Well what a momentous year for the museum it has been. Where shall I start? Well how about the fact we have had over 500,000 visitors since we opened, which makes us one of the most visited museums outside of London in a very short space of time. We launched our exhibitions programme with 'We are one' that celebrated and reflected on the International Slavery Museum's first year and were visited by well known personalities and advocates such as the Reverend Jesse Jackson, the footballer Lillian Thuram, Doreen Lawrence, Floella Benjamin and the noted academic Eric Foner and a host of other dignitaries. The year continued as it had finished in 2007 with a high level of media interest from around the world. Probably the most high profile was a live link from the museum for the Today Show which has over 6 million viewers. I was interviewed by Al Roker for several minutes so no pressure then! Thankfully I did not make any gaffs.
The museum has been the site of several pilgrimages and has had first time visits from citizens from a plethora of countries from around the world; in particular those from the Diaspora. Not only did many visitors want to visit a museum which focused on one of humanities most heinous acts, transatlantic slavery, but which actively campaigns against contemporary forms of injustice, discrimination and racism. From the feedback I have personally received, from the thousands of responses left in our response zone area, and the support and interest we have had from some of the leading human rights organisations, we are living up to that objective.
It has also been a year which has had a number of personal high points. I have been able to attended conferences from Atlanta to Belfast and my personal highlight was the Commonwealth Association of Museums conference in Georgetown, Guyana - the country of my father’s birth. It is always a pleasure visiting Guyana, a country with unparalleled natural beauty and a rich history but to visit in my capacity as Head of the museum was a very proud moment for me and my family. In fact, if I had to chose a moment of the year then I would say it was climbing (ok, walking very slowly) up to the peak of Turtle Mountain and overlooking the mighty Essequibo River in the heart of the Guyanese rainforest.
The museum was also shortlisted for a number of awards which on several occasions we narrowly missed out on. My own view is that the museum world was not quite ready for a museum which makes such bold statements, being an active and vocal campaigner, challenging contemporary issues. In time, maybe people will acknowledge this rather than steer away from it. We are still to hear if we have been successful in being named the European Museum of the Year. The judges who visited were impressed with what we are doing so hopefully 2009 will start with the museum receiving such an accolade.
For those of you who may have visited the museum I look forward to your continued support and hope that those of you who have not feel that 2009 is the year to come to Liverpool and visit the International Slavery Museum. Liverpool might not officially be the Capital of Culture in 2009 but it is a city rich with culture and cultural institutions on par with any city in the country, London included.
We are now actively planning the next stage of the International Slavery Museum – a world class educational and research centre located in the Dock Traffic Office adjacent to the current galleries. We plan to open in 2011 and it will take the museum to a new level. At times it can be a very challenging job but I would not want to work on any other project. One that in my view can change the world in which we live.
Bye for now and happy holidays.