UCLan-MIDEX Webinar: ‘Where we meet: how site-specific curatorial interventions impact engagement with Black history in museums in Northwest England specifically, Lancaster and Morecambe’, by Kirsty Millicent Theresa Roberts

7 June 2023

My study will discuss the isolation/ ghettoisation of Black histories and the practices of tacking on or portioning off areas to exhibit these, in contrast to entrenched local histories with positions of permanence and prominence. I will explore how to visitors of museums, galleries and heritage centres, this may encourage the idea of Black lives as an afterthought; and how curatorial interventions and design may go some way to correcting that issue.

I will present an inquiry into how the erasure of Black identities could uncover a local reluctance to engage with areas of history unfamiliar to the local populace, or how heritage sites may not possess the ability to integrate this history with long-established narratives, firmly ingrained into the narrative of a place and its people.

Working with local Black history groups and Lancaster Maritime Museum I will undertake operational training within museums and liaise with grassroots community groups and other historians and artists to have a holistic approach to curatorship and research.

Fieldwork at various cultural sites across the North West will inform my knowledge of museums and how engagement with Black history varies from larger cities to smaller regional and often rural areas.

Kirsty Millicent Theresa Roberts is a PhD candidate studying at the University of Central Lancashire. Her research explores public engagement with Black history in museums and will culminate in two exhibitions in 2024 presenting an in-depth study of Black entertainers in Morecambe 1850 – 1950 and the Slave Trade in Lancaster 1680-1865. Kirsty has worked and volunteered within the heritage sector for over 10 years and has co-curated exhibitions in the Northwest. From 2016 to 2018 Kirsty was a Co-Curator for the multi-award-winning exhibition, ‘Never Going Underground - The Fight for LGBT+ Rights’ at the People’s History Museum in Manchester. Kirsty’s article ‘Fiction with Friction: Unreliable Narratives of African American History,’ was published in the academic journal Diffusion. She has also written articles for the International Slavery Museum in Liverpool (My Family, My Pride: Maroon Ancestry), and for Warrington Museum where she contributed to research on the town’s anti-slavery movement, as part of Black History Month. She is a freelance historian, curator and researcher with a keen interest in Black and working-class histories. She has close ties to the Preston Black History Group and is currently exploring setting up a similar project in her hometown of Warrington and a Black history tour of Warrington which will focus on the town’s abolitionist history and the visits to the town that were subsequently made by formerly enslaved people.

Wednesday 7 June 15.00-16.00, Online Link

Attendance is free

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