Proud to be: Museums mark Black History Month - Museums Association

Proud to be: Museums mark Black History Month

This year's event celebrates pride in Black heritage and culture
Black history
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Geraldine Kendall Adams
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National Museums Liverpool is has a wide-ranging programme of events across its museums and galleries
National Museums Liverpool is has a wide-ranging programme of events across its museums and galleries © Pete Carr

Now in its 34th year, Black History Month 2021 kicks off today with a programme that aims to inspire pride in Black heritage and culture.

Taking “Proud to be” as its theme this year, the UK-wide event hopes to make Black History Month 2021 personal to individuals, families and communities, inviting Black and Brown people of all ages to share what they are proud to be, as well as the spotlighting the achievements of Black people throughout history.

Many museums are getting involved, with hundreds of exhibitions, workshops, talks and performances taking place across the UK to mark the event.

Black Cultural Archives in London is launching an online series, Radical Black Women, that aims to redress the dearth of writing on Black women’s history. The talks will spotlight the specific contributions of Black women to social justice movements in Britain. 

National Museums Liverpool has a wide-ranging programme of events across its museums and galleries. The Museum of Liverpool is unveiling a new display, Liverpool 8 Against Apartheid, which explores the strong connections between Liverpool’s Black community, Nelson Mandela and the anti-apartheid movement.

The Lady Lever Art Gallery is placing a newly conserved painting featuring an enslaved African person at the front and centre of its displays. The oil painting of Catherine-Marie Legendre, painted about 1705 and attributed to Jean Baptiste Santerre (1658-1717), is the only item in the gallery’s collection from the 18th century to depict a person of colour. 

An oil painting of Catherine-Marie Legendre, painted about 1705, attributed to Jean Baptiste Santerre (1658-1717) © Pete Carr

The World Museum will stage a film screening and panel discussion with members of Liverpool’s African diasporic community. Panel members will reflect on a series of workshops they attended at the museum to help it rethink the display of its Benin collection, addressing historical legacies of injustice to create a more inclusive and engaging display. The display is part of the World Cultures gallery, which will reopen in 2022.

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In Bristol, M Shed will host an event where the public can meet the city's Black and Green Ambassadors, emerging leaders who are working with Bristol’s diverse communities on issues of environmental sustainability, equality, diversity, and inclusion. Bristol Museums is also running a series of online talks that will cover topics including early Black Bristolians and Black experiences of world war one.

St Fagans Museum of National History in Wales is launching a new exhibition, Windrush Cymru – Our Voices, Our Stories, Our History, comprising 44 stories, images and history of people from the Windrush generation. Part of a lottery-funded project to ensure that the legacy of the generation is captured for posterity, the stories show how Windrush elders and their descendants have made their mark in all walks of Welsh life. The exhibition will tour to other Amgueddfa Cymru - National Museum Wales sites at the end of the month.

In Belfast, the Artisan Gallery is showing Looking Back, Thinking Black, an exhibition of new paintings by Irish-Caribbean artist Ciarán Harper looking at historical and influential figures across the Black Atlantic.

Across Scotland, the Coalition for Racial Equality and Rights has curated a varied programme of talks and workshops with a range of partners, including museums. On Tuesdays throughout October, curators from the Hunterian Museum will choose objects from the collections connected to Black history and use short talks to offer an insight on their provenance and journeys. On 21 October, Hunterian director Steph Scholten will host an in-person discussion on repatriation and restitution of objects in museum collections.

Conference 2021: Brave New World

How can museums change lives in a post-pandemic world? Our inspiring conference programme will explore the ideas and vision we need to not only survive, but to thrive in the future. Online places start from just £45, or attend in person for as little as £190.

Join us in Liverpool this November

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