National Museums Liverpool unveils waterfront plan - Museums Association

National Museums Liverpool unveils waterfront plan

International Slavery Museum and Merseyside Maritime Museum to be revamped
Capital projects
Profile image for Simon Stephens
Simon Stephens
Merseyside Maritime Museum exterior
Merseyside Maritime Museum exterior © Tom Adam

National Museums Liverpool (NML) has announced plans for a waterfront redevelopment that will include a new entrance to the city’s International Slavery Museum (ISM).

The scheme will focus on the area between the Royal Albert Dock and Mann Island. The plan is to expand the ISM, which is currently on the third floor of the Merseyside Maritime Museum, into the adjacent Dr Martin Luther King Jr Building (formerly the Dock Traffic Office). The Maritime Museum will also be redeveloped.

New exhibition spaces, community areas and shared facilities will aim to create a seamless visitor experience between both museums.

“Liverpool became the epicentre of the transatlantic slave trade, hence the importance of the stories we tell and the work we do at the International Slavery Museum,” said Richard Benjamin, the head of the International Slavery Museum.

“This exciting and timely transformation project will allow the museum to grow, develop and be central to national and global discourses. These include racial inequality, other legacies of transatlantic slavery, being actively anti-racist, diverse and inclusive.”

NML will kick off the waterfront project in March with a competition to identify designers who will be part of the development. The competition, managed by Colander Associates, is supported by £120,000 from the Liverpool City Region Combined Authority as part of the Race Equality Programme launched last year by Steve Rotheram, Metro Mayor of the Liverpool City Region.


Spaces will be created at the ISM for education, exhibitions, discussion and research. A community-led model of working with Liverpool’s Black communities and victims of modern slavery will co-create the content and engagement programme around themes of historic slavery, human rights, social justice, racism and discrimination.

“The slave trade was the backbone of the city’s prosperity, and it is long overdue to weave this history into the public realm,” said Laura Pye, the director of NML. “Our aim will be to create a vibrant, active and public space that has long-term flexibility of use and to utilise the surrounding redundant quaysides to complement existing developments and create a solid foundation for the future.

“We want to re-engage local communities and empower individuals to bring this significant and incredibly rich part of the waterfront back to life. It’s something for everyone to be involved in from the outset, so we look forward to appointing innovative designers who thrive on collaboration, to work closely with local people to make our plans a reality.”

Other cultural venues in the area include Tate Liverpool at the Royal Albert Dock and the Open Eye Gallery at Mann Island.

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