Glasgow Life appoints new Curator Legacies of Slavery & Empire
Glasgow Life appoints new Curator Legacies of Slavery & Empire
23 September 2020
Glasgow Life, the charity that manages the city’s museums, has appointed Miles Greenwood as its first Curator focussing on the legacies of slavery and empire, to continue to tell the story of the impact the transatlantic trade in enslaved Africans and the British Empire has had on Glasgow.
The legacy of the extraordinary wealth that Glasgow accumulated on the back of enslaved labour is woven into the city’s physical environment and material culture. In the 19th century, Glasgow’s connection to slavery was obscured. As a consequence there are few objects that directly relate to slavery in the city’s museums.
Greenwood’s remit as Curator (Legacies of Slavery & Empire) will include developing a programme of community engagement and collaborative research to reshape understandings of the connections between the slave trade and colonialism, and their contemporary legacies. Across Glasgow Museums, Greenwood will, with colleagues, curate new displays to clearly demonstrate the impact slavery and empire had on all aspects of the city. Working with local communities and existing specialist curators he will shape a public programme of talks, tours, handling sessions and other activities that reflects the legacies of slavery, empire, race and globalisation.
Greenwood brings with him over four years’ experience of using museum collections for collaboration and consultation. He recently worked in Visitor Studies at the Paisley Museum where he worked with community groups and organisations to inform interpretation, programming and developed community advisory panels. In this role he planned and delivered a Black History tour of Paisley Museum’s collection, which explored the town’s links to the slave trade. This built on previous experience of learning and outreach, including delivering Black History workshops with secondary school pupils in Manchester, Greenwood has also recently worked with CRER in a research role.
Having graduated with a degree BA in Ancient History and an MA in Heritage Studies from Newcastle University, he launched his career with the audience research agency, Morris Hargreaves McIntyre, before moving onto the Paisley Museum.
Councillor David McDonald, Chair of Glasgow Life said:
Miles’ appointment will enable a step change in the way we are able to address the history of slavery and empire in Glasgow. By creating the post of Curator Legacies of Slavery & Empire we hope to send a powerful message about the city’s commitment to acknowledging our difficult past.
We have already carried out a considerable amount of work in the area of slavery and empire, but having Miles lead our efforts will provide a sense of unity and make it easier for local communities to meaningfully engage.
We understand Glasgow participated fully in the slavery economy, yet the journey of re-discovery and coming to terms with that participation is still in its infancy. There is still much to do and this appointment today will assist us in that vital journey.
Miles Greenwood, Curator (Legacies of Slavery & Empire) said:
It’s an honour to take on what is a dream job for me. I’m looking forward to getting to know the collection, while enabling people to connect with their own histories and share their stories.
Having a role in addressing the legacies of the British Empire and the trade in enslaved African people is incredibly important for me personally, but I also know these legacies impact a lot of people’s lives today, in Glasgow and around the world, so I hope I can do them justice.
So many of our social, political and economic realities today are tied to the history of colonialism and the trade in enslaved African people. I hope this project will help people understand that connection in an interesting, often challenging, and even empowering way.
Recent museum projects highlight Glasgow Life’s commitment to telling this story and engaging with the communities that are part of its legacy.
A panel display was installed on the Gallery of Modern Art to highlight the building’s early history as a tobacco merchant’s mansion. Inside, Stones Steeped in History, is a permanent display installed on the balconies that directly addresses the history of the building that it is housed in.
A blog ‘Legacies of Slavery in Glasgow Museums and Collections’ (https://glasgowmuseumsslavery.co.uk) was launched to mark the UNESCO International Day for the Remembrance of the Slave Trade and its Abolition in 2018. Wider impacts of Glasgow’s history of Empire can also be seen at the GlaswegAsians exhibition at Scotland Street School Museum and Blockade Runners at Riverside Museum.
Curatorial research has been ongoing over many years and a collaborative PhD was appointed to research transatlantic slavery connections in the collection. While recent acquisitions represent another important way Glasgow Life has increased the visibility of BAME communities and supported black artists. Only this summer, with funding from the Contemporary Arts Society, GoMA was able to acquire works by Rabiya Choudhry.
Glasgow Life applied to Museums Galleries Scotland Museum Development Fund to enable them to appoint their first ever Curator (Legacies of Slavery & Empire).
Lucy Casot, CEO of Museums Galleries Scotland, said:
We are incredibly pleased to support Glasgow Life’s commitment to showing the legacies of slavery and the empire that have historically been omitted in telling the story of Glasgow. As Glasgow Life continues their learning process to reflect and represent Glasgow’s role in slavery and colonialism we welcome the appointment of Miles Greenwood as the first Curator (Legacies of Slavery & Empire). The impact of these legacies are still felt in Glasgow today and Miles brings a wealth of experience and knowledge to support the facing of these realities through meaningful engagement with communities and Glasgow Life.
Glasgow Museums is at the heart of Glasgow’s communities and is a major draw for visitors to the city supporting key city strategies and economic growth. In 2019/20 Glasgow Museums welcomed a record 4 million visitors to eight world class museums, a 7% increase compared to the previous year.