Articles for Change
Opening up the Slavery and Thomas Clarkson collection and archive
November 2018 - November 2021
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. The Esmée Fairbairn Collections Fund is run by the Museums Association, funding projects that develop collections to achieve social impact. The fund has awarded over £10m to 145 projects since it launched in 2011.Since its launch in 2011, it has awarded 101 projects with grants totalling nearly £8.4 in 16 funding rounds 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 examples of West African cloth 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.
Seed tray analysis
We are delighted to be able to look closer at and identify the contents of the seed tray with the help of a partnership with the Royal Botanic Gardens Kew and Cambridge University Herbarium.
This ground breaking research partnership will help us to map the origins of the produce in the Chest through ethnobotany and will tell us about life in West Africa and Britain, of migration of peoples and produce, chart global consumerism and explore economics in the late 18th Century. Scientific research is ongoing and we hope to update this page and 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.