It has been a varied month since my last blog. It was a pleasure welcoming Garvin Nicholas, the High Commissioner for Trinidad and Tobago at the end of May for a tour of the International Slavery Museum (ISM). My colleague James Hernandez came along to meet the delegation, a nice dimension was that he has Trinidadian roots. As part of the tour we went into the Anthony Walker Education Centre which among other things has a display of Caribbean flags, except, quelle surprise, Trinidad and Tobago. The High Commissioner kindly offered to send the Museum a flag for our collection. He was very impressed with the Museum, especially the inclusion on our Black Achievers Wall of a number of Trinidadians & Tobagonians such as Lord Learie Constantine, Dr Roi Kwabena and CLR James.
They say talk is cheap and so you have to be able to back up grand claims. Although I feel that the Museum is already one of the most important museums in the world we do not rest on our laurels; we seek out new information, new content, innovative collections, new partners and active campaigns, so that we can continue to not only be relevant but be a leader in our field.
One such area is our work on the archaeology of slavery. Not only are we a portal for the St Kitts-Nevis Digital Archaeology Initiative but we are currently developing our forthcoming exhibition on the archaeological excavations undertaken in Rupert’s Valley, St Helena, the final resting place for thousands of enslaved Africans ‘liberated’ from illegal slaver ships by the Royal Navy West Africa Squadron. This will be the first ever exhibition, in partnership with the St Helena government and Museum of St Helena, to focus on this often overlooked aspect of history.
It was with my archaeology hat on that I also met André Delpuech, curator in charge of the Americas collections at Quai Branly, member of the French Ministry of Culture’s National Committee for the Memory and the History of Slavery and expert on the archaeology of the French speaking Caribbean. We discussed the possibility of collaborating on a project, which could for example cover the archaeology of Guadeloupe, an island he is particularly familiar and where he carried out research (see Haviser, 1999: 277-290) on whether several cemeteries might have been African ‘slave cemeteries’.
Last weekend (this is the walking the walk bit) I, along with my ISM colleague, Stephen Carl-Lokko, ISM Collections Development Officer, completed the City Hearts Walk for Freedom. The walk highlights the work of the organization in helping people who have survived and been rescued from the atrocious practice of human trafficking. Indeed I was kindly invited to cut the ribbon to start the walk but I only said a few words as there were some determined looking eager walkers. Members of the public stopped walkers asking them what it was about so hopefully the message spread. My very considerate (nay worried) wife asked whether I had the footwear for such a walk, so rather stupidly I bought a new pair of trainers, not a good idea to break them in on the day of the walk. It was a lovely sunny morning though and starting at the Pier Head we made our way along the Liverpool riverside finishing at Otterspool Park where a cuppa and cake awaited the weary walkers.
Bye for now,