I remember coming to Liverpool and visiting the International Slavery Museum (ISM) when I was 16 years old. I have great memories of discovering the Docks of the Beatles’ city in the sunshine of a warm summer ten years ago. My mum – an English teacher in France- wanted to show me the history of Liverpool during the Slave Trade. I had previously learnt about this at school, but the museum did a great job of illustrating the history books.
I had promised myself I would revisit the Museum when I moved to Liverpool a few months ago, and had forgotten that it is located inside the Merseyside Maritime Museum. The ISM is found on the 3rd floor and the visit sets your gaze high above the Albert Docks, a World Heritage site. It offers incredible views of the Merseyside and Liverpool’s museums, iconic buildings, and the dry docks which housed slave trading ships throughout the 18th century.
Inaugurated in 2007, on the 200th anniversary of the abolition of the British Slave Trade, the museum has become an international hub for resources on human rights issues. It hosts talks, lectures and annual events in recognition of Slavery Remembrance Day.
The museum works in partnership with other institutions with a focus on freedom and enslavement; it provides opportunities for greater awareness and understanding of the legacy of slavery today, and is the only museum of its kind to look at aspects of historical and contemporary slavery.
Within the ISM, you will find three galleries: Life in West Africa, Enslavement and the Middle Passage, and Legacy. Each examines and tells the story of the history of the slave trade, celebrates Black heritage and culture, and further discusses the role played by Liverpool itself, a city which profited greatly during the colonial period.
The museum has been curated to be interactive, engaging and inspiring. Videos, buttons to push, lights, quotes, and maps illustrate the story of the trade. I found the model of a plantation particularly interesting, where you can discover where everything was placed, from the house of the master to the work fields. At the top of the stairs is an interactive floor plan and the experience is designed with accessbility in mind, offering audioguides in a variety of languages and panels in Braille.
Expanding on their earlier focus of slavery at the former Transatlantic Slavery Gallery – which won global acclaim and formed the basis of their award-winning work on diversity and outreach – the ISM promises to continue to highlight the historical and ongoing issues surrounding slavery.
On the digital side, Liverpool Museums website offers means to discover more about the global trade. You can explore their wide range of resources to further your learning- from books to events, visitors will be able to continue their research at home.
I will definitely go back to the International Slavery Museum as more than one visit is required. It is also essential to educate ourselves about the Slave Trade and to remember all Black men, women and children who suffered during this dark part of history.
Admission to the International Slavery Museum is free, donations are welcome.
Open 10am-5pm every day.
The museum is closed on 24, 25, 26 and 31 December and 1 January.
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Julie Becaud was born in France but now lives in the UK where she is a marketing and communications professional.