Have your say on the future of International Slavery Museum and Maritime Museum

Two museums with powerful collections and stories of local, national and international significance are inviting local people and visitors to have a say in shaping their future. 

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National Museums Liverpool is sharing the plans for the redevelopment of both the International Slavery Museum and Maritime Museum, inviting everyone to not only explore the designs but also speak to architects and the project team and gain an understanding of the ambition for both museums.

Teams from National Museums Liverpool will be taking the plans out into various community spaces as well as holding a drop-in public planning consultation day at Museum of Liverpool on 4 April 2024 from 12 noon – 4.30pm. 

There will also be an opportunity to meet members of the team in an online event on 4 April, from 6-7pm: www.liverpoolmuseums.org.uk/consultation

Michelle Charters, Head of International Slavery Museum said:

We’re so grateful for the thoughtful, collaborative work of our community stakeholders who have been integral in getting the designs to this stage and we’re delighted to be now sharing them with the wider public. The proposals for International Slavery Museum represent a major new chapter for the museum, and the city in addressing its role within the transatlantic slave trade. We believe the new designs elevate the museum’s presence within its historic location on the Liverpool waterfront and will allow the collections and narratives of transatlantic slavery to resonate with an even wider audience - now it’s over to the people of Liverpool to tell us what they think.

Ian Murphy, Head of Maritime Museum said:

The Maritime Museum opened more than 40 years ago as part of the Albert Dock’s redevelopment in the 1980s. As the first of National Museums Liverpool’s three waterfront venues, we have welcomed millions of visitors and shared the extraordinary stories of Liverpool’s rich maritime heritage with people from around the world. We’re looking forward to sharing these impactful new designs, that signify an exciting future for the museum, with fresh energy and opportunities. We hope people will take time to look at the designs, ask questions, share their views, and ultimately become part of this journey.

The transformed International Slavery Museum and Maritime Museum will centre around people – past, present and future, local, national and international – to create dynamic, welcoming spaces that meaningfully address contemporary issues. 

Those whose lives have been most affected by the histories being told are playing a fundamental role in the development of both museums.

Historic England is the government’s adviser on the historic environment. Marie Smallwood, Historic England’s Head of Advice North, said:

It’s really important that the emerging plans for this site are sensitive to its setting within Liverpool’s historic docks and we’re being consulted by National Museums Liverpool as their approach develops. It is encouraging that the proposal is going out to public consultation to help shape the future of this part of Liverpool’s amazing maritime heritage.

International Slavery Museum: designs will reveal how the Dr Martin Luther King Jr Building (MLK) will become a prominent new entrance to the International Slavery Museum (ISM), creating an inspiring welcome and a stronger sense of identity for the museum. They will also illustrate plans for the internal look and feel of the building, which will become a space for learning and community. Designs for a striking glass bridge will show how new re-imagined ISM galleries in the Hartley Pavilion will connect to the MLK and offer spectacular views both into and out of the Royal Albert Dock.

Maritime Museum: designs will demonstrate how an improved visitor welcome and orientation space will enable visitors to appreciate the historic fabric and scale of the building on arrival. They will also reveal ideas for better circulation for visitors and enhanced commercial facilities, including a shop, café and events spaces.    

In January 2024, National Museums Liverpool announced the appointment of Feilden Clegg Bradley Studios (FCBStudios) as the new team leading the architectural design of the £58m major redevelopment of the International Slavery Museum and Maritime Museum. 

The world-renowned design firm are developing the proposals for the Dr Martin Luther King Jr building and the Hartley Pavilion, sites of both museums, working with key members of the University of Liverpool School of Architecture in facilitating community conversations to inform the designs.

Ralph Appelbaum Associates, who were appointed in 2022, lead on the exhibition design for both museums.

Both venues are expected to close in spring 2025 for works to begin, reopening in 2028.

This project is made possible with £9.9million from The National Lottery Heritage Fund, with thanks National Lottery Players.

In March 2024 it was also announced the project would receive £10million from The Government’s Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities.


Waterfront Transformation Project
Spanning the area between the Royal Albert Dock and Mann Island, the Waterfront Transformation Project involves key landmarks such as the International Slavery Museum (ISM) and Maritime Museum (MM), Canning Quaysides and Dry Docks, as well as multiple smaller buildings. 

Central to the transformation is the redevelopment of the Dr Martin Luther King Jr Building (MLK), expanding International Slavery Museum into the space, giving it its own front door. The National Lottery Heritage Fund Horizon Award awarded ISM £9.9m to help realise these ambitions which will also extend into the Maritime Museum. Additionally, Liverpool City Region Combined Authority gave £185,000 of pre-development funding as part of their work to tackle racial divides in the city and this has also helped take forward the first step of the Waterfront Transformation Project.  


National Museums Liverpool

National Museums Liverpool (NML) comprises seven venues, including some of the most visited museums in England outside of London. Our collections are among the most important and varied in Europe and contain everything from Impressionist paintings and rare beetles to a lifejacket from the Titanic. We attracted more than 2.5 million visitors in 2023.

Our venues are Museum of Liverpool, World Museum, Walker Art Gallery, Maritime Museum, International Slavery Museum, Sudley House and Lady Lever Art Gallery. National Museums Liverpool is regulated by the Department for Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS). 

International Slavery Museum

The International Slavery Museum, which opened in August 2007, is the only national museum in the world to cover the transatlantic slave trade and its legacies as well as contemporary forms of slavery. It is also an international hub for resources on human rights issues and campaigning. 

It is currently situated on the third floor of the Maritime Museum at the Royal Albert Dock. However, as part of the Waterfront Transformation Project, there are plans for a dramatic new front door at the Dr Martin Luther King Jr Building, which will lead to spaces to explore and investigate the transatlantic slave trade, its legacies, and other forms of slavery and human rights issues.

Maritime Museum

Maritime Museum was the first public building to open at Royal Albert Dock Liverpool more than 30 years ago in 1986, heralding the renaissance of Liverpool’s iconic waterfront. Once a warehouse for high value goods like tea, silk, sugar and spirits, the museum now explores Liverpool’s maritime stories, and the lives of its seafarers and maritime communities through its large and varied collection. The Archives Centre at the museum also houses an extensive collection of maritime and slavery books and documents spanning three centuries. Two major exhibitions tell the stories and history behind the tragic sinkings of Lusitania and Titanic, and their links to Liverpool. Visitors can also learn what it’s like to be a customs officer and captain a high-speed cutter to stop smugglers in the hands-on gallery Seized! the Border and Customs uncovered. 

As part of National Museums Liverpool’s 10-year Waterfront Transformation Project, gallery spaces and narratives around Liverpool’s maritime history will be developed and evolved to support and complement International Slavery Museum, along with a new special exhibition space, community spaces and shared facilities that will create a seamless visitor experience between both museums.

Feilden Clegg Bradley Studios (FCBStudios)

FCBStudios was founded to move architecture forward. That’s why, for over 40 years, we’ve been pushing boundaries in sustainable, democratic, and socially responsible design. 

Over the years, our pioneering work has been continually recognised by industry awards, including the prestigious RIBA Stirling Prize for Accordia housing in Cambridge. This reinforces our belief that sustainable spaces of the future will have both beauty and practicality at their heart. 

By grounding everything we do in research and constantly seeking out fresh perspectives, we balance beauty and functionality in every space we create. We understand the challenges our clients face and offer practical, commercially viable solutions that work, both today and long into the future. The world doesn't stop changing, so neither do we. We have a history of creating new benchmarks for sustainable and socially responsible design. We solve real world problems. 

We are FCBStudios and this is Architecture for a Changing World.


Ralph Appelbaum Associates (RAA) 

Ralph Appelbaum Associates (RAA) is an award-winning multidisciplinary design firm that conceives, designs and produces museums, exhibitions and educational environments worldwide. Founded in 1978, RAA has expanded to become a global group with studios in New York, London, Berlin and Beijing. RAA actively supports cultural institutions that embrace and promote justice, equality, diversity, accessibility and inclusivity. With over 850 commissions in the portfolio, the practice has delivered multiple internationally renowned projects including the National Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington, D.C.; the Second World War Galleries at Imperial War Museum London; and Holocaust museums and memorials in the US and internationally.

The National Lottery Heritage Fund

In 2021, was one of five transformational projects across the country to be given a Heritage Horizon Award from the Heritage Fund.

As the largest funder of the UK’s heritage, The National Lottery Heritage Fund’s vision is for heritage to be valued, cared for and sustained for everyone, now and in the future as set out in the strategic plan, Heritage 2033.

Over the next ten years, the Heritage Fund aims to invest £3.6billion raised for good causes by National Lottery players to bring about benefits for people, places and the natural environment.

The Heritage Fund helps protect, transform and share the things from the past that people care about, from popular museums and historic places, our natural environment and fragile species, to the languages and cultural traditions that celebrate who we are.

Over the next 10 years, it aims to invest £3.6billion raised for good causes by National Lottery players and this programme is one of the ways we can support projects of all sizes across the UK to make a decisive difference for people, places, communities and the natural environment.

Follow @HeritageFundUK on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram and use #NationalLotteryHeritageFund  www.heritagefund.org.uk