Michelle Charters has been announced as the director of the International Slavery Museum in Liverpool.
She joins the institution as it prepares to undergo a £28m redevelopment, which aims to establish the museum as a world leader in understanding and exploring the impact and legacies of historic and modern slavery.
A community activist for more than 40 years, Charters already features on the museum’s wall of Black achievers. For the past 17 years she has been CEO of Kuumba Imani Millennium Centre in Toxteth, a multi-purpose centre that was the vision of the Liverpool Black Sisters, which formed in the 1970s to address the many forms of discrimination experienced by the Black community.
Charters is the founding chair of the Merseyside Black History Month Group and first Black woman to be appointed as a trustee of the Everyman and Playhouse Theatres in Liverpool.
She will be the first woman to lead the International Slavery Museum since it opened in 2007.
Charters is a member of the RESPECT group, which was established in 2008 leading on from the Liverpool Slavery Remembrance Initiative Steering Group. She has been a trustee on the board of National Museums Liverpool (NML) for the last five years.
Charters said: “When I first stepped into what was known then as the Transatlantic Slavery Gallery nearly 30 years ago, I committed to be part of a movement to learn, interpret and share what we could about our ancestors’ pain and suffering.
“Ever since, I have used the anger and hurt that I felt when confronted by shackles and artefacts from Africa that had been stolen or purchased by slave merchants, to ensure that my ancestors, their journey and our opportunity to tell the story was never forgotten.”
She added: “I am really excited to be joining such a forward-thinking organisation, which is making huge strides towards having the most representative audience and colleague profiles in the UK’s museums sector.
“It is a privilege to be joining such a skilled, professional and loyal team and I’m proud to be the one who will lead the International Slavery Museum as it realises National Museum Liverpool’s ambition to become the world leader in understanding and exploring the impact and legacies of historic and modern slavery, and how it still influences the world today.”
Charters replaces Richard Benjamin, who has led the museum since its inception in 2007 and has now moved to the University of Liverpool to become senior lecturer in contemporary museum practice.
Supported by the National Lottery Heritage Fund, the transformation of the International Slavery Museum and Maritime Museum, including the redevelopment of the Dr Martin Luther King Jr building, will co-create spaces for education, exhibitions, discussion and research.
The redevelopment is part of the wider National Museums Liverpool Waterfront Transformation Project, which aims to be a catalyst for social and environmental improvements in the area.
Laura Pye, the director of National Museums Liverpool said: “Michelle has been connected to NML for many years, but now is a really exciting time for her to be joining us as the head of the International Slavery Museum.
“She brings with her a wealth of experience and passion for the museum and shares the vision that we have for its transformation. Michelle has been part of the history of this museum for many years, and we can't wait for her to be a part of its future.”
Charters will step down as an NML trustee and the CEO of Kuumba Imani Millennium Centre and take up her new role in the new year.