National Museums Liverpool has appointed a historian in residence to help ensure an understanding of the history and legacies of slavery is embedded across all of its venues.
Laurence Westgaph has worked with the organisation for a number of years, advising on numerous projects and sitting on the International Slavery Museum ’s RESPECT group.
He recently supported NML with research and advice on the reinterpretation of street signs and place names with slavery connections across the city as well as in the development its online programme for this year's Slavery Remembrance Day and its research on the history of Liverpool’s Black communities.
He is also leading on the Liverpool Enslaved Memorial Project, established to create a permanent monument in the city to commemorate the enslaved people who lived, died and were buried here during the slave trade period, which NML plans to support with educational activities.
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Laurence is the recipient of a Black History Month Achiever’s Award and his family have lived in Liverpool for more than 10 generations.
He said: "I feel deeply privileged and honoured to be working with NML in the role of historian in residence. Liverpool should be very proud of the role our museums and galleries play in bringing the history of our great city to life through some of the finest historic items, art and artefacts our country has to offer."
National Museums Liverpool’s venues include the Walker Art Gallery, World Museum, the International Slavery Museum, Museum of Liverpool and Lady Lever Art Gallery in Port Sunlight.
Liverpool arts & culture
Many objects within the organisation’s vast collections are rooted in the city’s connections with the Atlantic slave trade and Britain’s role in colonisation.
In a statement, NML said Laurence’s appointment is a key milestone in the progress being made to reinterpret these collections – to respond to their provenance and contentious beginnings and display them in a way that is purposeful in identifying the uncomfortable stories behind them, as well how they came to be in NML’s collections.
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Janet Dugdale, executive director of museums & participation said: “This is an important action to help us achieve our promise to be anti-racist in everything we do as an organisation and enable us all to understand our shared histories.
“Although the Black Lives Matter movement has been brought to the fore due to recent tragic events, National Museums Liverpool had already been making strides in our work to ensure our anti-racist stance is clear. There’s no doubt that we need to do more. This work isn’t just ‘of the moment’, but something that needs to thread through everything we do, now and into the future.
“Laurence’s work and research in this area will be extremely valuable to NML, and his knowledge of Liverpool as a city is critical in helping us realise our goals and develop new ideas that will challenge us as an organisation, and inspire our visitors to think differently about the past and how it has impacted the present, and will continue to do so into the future."