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Empire, Slavery & Scotland's Museums

This project, sponsored by the Scottish Government, will explore how the story of Scotland’s involvement in the transatlantic slavery, empire, and colonialism should be told using museum collections and museum spaces.

Empire, Slavery & Scotland's Museums

For more than 200 years, Scotland's economy was closely tied to imperial trade and conquest. People from all over Scotland were participants in and drivers of the British Empire, both at home and overseas as politicians, businesses, traders, settlers, colonial administrators, soldiers, missionaries and forced migrants. The wealth generated from the systems of chattel slavery and colonialism enriched Scotland at the expense of the places which were colonisedThe legacies of colonialism remain today as do strong links between Scotland and its international diaspora. 

Scotland’s museum sector is increasingly vocal in their commitment to use their collections to acknowledge and confront our history. This project, sponsored by the Scottish Government, will explore how Scotland's museums can contribute to our understanding of the legacies of chattel slavery, empire and colonialism.

Museums Galleries Scotland (MGS) recognises the impact that empire and colonialism has had on our institutions and their collections, and stands with anti-racist education worldwide. As the National Development Body for Scotland’s museums and galleries MGS has a responsibility to encourage and support museums to challenge and critically interrogate their own practices and collections.

This nationwide project will build on existing work from within the equalities sector and from across Scotland’s museums, to explore the mechanisms of how Scotland can confront challenging histories within museum spaces.

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A National Consultation

MGS are coordinating a national consultation to establish public and expert perspectives on how museums can contribute to our understanding of the legacies of chattel slavery, empire, and colonialism. As a result of this project, and based on the evidence gathered, the Steering Group will make a set of recommendations to Scottish Government in 2022. In developing the recommendations, the Steering Group will look broadly at potential mechanisms for addressing the legacies of chattel slavery, empire, and colonialism in museum spaces and through collections.

The national consultation is now open
to listen to the views and experiences of people in Scotland. Closes 7th November.


Take part in the national consultation


Led By Expert Advice

An independent Steering Group will recommend how Scotland’s existing and future museum collections and museum spaces can better recognise and represent a more accurate portrayal of Scotland’s colonial and slavery history. The Group is independently chaired by Sir Geoff Palmer, renowned scientist and human rights activist.

The Group is representative of relevant expertise and community interests, and diverse in its membership.

The Group members are:

  • Sir Geoff Palmer (Chair)
  • Silence Chihuri (Fair Justice System for Scotland Group)
  • Abeer Eladany (University of Aberdeen)
  • Jatin Haria (Coalition for Racial Equality and Rights)
  • Lewis Hou (Science Ceilidh and The Anti-Racist Educator)
  • Parveen Ishaq (Edinburgh and Lothians Regional Equalities Council)
  • Churnjeet Mahn (Strathclyde University)
  • Steph Scholten (The Hunterian, ICOM Ethics Committee, MGS Board Member)
  • Elena Trimarchi (David Livingstone Centre)
  • Lisa Williams (Edinburgh Caribbean Association)
  • Zandra Yeaman (The Hunterian)

The Steering Group will be supported by a range of invited advisors, specialists in relevant related fields, who will lead working groups on specific areas of enquiry.

Click on these links to find the Project Overview and the Terms of Reference.