A major new digital archive that captures a significant moment in antislavery history is being launched today by the University of Hull.
‘Remembering 1807’ is the first digital archive to capture the proliferation of events held around the UK to mark the bicentenary of the abolition of the transatlantic slave trade. Researchers unearthed over 300 projects that were created in 2007 to commemorate the Slave Trade Abolition Act in 1807. Initiatives held in 2007 ranged from large capital projects to small community-led projects including heritage trails, exhibitions, books, pamphlets and live performances.
The ‘Remembering 1807’ is the first systematic effort to map these events, some of which have left little or no trace, hence the urgency of this project.
Mary Wills, a Postdoctoral Research Fellow at the University of Hull, was one of the senior researchers on the project.
She said: “Prior to the 2007 bicentenary commemorations there hadn’t been much in the way of a meaningful public discussion on slavery. This archive is intended to conserve the past and, in so doing, provide researchers with an invaluable guide to how Britons remembered 1807. Our hope is that it will also inform ongoing debates about slavery remembrance in the UK, particularly as we approach further significant anniversaries.”
The archive is created as part of an overarching project – The Antislavery Usable Past – which aims to uncover and apply lessons from the past to help contemporary antislavery efforts.
John Oldfield, Director of the Wilberforce Institute for the Study of Slavery and Emancipation at the University of Hull, explained: “We tend to think of slavery as an issue of the past but it remains a persistent threat in modern society. Men, women and children from across globe are routinely trafficked and forced into abject poverty and deprivation. The relationship between the past, present, and future shapes our understanding of the world around us. Examining this relationship in the context of antislavery strategies and opinion-building, our team of experts offer a way to improve and enhance future contemporary antislavery movements.”
Further collections will be added to the project’s site – which will be an invaluable resource of antislavery examples and methods for policy makers, civil society, researchers and the heritage sector – over the next two years.
The Antislavery Usable Past is a collaborative project between the University of Hull and the University of Nottingham and is funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council.