Articles for Change
Transatlantic Slavery and Human Rights centered on the work of Thomas Clarkson
10th June - 18th June 2020
Articles for Change explores Transatlantic Slavery and Human Rights centred on the work of Thomas Clarkson from his roots in Wisbech and Cambridge to his campaign trail and beyond. The project is, through research and improved collection care, opening-up the collection for investigation by younger people and the local community, for creative response by artists and is also continuing to initiate collaborations with museums and universities with other important anti-slavery collections.
The Thomas Clarkson collection has particular resonance in its link with modern slavery taking place within Cambridgeshire and the wider region. Our aim has been to use the collection to raise awareness among local communities and further afield of current human rights issues and also to link and connect with local and international organisations and individuals working to combat modern slavery.
Articles for Change is building sustainability through training volunteers in collection care and learning and we aim to use this project as a model for developing collections towards co-curation, collaborations and access through inclusive programming and worldwide research.
The Esmée Fairbairn Collections Fund is run by the Museums Association, funding projects that develop collections to achieve social impact. Since its launch in 2011, it has awarded 101 projects with grants totalling nearly £8.4 in 16 funding rounds. Between 2017 and 2019 it is offering a total of £3.5m in grants to Museums Association members, as well as providing events and resources for the whole sector. Visit the Museums Association website by clicking here.
During lockdown we reached out to networks of archives, libraries and museums across the country in a nationwide search for correspondence from Thomas Clarkson held in collections.
A volunteer has been researching and tracing the sources and developing a list which we hope will be useful to researchers looking at our collection.
Some repositories have recently catalogued correspondence and many, like us, do not have a searchable catalogue online so these resources are hard to locate for researchers. We are delighted to have a part in building a greater picture of holdings.
The textiles in Thomas Clarkson’s campaign chest are some of the earliest surviving examples of cloth held in a museum collection.
In a joint scientific research project working with specialists Dr Malika Kraamer and Dr Margerita Gleba, with funding from St John’s College Cambridge and the Society of Antiquaries, we are beginning to discover through scientific analysis where threads and dyes were made and how the fabrics were constructed.
This research is important because Thomas Clarkson did not visit Africa himself and we know from his writing that he purchased the textiles for his collection when visiting a merchant’s trading ship, the Lively in London and also a merchant’s ship in Bristol.
This research is helping us to build a picture about the craftspeople who made the textiles and the heritage of textile production in West Africa.
Seed tray analysis
We are delighted to be able to look closer at the contents of the seed tray with the help of a partnership with Kew and Cambridge Botanic Gardens.
Scientific research is ongoing and we hope to publish initial findings soon.
Young volunteers Anna and Gvidas won the Teams category of the regional SHARE Museums East Volunteer Awards 2020 for their outstanding contribution as community co-curators developing the exhibition Anti-Slavery Campaigns which ran from 12 November to 21 December 2019.