The Price of Sweetness
The image of the enslaved African kneeling in chains, designed by Josiah Wedgewood, was adopted as the seal of the Society for the Abolition of Slavery in England in the 1780s. It appeared on medallions and sugar bowls that were manufactured by the thousands and distributed to supporters of the movement.
Although it was created to show the evils of the slave trade, the way that the figure was seen to be pleading or begging actually helped to create ideas of Africans as passive victims. Members of the local community have recently been invited to reinterpret this design and the results are displayed transferred onto sugar bowls and displayed in the gallery.
Crossing the Seas
In 1925 the Harrison Line, a British shipping company, began employing young men from the Caribbean on its ships. Between 1950 and 1975 more than 6000 Barbadians alone registered to work with Harrisons. Their ships sailed between Britain and the Caribbean and around the world, continuing historic trading routes.
In 2004, as part of its Health through History**programme, THACMHO (Tower Hamlets African Caribbean Mental Health Organisation) organised a reminiscence conference at Museum in Docklands, bringing together retired African Caribbean seamen and English dockers to share memories of sailing and of the West India Docks.
A conference report stressed the need to collect and disseminate the stories of these seamen and resulted in an education pack, ‘Sailors of the Caribbean’. THACMHO and Museum in Docklands are now collaborating on a new phase of the project.
Former seamen and their families will be interviewed about their experiences and their stories featured in a touch screen interactive in the gallery called ‘Crossing the Seas Again’. The material will be available not just in the gallery but in many creative formats such as on a DVD/CD-ROM for use with school groups. It will also be available in the Museum’s study centre for use by the public.
What does 2007 mean to you?
2007 is the Bicentenary of the Abolition of the Slave Trade Act. This has given us all an opportunity to reflect on the horrors of the trade and the legacy that is still part of all our lives today. Groups of 20 participants will take part in a project called ‘What does 2007 mean to you’ every year for at least the next three years.
This years participants were asked to interview members of the public, academics, friends and family and to ask them why they feel that this date and the commemorations are important. The participants were given training in journalism and photography and extracts from the interviews are displayed through out the gallery next to photographs of the interviewees.
Theses displays will be updated every year at the end of each project.
Small groups of unemployed or retired local people will be trained by the museum’s Community Officer and the Diversity Officer to become gallery ambassadors.
Each of the groups will be given training in customer care, disability awareness and diversity issues and will also be introduced to the Museum’s curatorial practice and collecting policy. They will be encouraged to initiate links with the community which will support the Museum’s policy to collect objects which reflect London’s cultural diversity. They will also have the opportunity to shadow members of the curatorial team and other museum staff and will be asked to undertake research for the gallery.
They will at the end of the 6 month period produce an output – this will be decided by the group but could be a video, a performance, a tour of the gallery or even a temporary exhibition.
All participants will also be given special admission passes for the museum for their own use. Each ambassador will create a portfolio of experiences and training which, it is anticipated, will qualify them for Millennium Volunteer accreditation.
If you would like more information about any of these projects please contact the Community Access Officer on 020 7814 5775.