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Animating Caribbean Collections Histories at the British Museum

Using creative practice to highlight the hidden collections histories of artefacts from the Caribbean held in the British Museum.

This project, running from May to July 2023, aims to harness creative practice to highlight the hidden collections histories of artefacts from the Caribbean now held in the British Museum, but largely not on display.

The project aims to:

  • provide a model of knowledge exchange between historians, museum curators and archivists, and creative practitioners relating to the collections histories of artefacts
  • enhance the visibility of Caribbean collections in storage
  • promote the value of creative interpretations in surfacing and disseminating collections histories, and improving accessibility and discoverability of these histories, particularly for artefacts from the Caribbean.

Led by Dr Amara Thornton, historian of archaeology and Research Fellow at the Institute of Classical Studies, the project team will explore archives held at the museum relating to the acquisition of a selection of the Museum’s collections from the Caribbean, including artefacts from Guyana, Grenada, St Vincent, Jamaica and Barbados. They will view the artefacts in person, all of which are not on display, and draw on expertise in the history of archaeology in the Caribbean to reflect on the histories of African-Caribbean and Indigenous Caribbean people in relation to the artefacts. They will visit the museum galleries to see relevant artefacts, and discuss how the Caribbean is currently represented. The team will also investigate visual representations of the Caribbean held at the British Museum and the Image of the Black project (Warburg Institute).

Two creative practitioners, Wendy Shearer and Michelle Keeley-Adamson, will each create a work-in-progress reflecting on the collections histories explored during the course of the project. At the end of the project, Shearer and Keeley-Adamson’s works in progress will be presented to invited guests at Senate House. Thornton, Shearer and Keeley-Adamson will also write reflections on the project to be made available online. Shearer and Keeley-Adamson’s reflections will include evidence of their works-in progress.

This project is supported by an award from the University of London’s Knowledge Exchange Fund, and builds on work already completed by Dr Amara Thornton and Michelle Keeley-Adamson on collections from Barbados at the British Museum.

The Project team

  • Dr Amara Thornton, Research Fellow, Institute of Classical Studies
  • Michelle Keeley-Adamson, Creative Practitioner
  • Wendy Shearer, Creative Practitioner
  • Dr Danny Zborover, Head of Americas section, British Museum
  • Rose Taylor, Curator of North America, British Museum
  • Francesca Hillier, Archivist, British Museum

Please contact Dr Amara Thornton with any queries on this project.

Image Credit: © The Trustees of the British Museum, Asset number: 334844001, Stool made of wood.

Animating Caribbean Collections Histories

The team presents their work on the project - 24 July 2023