff Forge International Links and Freedom Icons Visit Liverpool, as Liza Williams Discovered on Her Preview Tour


Byline: Liza Williams

LIVERPOOL'S new slavery museum will have a global presence, sending exhibits and curators to tell people in Africa and the Caribbean about lessons the city has learned from history.

The International Slavery Museum at Albert Dock will be opened in the presence of New York social activist and musician Harry Belafonte on Thursday, Slavery Remembrance Day, which marks an uprising of enslaved Africans on the island of St Domingo in 1791.

National Museums Liverpool staff yesterday said they had forged links with museums all over the world and exhibits from their permanent collection will be loaned to many countries affected by the slave trade.

During a preview tour yesterday, Richard Benjamin, head of the International Slavery Museum, said: "We already have connections in the USA and Europe and want to exhibit all over the world - it would be very exciting to do so.

"We are currently creating new partnerships with museums in Africa and the Caribbean.

"I want our curators to visit these places and help set up exhibitions there - the more people see it, the bigger the impact."

The museum includes many interactive exhibits designed to educate both children and adults about the city's involvement in the slave trade, and is one of the few in the world to deal with transatlantic slavery and its legacies.

Its opening on the third floor of Liverpool's Maritime Museum will also mark the bicentenary of the abolition of the slave trade.

Initially, the visitors to the museum will be shown an Africa unaffected by European invasion, using a life-size recreation of a Nigerian Igbo compound and the art and culture of the tribe.

This is contrasted with a brutal and harrowing audio visual representation of the middle passage - the journey of slave trading ships from the west coast of Africa across the Atlantic to America.

Details of many other aspects of the trade are shown using interactive pieces, from paintings to recreations of plantations and information on how slaves were treated on a daily basis.

Liverpool's role within the slave trade is also extensively covered, looking at how Britain perceived the trade and how instrumental it was within it.

The museum also holds a disturbing Ku Klux Klan robe, originating from New York in the 1920's.

Dr Benjamin said: "The most chilling thing about this robe is it is hand made.

"It was donated to us by an American man living in Britain. He had been given it by a relative and did not know what to do. He was even scared to throw it away It proves racism was not just confined to the southern states."

The tone of the museum then moves on to show the legacy of black African people in countries affected by the slave trade.

There is a wall dedicated to 76 black achievers, with inspirational figures ranging from Kofi Annan to Oprah Winfrey on display. Other figures will be added to the wall year by year.

And an interactive music desk charts the origins of today's sounds from the transatlantic slave trade.

Dr Benjamin hopes the museum will change people's pre conceived ideas about slavery. He said: "It is important to try and convey the brutality of the slave trade but also to represent the positive legacy ancestors have had in countries like the USA and Britain. …

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