Interpreting Transatlantic Slavery: the role of museums
Anthony Tibbles, September 1999
In the last 40 years the growth in the academic study of the transatlantic slave trade and transatlantic slavery has been phenomenal. By contrast, museums in the three continents affected by the Diaspora have been slower to respond. In the last decade there have been some notable developments in terms of both temporary exhibitions and permanent displays. This reflects both a recognition that uncomfortable and controversial issues can and should be explored by museums and also that there is significant public interest in the subject matter. This article traces some of the more important developments in the response of museums in addressing transatlantic slavery and the slave trade, particularly in Britain, Europe and the United States and contrasts the experience. The development of the Transatlantic Slavery gallery at the Merseyside Maritime Museum in Liverpool will provide a point of reference. The article also looks at the problems of interpretation of material culture related to transatlantic slavery and offers some thoughts for the future.
The first British museums to address Black history
It is perhaps not surprising that the main developments have been in museums in Europe and the United States, and for a variety of reasons, principally related to the economic situation, museums in Africa, South America and the Caribbean have been unable to mirror this . In Britain, the beginnings of museum interest and activity in this subject can be seen in the development of multi-culturalism in the 1980s. Many museums have large ethnographic collections, mainly acquired in the last century as a result of colonial activity, and for many years quite an embarrassment to museums. They were unsure in a post-colonial era how they should deal with such material. For many, feeling uncomfortable meant that they did nothing and the collections either languished in out of date displays or were kept out of sight in store rooms. 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 . A crucial element of the preparations was dialogue with local ethnic communities about the proposal. Although very limited in scope, this represented a recognition that the local people had a role to play in how their own cultures were displayed and interpreted.
In terms of addressing issues directly related to the Black Atlantic, the earliest initiatives in Britain began by looking at the Black presence, initially through a number of temporary exhibitions examining the history of local Black communities. The first of these exhibitions, in 1991, 'Staying Power: the Black presence in Liverpool', was the result of collaboration between the then Museum of Labour History, part of National Museums & Galleries on Merseyside (NMGM, the former name of National Museums Liverpool), Liverpool Anti-Racist and Community Arts Association and Liverpool City Council . Another exhibition in 1993 explored the history of the Black community in Nottingham .
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. This looked at the migration of different peoples and communities over 2,000 years of the city’s history and within this included sections on the Black presence .
All these exhibitions had to address the question "How did the Black community get here?" and this immediately led to the subject of the transatlantic slave trade. It is clear that the transatlantic slavery and the slave trade were subjects almost universally ignored by museums, especially in those cities most closely involved with its prosecution. However, the only permanent display dealing with the slave trade at that time was in Hull - in the former home of William Wilberforce - which has been a museum to his memory since 1906. The collections of anti-slavery material which have been built up over the years are very significant. 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. There are now hopes of redeveloping the museum in conjunction with a major new initiative.
The issue of slavery was partially addressed by a series of temporary exhibitions looking at the legacies of Britain’s colonial past held in Bristol, Liverpool and Hull under the title 'Trophies of Empire' in 1992. In particular Keith Piper’s video installation 'Trade Winds' explored the relationship between the slave trade and the development of contemporary global capitalism .
Development of the former Transatlantic Slavery gallery at Merseyside Maritime Museum
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. 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. As late as 1987, we failed to provide an adequate presentation on the importance of the slave trade in the Merseyside Maritime Museum’s new gallery on the early history of the port. The gallery was based on inadequate research and it rightly drew criticism .
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 . 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.
When in December 1991 we launched our partnership to create the gallery, there was concern and suspicion not only of the Foundation but also of NMGM. Why were we doing it? What were we getting out of it? Who was doing it? What role did people outside the museum have? Understandably, these questions were most directly asked by people in our own Black community in Liverpool. There were other pressures such as the Foundation’s requirement to be factual and accurate! 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. This was a tall order. 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. We also engaged in consultation with Black groups and individuals both locally and more widely .
We have created a gallery which tries to look at the whole history of the transatlantic slave trade, not comprehensively, but in terms of the involvement and the impact, maintaining a local input but not neglecting the international perspective . We do try to reflect the experience of transatlantic slavery over a 400 year period, over 3 continents and to tell a human story rather than technical one. After much discussion the gallery opened under the title 'Transatlantic Slavery: Against Human Dignity' (please note that this gallery closed in 2007 and has been replaced with the International Slavery Museum).
Content of the former Transatlantic Slavery Gallery
The gallery displays begin with an introduction area explaining the operation of the trade and setting it in context as primarily a human story, about people not statistics. This is followed by a brief section on why Africans were needed as labour in the Americas. The first major section looks at West and Central West Africa before and during slavery, indicating the range of its societies and culture through objects, illustrations, contemporary witness and music. European involvement in Africa and the demands of trading are covered with the centrepiece being a diorama of the trading process in action and a display of typical trade goods. European countries, their merchants, ships and organisations are indicated before the visitor passes into a reconstruction of part of the hold of a slave ship. This is deliberately empty, except for simulated movement of figures on the decks and shelves and the alternating voices of Equiano reading from his Narrative and John Newton reading from the log of one his voyages. It is intended to recreate the physical space and to encourage visitors to use their own imaginations.
A more traditional display on conditions on board ship adjoins the reconstruction and then visitors find out where Africans were taken and how they were sold, culminating in a diorama of a slave auction in Brazil. A video based on contemporary accounts of slave life in the Americas follows with supporting objects, illustrations and even some living sugar cane. The profits of slavery for the Europeans are explored through objects, illustrations and a computer interactive program. The last sections look at the struggle for abolition and emancipation and the role of different factors - African resistance, economic factors and the humanitarian campaigns - in bringing the trade and transatlantic slavery to an end. The final display in the gallery is a commissioned video exploring the lives of Black people in Britain today and allowing them to voice their views on slavery and its legacy.
Events and activities for the opening of the gallery
One key comment made during the development of the gallery was that NMGM should not see the gallery as a one-off; Black people were looking for a long-term commitment. We began by trying to responding immediately to opportunities by including appropriate elements in our programme - one such was the 'Trade Winds' installation by Keith Piper in the 'Trophies of Empire' exhibitions mentioned above. The appointment of an outreach worker was made in 1993 and he initially organised workshops and activities in the six months leading up to the opening.
For the official opening of the gallery in 1994, we persuaded Maya Angelou to come to Liverpool. We held an inter-denominational service at the Cathedral, organised a street procession and performance based on the infamous Zong incident and incorporated an African libation in the opening ceremony. We had a series of supporting exhibitions and displays and lectures, together with other activities, and developed associated educational resources and programmes.
Response to the gallery
The gallery touched a nerve. The public response was tremendous, drawing double the number of visitors for its first few weeks and sustaining that interest at about 30% above normally for the following six months. It has continued to be a significant draw and it is still the most visited gallery in the museum, with almost a third of all visitors making it their first choice on entering the museum. We also know from evaluation that people learn and are stimulated by the gallery and its subject matter to a much higher level than is the case with museum visiting in general. Perhaps not surprisingly, the press interest in the project was greater than anything we have done before or since.
Developments since the opening
In the five years since the gallery opened, we have continued to maintain a range of public and educational activities associated with the gallery and have contributed to Black History month every year. It has led the museum into new areas. We undertook a Tourism Development project, partly funded by the European Regional Development Fund which has produced a slavery trail round Liverpool, trained a group of guides to take visitors on the tour, initiated a theatrical production for schools, a small travelling exhibition and a handling collection.
We have held an exhibition on Haiti, its history and art, developed a project to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the arrival of Caribbean migrants on 'SS Empire Windrush', based around a specially created Caribbean Garden, and in the spring of 2000 we are hosting an exhibition on Reggae!
The gallery has also had influence elsewhere and the success of the public response has encouraged others to approach the subject. A temporary exhibition, 'A Respectable Trade? Bristol and Transatlantic Slavery', was held at the City Museum and Art Gallery in Bristol in the spring and summer of 1999, to which we were able to offer advice and assistance. (A significant number of comment made in the early days of the Liverpool gallery was - why hasn’t Bristol done something?) The National Maritime Museum in London has now addressed the subject of slavery and Black seafarers in its new and challenging 'Trade and Empire' gallery, opened in May 1999. The proposal to develop the exhibition on the Black presence in Scotland 'Roots - Africans in Scotland' in 1997 was helped by the positive visitor response to the gallery in Liverpool. Most recently the Heritage Lottery Fund has given a grant of more than £300,000 to the Black Cultural Archives and Middlesex University to establish a National Museum and Archive of Black History and Culture.
In continental Europe the situation was rather similar. A number of museums, for instance the National Maritime Museums in Denmark and The Netherlands, have individual items or groups of items relating to the slave trade on display, but there is no comprehensive treatment of the subject or a recognition of the importance of the trade to the host countries’ economic growth and development. Again there have been a number of temporary exhibitions such as the pioneering 'White on Black' which was held at the Tropical Museum in Amsterdam in 1989-90. This looked at the way images of Africans and Blacks were portrayed in Western popular culture and included images of slavery .
A major temporary exhibition on the slave trade itself was shown at the chateau des Ducs de Bretagne in Nantes from December 1992 to February 1994 . Under the title 'Les Anneaux de la Mémoire', the exhibition began with an examination of the trade, then looked more closely at certain details in Nantes-Europe, Africa and the Americas, before examining abolition and the heritage of the slave trade. There was also a special display of documents related to the trade and a collection of tropical plants. The city also has two organisations dedicated to the remembrance of the slave trade and its legacies.
Mostly recently, there has been an exhibition based on nautical archaeological work on the slave ship 'Fredensborg', prepared by the Norwegian National Maritime Museum in Oslo and shown there and in Denmark and Sweden in 1997 and 1998. The National Maritime Museum in Amsterdam is also actively considering an exhibition on the Dutch involvement in the slave trade and the activities of the West Indies Company which held the monopoly. There is little evidence of the importance of the slave trade in any of the museums in the Iberian peninsula though the establishment of the Fundacion de Cultura Afrohispanoamericana in Spain in 1998 may potentially act as a stimulus.
Museums in the United States
Given the impact of the African Diaspora on the United States it is initially surprising there is no permanent exhibit on the slave trade per se in North America. Many museums now have displays which touch on slavery within local or regional historical treatments as have a number of natural history museums, which have traditionally cared for ethnographical objects. One major example is the slavery display in the American Museum of Natural History which explores the concept of slavery. However, a comprehensive exploration and interpretation of the trade has not been attempted . The nearest development has been at the Museum of African American History which opened in Detroit in 1997 . Here the relationship between Africa and America is examined and one of three orientation areas focuses on the Middle Passage. Visitors walk over a bridge in a 70 foot replica of a slave ship and look down on cast figures representing slaves. This has proved to be controversial because the casts were taken from local schoolchildren whom critics argue are too healthy and well nourished to represent the enslaved. However, it a worth attempt to at least engage the visitor emotionally with the centrality of the African Diaspora.
There have also been a number of temporary exhibitions in recent years which have addressed some of the aspects of the slave trade and related issues. The most pertinent is the travelling exhibit 'A Slave Ship Speaks' based on the examination of the wreck of the slave ship 'Henrietta Marie' and the artefacts that have been recovered. Although this seventeenth century vessel is not characteristic of all ships employed in the slave trade, it does offer the most complete record of life on board a slaver to date . The Field Museum in Chicago has also held an exhibition which included a partial reconstruction of a slave ship.
On the wider subject of slavery in the States, there have a number of examples. Amongst the most comprehensive was 'A House Divided: America in the Age of Lincoln' organised by the Chicago Historical Society in 1990. This placed the issue of slavery at the heart of the display and used the extensive collections of the Society, which are particularly rich in illustrative material and archival holdings . In 1991 Richmond’s Museum of the Confederacy addressed related issues in its exhibit 'Before Freedom Came: African-American Life in the Antebellum South'. This later toured and a smaller version is incorporated in its permanent displays.
Perhaps the most ambitious programmes in the United States, or indeed anywhere, are those run by Colonial Williamsburg in Virginia . Within the historic area costumed Black interpreters are now an established part of the life of the town. Programs such as The Other Half tour, give visitors an introduction to the lives of Black Americans in 18th century Williamsburg in the space of about an hour. Some of these activities have not been without controversy. A reconstruction of a slave auction only went ahead after bitter opposition from some local Black community leaders and has not been repeated. Recently, white visitors have intervened on behalf of Blacks being abused . At Carter’s Grove, the plantation estate some 7 miles south on the James River, visitors tour the slave quarter on the estate before going up to the Big House . Not only does this emphasise the dependency of the estate and its owners on the labours of the enslaved but the interpreters raise some unpalatable facts about the nature of slavery and cause visitors to confront issues of which many are unaware or ignorant. A major development in the spring of 1999, has been the introduction of 'Enslaving Virginia', one of six programs constituting the overriding 'Becoming Americans' theme. This scrupulously researched project builds on the previous work done and explores the nature of slavery and the operation of a slave economy within the Chesapeake through a wide range of interpretation and activities. However, it is noticeable that it only incidentally deals with how Africans came to be in America in the first place.
I am currently working with the Mariners’ Museum one of the most prestigious maritime museums in the States where they are developing a major exhibition on transatlantic slavery based on our own gallery. They are going to use our sub-title 'Against Human Dignity' as their main title but expand the coverage of slavery in America and its legacy there. It will open in January 2001 and tour, certainly to New York and perhaps to some of the southern states and even Chicago.
UNESCO 'Slave Route' project
One other major international initiative is the 'Slave Route' project established by UNESCO in 1993. This is attempting to stimulate interest in recognising the importance of the slave trade and its impact across the continents by a series of cultural and educational programs, including conferences, exhibitions, festivals and specific work with schools and educational groups. The emphasis is on using funding and expertise in Europe to develop and stimulate activities in Africa and the Caribbean. One of the first developments has been the opening of a permanent display based on the 'Fredensborg', the Norwegian exhibition mentioned earlier, in the National Museum in Ghana. Another initiative, of particular interest in this present context, is the feasibility studies which are being carried out in a number of African and Caribbean countries of potential museum projects.
Difficulties faced by museums when addressing the subject of slavery
There is undoubtedly a significant public interest in the history of the slave trade and slavery and a growing recognition by authorities across the continents that this needs to be acknowledged. However, despite all this activity, it remains the case that the gallery in Liverpool is the only permanent installation that attempts a comprehensive review of the history of transatlantic slavery across the three continents.
But there are difficulties in addressing and interpreting this subject for museums. Some of these are structural ones - who does it? who pays for it? where do you do it? what approach does one adopt? whose history is it? who organises and controls the process - some are emotional ones, and you could ask the same questions. It is a subject riven with potential for controversy and heart-ache. There are people who say one shouldn’t attempt to tackle this in a museum - certainly there were people who told us we were mad to try! It is not easy but it is quite clear that museums cannot and should not shy away from difficult topics and projects.
In practical terms there are other difficulties which museum professionals face. Lack of collections is one. Many British and European museums have good African collections, but mostly of 19th and 20th century material. Generally, we have very little from the Caribbean, North or South America, particularly when related to slavery or Black cultures. Most British and European museums also have little relating to their own Black communities. This is partly our own fault in that very few museums have attempted to collect material from ethnic minorities but it may also be related to a natural suspicion of museums (which after all are generally perceived - and not inaccurately - as part of a white, middle class establishment) . I also think that objects may be more greatly valued within families and that a tradition of donating to museums does not exist.
There are interpretative problems. For instance, many African artefacts have traditionally been seen from a European perspective, the information recorded is often poor, inaccurate, partial, in more than one respect. Very often the item is seen in terms of some notion of artistic value when in fact the social, cultural or religious aspect may be crucial. Those who saw the exhibition 'Africa: The Art of a Continent' at the Royal Academy in London in 1995 may know what I mean .
There are few equal images. For instance, there are plenty of portraits of Liverpool slave traders but there are precious few representations of Africans, of any standing. Three portraits dating from 1643 of the Ambassador from Congo to Spain and two of his attendants, dressed in European finery, are outstanding exceptions . And there are almost no images by Africans themselves. The famous bronze plaques looted by the British Punitive Expedition of 1897 from the palace in Benin City are rare and treasured examples. These mostly show ceremonial life at the court of the Oba and quite a number are inspired by warfare. But what ever the messages they convey, they are African ones. And a few of the plaques are also fascinating for including Portuguese soldiers, a rare example of Africans depicting Europeans .
The need to think carefully about the messages presented to visitors
Contemporary European images of Africa and the operation of the slavery and the slave trade can be equally problematic. They need to be seen in the context within which they were created and treated with care. These illustrations often show brutality - and no-one could doubt that slavery was brutal - but it is easy to slip into voyeurism, and the illustrations that accompany Stedman’s 'Narrative of the Surinam Revolt'  may cause some unease. How valuable as an illustrative source is the famous Morland print 'The Slave Trade' which depicts an African man being forcibly separated from his wife on the beach? We need to remember that it was produced for the abolition campaign. It works on an emotional level but not as an accurate or typical record of the operation of the slave trade. And are all the figurines and prints showing Britannia 'freeing' the slaves anything more than twee souvenirs? How far do they cloud the issues of abolition and emancipation, emphasising the humanitarian campaigns at the expense of the role of African resistance and the economic pressures? And am I the only one who finds the famous illustration of the death of Captain Ferrer of the 'Amistad' uncomfortably stylised and cartoon-like?
So I would suggest we have to be careful how we use the so-called material evidence and to think carefully about the messages that we give. They may not always be what they seem. And that applies also to the words that we use. More than one museum has got itself into trouble over its labels and text . In the context of slavery, it is easy to fall into the trap of using the word 'slave', with all its dehumanising messages, to describe all Africans when there may be more accurate ways of doing so. Phrases such as 'Where did the slaves come from?' or 'How did the slaves live?' are examples and inaccurately characterise Africans without regard.
But despite the power of words, museums also have to consider the visual impact of what they present to the public. A reconstruction, an illustration, an object can convey very powerful messages and it is these visual images that visitors are likely to carry away with them and recall in the future.
Opportunities for the future
So what is the way forward? It is important for museums to be more representative of the societies they serve as a whole and to reflect the interests of minorities as well as the majority. Museums also have an educative role and can play an important role in bringing difficult subjects before the public at large. It can have its dangers, museums by their nature are clearly in the public domain and many people whether visitors, politicians, sponsors or single issue activists can have clear and distinct views of the subjects that museums address and the way that they do it. Within the area of slavery, I have come across projects which have struggled for both financial and political support and few initiatives in this field have been without some element of controversy.
However, I believe there are also opportunities for collaboration between academics and museum curators. One of the things that struck me when I first began working on the slavery project was the amount of scholarly work on the transatlantic slave trade and slavery - it’s a veritable industry - but unfortunately it rarely gets through to the public domain. Museums offer a conduit. And despite what has been said - in general, museums are trusted. There is some interesting research from an in-depth survey of American attitudes to the past . The respondents were asked how trustworthy a range of options were as a source of information about the past. (The past includes the recent past and I suspect was interpreted by a lot of people as their own past, within their own lifetimes).
- movies and television programmes about the past 5.0
- non-fiction books 6.4
- high school history teachers 6.6
- college history professors 7.3
- conversation with someone who was there 7.8
- personal accounts from grandparents or relatives 8.0
- museums 8.4
It would be easy for museum and curators to sound superior or self-satisfied; in fact it places a significant burden on them. It is perhaps also interesting to speculate why museums should score so well. I would suggest that it is because museums deal in real objects, the physical remains of the past. Objects are very often seen as 'true' evidence which has been not tampered with or interpreted in a way that other historical evidence can be or is often seen to be. That conclusion is simplistic - objects can be equally subject to interpretation and by changing the context in which an object is displayed, the way in which people perceive it can alter. However, I do think this research is indicative of the role that museums can play in society. And it shows that there are opportunities.
There is undoubtedly a learning curve and there are potential pitfalls. Scholars will have to accept that museums generalise and simplify. Museums need to find the best expert advice and research they can and be willing to reflect the different and sometimes conflicting views expressed.
In conclusion, I think the Transatlantic Slavery gallery in Liverpool shows that it is possible to tackle difficult topics and succeed. Museums do have the capacity to stimulate, to inform, educate and on occasions to move people. It is certainly worth the effort.
Anthony Tibbles, September 1999
'Transatlantic Slavery: Against Human Dignity' by Anthony Tibbles is available to purchase from the online bookshop.
- The whole question of the development and maintenance of museums in these countries is part of a wider economic infrastructure which many would see as part of the legacy of slavery and colonialism. For a discussion of the response within museums in Ghana and Benin to the issues of the slave trade see Theresa A Singleton 'The slave trade remembered on the former Gold and Slave Coasts’, Slavery and Abolition, 20, no.1, 1999, pp150-69. Elsewhere the slave house on Gorée island off Dakar, Senegal, was restored in 1990 and the introduction of displays is now being discussed. A small museum of slavery was opened at Albreda/Jufffure in The Gambia by the National Museum in June 1998. Several Caribbean museums have limited displays incorporating the issues of slavery but there are desires to establish a museum of slavery in Jamaica and museums in Barbados and Martinique would like to extend their coverage. The maritime museum in Bermuda is to introduce displays on the slave trade in 2001.
- J Peirson Jones 'The colonial legacy and the community: the Gallery 33 project' in I Karp, C M Kreamer and S D Lavine (editors) 'Museums and Communities. The Politics of Public Culture', Smithsonian Institution, Washington DC, 1992, pp221-41
- Marij van Helmond and Donna Palmer 'Staying Power: Black presence in Liverpool', Liverpool, 1991
- Anon, 'The Black Presence in Nottingham', Nottingham City Council, 1993
- Nick Merriman 'The Peopling of London project' in E Hooper-Greenhill 'Cultural Diversity: Developing Museum Audiences in Britain', Leicester, 1997, pp. 119-48.
- Bryan Biggs (editor) 'Trophies of Empire', Liverpool, 1992
- Lord Gifford, Wally Brown and Ruth Bundy 'Loosen the shackles: First report of the Liverpool 8 inquiry into race relations in Liverpool', Liverpool, 1989
- For a fuller discussion on the establishment of the gallery see Anthony Tibbles 'Against Human Dignity: The development of the Transatlantic Slavery Gallery at Merseyside Maritime Museum, Liverpool’ in Adrian Jarvis, Roger Knight and Michael Stammers (eds.) IXth International Congress of Maritime Museums, Proceedings, Liverpool, 1996
- Details of the guest curators and advisory committee are given in Anthony Tibbles 'Transatlantic Slavery: Against Human Dignity', HMSO London, 1994
- For an independent review of the gallery, see Patrick Hagopian 'Museum and exhibition reviews: Transatlantic Slavery: Against Human Dignity’, The Public Historian, volume 19, number 4, 1997, pp102-5
- It was subsequently shown in Brussels in 1991 and visited Britain, including Liverpool and Birmingham, in 1994-5. A book by the exhibition’s organiser was published, Jan Nederveen Pieterse 'White on Black: Images of Africans and Blacks in Western Popular Culture', Yale, 1992.
- See the catalogue 'Les Anneaux de la Mémoire', Nantes, 1992
- There is a forthcoming study of this issue in Edward A Chappell 'Museums and American Slavery' in Theresa Singleton and Mark Bogard (editors) 'Studies in African-American Archaeology', Charlottesville.
- Jane Lusaka 'Finding a voice', Museum News, volume 76, number 4, July/August 1999, pp32-5, 68
- See the book based on the exhibit and the wreck site Madeleine Burnside 'Spirits of the Passage', New York, 1997
- Eric Foner and Olivia Mahoney 'A House Divided: America in the Age of Lincoln', Chicago, 1990 was published in association with the exhibit
- For an in depth critique of the policy of Colonial Williamsburg, see Richard Handler and Eric Gable 'The New History in an Old Museum: Creating the Past at Colonial Williamsburg', Durham, 1997.
- 'The Times', London, 8 July, 1999
- For a history of the estate and the establishment of a slave community see Lorena S Walsh 'From Calabar to Carter’s Grove: The History of a Virginia Slave Community', Williamsburg, 1997
- Philly Desai and Andrew Thomas 'Cultural Diversity: Attitudes of Ethnic Populations Towards Museums and Galleries', London, 1998 (prepared for Museums & Galleries Commission by BMRB International Ltd)
- Tom Phillips (editor) 'Africa. The Art of a Continent', London, 1995
- Now on loan to the Danish National Museum from the Royal Museum of Art. They are attributed to Jasper Becx
- Benin plaques are now found in a number of major museum collections including the British Museum in London and the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York. For an excellent introduction to the subject and details of one of the largest collections see Kate Ezra 'Royal Art of Benin: The Perls Collection', Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, 1992
- J G Stedman 'Narrative of a five year expedition against the Revolted Negroes of Surinam, 1772-77', London, 1796
- The Royal Ontario Museum experienced demonstrations and protests over its exhibition 'Into the Heart of Africa' in 1990. See J Cannizzo 'Into the Heart of Africa', Royal Ontario Museum, Ottawa, 1990 and Helen Coxall 'Speaking Other Voices' in Eilean Hooper-Greenhill op. cit
- Roy Rosenzweig and David Thelen 'The Presence of the Past. Popular Uses of History in American Life', New York, 1998