I am sure most people like myself and the staff at International Slavery Museum have been keeping up-to-date with the unfolding humanitarian tragedy in Haiti, a result of the catastrophic earthquake on 12 January. Out of this disaster we received some welcome good news recently that one of the Haitian artists involved with the Freedom! sculpture on display in the museum, Guyodo (Frantz Jacques), along with his family, are fine, as well as several colleagues from the Grand Rue artists collective, but sadly his home was destroyed. We are currently looking to develop a long-term sustainable partnership with Haiti, possibly with an artists collective. Due to the imagination and creativity of Haitian artists this is a real possibility. Interestingly the Ghetto Biennale was held in Grand Rue in December which is a fascinating project and a good starting point for any future collaboration.
Remember that there are also a number of organisations and agencies who are still accepting donations such as Christian Aid (our partners in commissioning the Freedom! sculpture), UNICEF, the British Red Cross and the Disasters Emergency Committee.
The International Slavery Museum has had another very good month in terms of visitor figures. We have now had upwards of 900,000 visitors since we opened in 2007 and our statisticians (scientists in white coats scratching their chins) think our millionth visitor will walk through the doors in March. It could be you! If it is, then you will be given an invitation to the private view of our forthcoming exhibition Beyond the Boundary. I think our varied exhibition programme is a large part of International Slavery Museum's success. Black Britannia has received some fantastic reviews and Trafficked, difficult subject that it is, continues to be a very poignant aspect of the museum which highlights the fact we are a campaigning museum.
Leading on from this, part of the job remit of our collections development officer - Stephen Carl-Lokko, was to develop a new collecting strand around the subject of contemporary slavery. A very difficult task but one we felt essential. As part of this policy the International Slavery Museum curatorial team has recently acquired two very powerful and indeed unsettling pieces for the museum's collections.
Missing (2007) is a series of photographs of urban and suburban Britain by the artist Rachel Wilberforce which depict sex-trafficking and prostitution through the interiors and exteriors of brothels and so-called massage parlours. They are devoid of people, yet at the same time reveal human activity. The photographs show scenes of a slave trade which still thrives, and illustrates how much slavery is still very much a contemporary issue. Rachel Wilberforce works with photography, film, video, installation and live art intervention.
The museum also acquired an ankle bracelet which had been collected by Anti-Slavery International. It was 'worn' by a modern-day domestic slave girl in Niger. It represents the importance of the International Slavery Museum's work in developing its collections in this area and campaigning on the issue of contemporary forms of slavery.
Finally I wanted to flag up the inaugural conference of the Federation of International Human Rights Museums (FIHRM) which will take place in Liverpool on 15-16 September 2010. The Federation was established by National Museums Liverpool and will enable museums who deal with sensitive and thought-provoking subjects such as transatlantic slavery, the holocaust and human rights to work together and share new thinking and initiatives in a supportive environment. It will initially be led by the International Slavery Museum. The FIHRM website will be available soon, or for details on the conference you can email Françoise McClafferty using this contact form.
If you are indeed the millionth visitor then see you soon!
Bye for now