Creating the museum

Jesse Jackson and crowds looking at an exhibit in the museum

Jesse Jackson, watched closely by the media, on a visit to the International Slavery Museum. Photograph © Simon Webb

This £9.5million ($17million) International Slavery Museum project has two main elements:

  • Phase one: new display galleries relating to the transatlantic slave trade, which opened in 2007.
  • Phase two: research and education facilities - read about these on our Future plans page.

Display galleries

Our display galleries, which can be found on the third floor of the Merseyside Maritime Museum building, concentrate on the history of transatlantic slavery, its many legacies, and the wider issue of freedom. They explore the story of transatlantic slavery from the complex and vital cultures of West Africa before the coming of the Europeans, through the horrific middle passage onboard ship, to life in the Americas. The galleries demonstrate the determined and relentless resistance to enslavement, and how enslaved people themselves contributed to gaining their eventual freedom.

Key messages that are communicated in the new displays are that transatlantic slavery:

  • created a permanent and enduring injustice
  • changed the history of Africa, Europe and the Americas
  • was brutal and dehumanising
  • was resisted by the enslaved at every opportunity
  • requires a shared understanding and a shared commitment to combat the consequences
  • created an African Diaspora which has had profound influence on Western culture

The galleries highlight contemporary concerns such as human rights, reparation claims, under-development in Africa and the Caribbean, and racial discrimination - examining key questions, such as what it means to be British and Black, and racial stereotyping. Displays explore how people of African descent have made major contributions to the cultural transformation in the Americas and in Europe.

A significant opening date

The International Slavery Museum opened on 23 August 2007 - international Slavery Remembrance Day. The date was also significant because 2007 was the 200th anniversary of the abolition of the slave trade in Britain, and the city of Liverpool's 800th birthday.

Read the transcript of National Museums Liverpool director David Fleming's speech at the dinner to celebrate the opening of the International Slavery Museum on 22 August 2007.

Funding for phase one of the museum

DCMS capital grant

On 24 January 2007 the Department for Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) announced a £500,000 capital grant for the museum. This funding built on the £250,000 annual revenue funding which the DCMS had already pledged. Former Culture Minister David Lammy said:

"It is right that we help National Museums Liverpool develop the new International Slavery Museum. It will provide a legacy to last way beyond this year's bicentenary. This year provides the perfect opportunity for the ISM to take its stories to a new generation of visitors to the museum in this fantastic city. And I hope people will be encouraged to remember those who suffered as a result of the slave trade, and to celebrate the efforts of all those who struggled for its abolition. I look forward to the opening on 23 August."

Heritage Lottery Fund grant

On 5 October 2005 the Heritage Lottery Fund announced funding of £1.65 million towards the first phase of the project. HLF's Regional Manager Tony Jones said,

"Not everyone is aware that the slave trade had an important role in shaping many aspects of our lives and cities today. This is of special importance in Liverpool and one which will be of interest to everyone living in, and visiting the city. This project will help to shed light on this very important part of history and allow a wide number of people to discover it and understand it for themselves."

North West Development Agency

As a result of a generous grant from the North West Development Agency, National Museums Liverpool was able to purchase the Grade 1 listed Dr Martin Luther King Jr Building (formerly the Dock Traffic Office building) which will become the new International Slavery Museum entrance and will accommodate the International Slavery Museum's exhibition and education centre.

Design team for phase one

The design team for the first phase of this project was:

Major funder

Supported by the National Lottery through the Heritage Lottery Fund

Supported by the National Lottery through the Heritage Lottery Fund

Tell us what you think

We want to know what you think about the International Slavery Museum and our expansion plans. Please email us using this contact form.