Re-blogged from my Material Pasts website.
As today is the 2020 International Day for the Remembrance of the Slave Trade & it’s Abolition, I’ll briefly mention relevant work that’s nearing completion.
Some years ago, I began researching the circumstances of an enslaved person in the Midlands during the early 1700s, & how this person’s story may tell us more about others in similar circumstances. While confined by lockdown, I began creating an interactive digital exhibition that outlines my discoveries relating to this person, developing the methods I used for a display (‘Material Culture, Memory, and Violence in the Home: Towards Healing Histories’) that I created as part of a project I co-direct, & presented at the 2015 Contemporary and Historical Archaeology in Theory (CHAT) conference, at the Humanities Research Institute, University of Sheffield (a PDF of the accompanying poster display is available here; when I can find time, I’ll convert & upload the interactive exhibition, if possible).
This new exhibition is as comprehensive as practically possible for the time being, comprising four parts. The first provides a background to the development of the transatlantic slave trade & the enslavement of abducted West African people in the late 1600s & early 1700s, indicating how this differs to other forms of slavery & bondage. The second lays out the evidence I’ve uncovered – much through the genealogies of local notable families, & what it says about the experiences & environments of this person in England, placing these in wider contexts. The third, using this evidence, explores the likely movements & conditions of this person before reaching England, the fourth & final part considering how & what more we might learn from archaeology from this person’s remains. This evidence is used to demonstrate how racial stereotypes developed & formalised at this time continue to affect society today.
Content includes numerous narratives, & testimonies from people enslaved during this time, & contemporaneous ‘slave-traders’; many period maps & other public domain illustrations, & artistic compilations. There are around 125 slides (perhaps 100 of which incorporate two paragraphs of text, with pop-up notes & biographical material), with academic references provided, where required, throughout. Consequently, it’s quite a substantial piece of work – written content perhaps equating to a slim book, but with much more visual content than printed materials, & text usually presented as blocks of a few sentences. It’s designed so that participants might ‘dip’ in & out of topics of particular interest, or move through the exhibition linearly (potentially linking on-site & on-line material).
Though representing work-in-progress, it’s close to completion (as far as can be anticipated for the foreseeable future). I have a few loose-ends to tie up, which given travel difficulties, archive inaccessibility, & cost constraints, are currently beyond my reach. The want of these finishing touches does not detract significantly from the end product, however; but I do need to complete a few illustrations, notes & references before release, which may now have to wait until spring next year, as I must now get started on the HOD event I have planned for September; FOA October event; & a Christmas event.
This exhibition might be a suitable product for the International Day of Remembrance of the Victims of Slavery and the Transatlantic Slave Trade in March, by which time (as I’m sure we all hope) Coronavirus might not pose such a significant risk. If then safe to do so, it could be presented as an interactive display (e.g. using PowerPoint on a touch-screen devise); if not, it could be adapted for a website (I’ve already obtained an appropriate free WordPress URL for testing purposes, although interactivity would benefit from pop-up facilities, which are only available through paid accounts).
Due to the social importance of the topic, my principal goal is to make this exhibition as accessible to as large an audience as possible. I anticipate that presentation through a well-known & often-visited heritage site or organisation would most likely achieve this goal – so if any potential host is interested, please contact me & I’ll provide a sample. It’d be most appropriate if it were installed locally (in South Derbyshire), but I’d also welcome interest from other appropriate venues. Otherwise I’ll pursue my initial ideas for presentation.
I’m happy to waive the fee for this work in return for a donation by the host (if not a charity dedicated to ending racial inequality) to the Runnymede Trust, Majonzi fund: Covid-19 bereavement fund, & / or another appropriate cause (such as an educational organisation supporting young people of African origin or descent – if possible, based locally).