Strength, Brilliance, and Individuality: The Inspiring Women of the International Slavery Museum

Posted on: 16 March 2023 in 2023 posts

Women at a conference

On March 9th 2023, the Centre for the Study of International Slavery (CSIS) hosted a panel discussion featuring museum professionals working with or at the International Slavery Museum (ISM). This event worked to highlight the collaborative relationship between the University of Liverpool and National Museums Liverpool (as ISM is a branch of this larger network), but also celebrate the amazing women who work in multiple facets of the museum heritage industry.

The Partnership

Founded as a partnership between the University of Liverpool and National Museums Liverpool, CSIS works together with universities and organisations locally, domestically and globally to develop scholarly and public activities related to slavery in its historical and contemporary manifestations. Liverpool is a stimulating home for CSIS activities. Liverpool was a major slaving port with ships and merchants dominating the transatlantic slave trade which substantially contributed to the growth of the city. Today, the International Slavery Museum serves as a starting point for different forms of engagement with this history across time and space.

Currently, ISM is undergoing a transformation from a collection of galleries into a prominent museum as part of the Waterfront Transformation Project. With funding from National Heritage Lottery Fund - Heritage Horizon Awards, The Dr Martin Luther King Jr building (Old Dock traffic office), will become the new entrance to the museum. The transformation will spark and inform change nationally and internationally through a programme of academic rigour, debate and sharing. The panel presentation and following discussion allowed our audience to hear from professionals actively working to make this goal a reality.

The Panel

The theme for this year’s International Women’s Day celebration was ‘Embrace Equity’ - though in order to embody fairness and impartiality it is critical to understand the historic and continued barriers and ‘why equal opportunities aren’t enough.’

Each speaker presented an open and honest perspective of their work, goals, background, journey, and struggles to this panel; discussing different topics but ultimately linked with central themes of strength, brilliance, and individuality.

A panel of 4 women

Speakers for the evening included:

Sahar Beyad, PR and Communication Lead, National Museums Liverpool, spoke about her professional journey including her experiences in the Calais refugee camp, and the complexities of ‘dual consciousness’.

Madelyn Walsh, Assistant Curator, International Slavery Museum discussed the importance of communities driving the creation of representation focusing on the transformation of the waterfront.

Lois South, Community Engagement Manager and Educator, International Slavery Museum spoke on the ‘agency of otherness’ and the importance of celebrating and protecting your individual uniqueness.

Rebecca Loy, Diversity and Inclusion Partner, National Museums Liverpool focused on representation and belonging, stressing ‘Phenomenology’ – philosophy of experiences – through her research and lived experiences.

The work of each and every member of this prestigious panel far supersedes that of a museum professionals; they are community leaders, activists, leading researchers, skilled specialists, and trailblazers in the continued work to advance discourse about representation and anti-racism within the heritage sector. It was an honor to hear from them and we can’t wait to see what they do next.

The link for the panel discussion can be found here. 

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