International Slavery Museum, Liverpool

Now celebrating its 10th anniversary, the International Slavery Museum in Liverpool has long been one of my favourite museums. Liverpool as a city is the place to be for incredible museums, but this one in particular I return to over and over again.

Situated on the top floor of the Maritime Museum, right by the water, it strikes that perfect balance of delivering lots of information in an incredibly accessible and concise way, with a focus on presenting these things in innovative and interactive ways.

My latest trip was just over a week ago, and I honestly think it gets better every time. The museum follows the journey of slavery from its earliest origins and leads right up to ancestors of those slaves living in England - specifically the Liverpool area - today.

That's another thing I love about this museum: the balance of the big picture alongside the local stories. There's a huge timeline charting the American Civil Rights Movement, there are stories of experiences on the ships, there's artefacts picked up on the earliest slave traders' trips to Africa. But there is also Liverpool's story - the role that Liverpool played in the slave trade - and it holds people to account. It's a story that doesn't paint the Western world in an attractive light and this museum doesn't shy away from that fact.

One quote that really struck a chord was this one:
'Over the period of transatlantic slavery, Africa helped develop Western Europe in the same proportion as Western Europe helped to underdevelop Africa' - Walter Rooney, historian and political campaigner, 1973.
That's what this museum is all about.

One of my very favourite features is the wall you're greeted with on entry, full of quotes just like the one above. Videos also play as you walk along the wall, and you're constantly being reminded that the issues that began with slavery have far from disappeared today.

At the moment, there's an exhibition running called 'Ink and Blood - Tales of Abolition', which added yet more layers to the story already being told. It runs until April 2018 and is well worth a visit (entry is free).

This feeds into my final point: this is not a story with a neat and tidy ending. One of the biggest areas of focus in the museum is the result of those actions that began with the transatlantic slave trade. There are people sharing their stories about what racism means to them and how it has affected their lives. There are stories of young people who returned to their ancestors' home countries to find out about their own history. There's a 'Black Achievers Wall' featuring the stories of hundreds of prominent figures. At the end is a section called 'Continuing the Journey', which addresses current issues affecting Liverpool's black community.

I honestly can't recommend this museum highly enough. It's a sweep through history and it's about issues we face today, it's informative and it's interactive, it's beautifully presented and it makes you think. Entry is free and you could easily spend a good couple of hours taking it all in. I know I'll be back soon, especially as I now live even closer!


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