About this site
1807 Commemorated is a project coordinated within the Institute for the Public Understanding of the Past (IPUP), a new research centre in the University of York.
Aims and Focus
The central aim of the 1807 Commemorated project is to both map and analyse public debate and activity regarding the bicentenary. We are concerned with identifying and understanding how 1807 is being marked by different agencies and communities in Britain and the consequences of this for the expression of national, local and community identity, and for the development of a range of social debates addressing multiculturalism and social inclusion. The analysis of data collected during this project is informed by a critical reading of material within the fields of museology, heritage studies and history focusing on concepts such as commemoration, memory, remembering, performativity, dissonance and the politics of recognition. A range of discussion papers may be found on this website and we encourage people to read and respond to them.
The project is structured around three phases. Phase One has been funded by University of York internal grants. Phase Two and Phase Three are funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council under the new Knowledge Transfer Fellowship.
- Phase One - Media: This phase of the project is led by Professor Helen Weinstein, and aims to document, archive and analyse a range of media responses and commissions to the bicentenary and chart the way the bicentenary has been publicly defined and characterised. This is being done in order to identify the various messages that have emerged in public debates about the significance and meaning of the bicentenary, and will assist in contextualising Phase Two and Phase Three.
- Phase Two - Exhibitions: This phase of the project is led by Dr. Geoff Cubitt and examines and analyses exhibition content of both our partner museums and the range of exhibitions and installations around the country. The aim of this phase is to record, assess and collect the ways various institutions have drawn meaning from the bicentenary, and to consider the ways in which exhibitions interact with public debates about the value, meaning and significance of remembering 1807. Phase Two is essential in building the basis of the work that is undertaken in Phase Three.
- Phase Three - Audiences: The final phase of the project is led by Dr. Laurajane Smith and focuses upon audience responses to a number of museum exhibitions and installations. Audience interviews and surveys are being undertaken to document and explore the types of memory and identity work visitors undertake in response to exhibitions and events marking 1807. This phase is also concerned with interviewing community groups about their responses to specific exhibitions, and analyses the community consultation process within exhibition development and outreach programmes. It also aims to document how audience responses reflect and interact with public debates over 1807 documented in Phase One and Phase Two.
Collectively all three phases aim to document and understand the way that the 1807 bicentenary has been mediated and used by a range of agencies and audiences in framing and constructing what it means to be 'British' in the context of wider social and historical debates about multiculturalism. More generally, the project hopes to provide insights into the way traumatic and contentious histories, memories and experiences are taken up, negotiated and mediated in the various stratum of public debate. Each phase of the project builds upon the other to help develop a layered and nuanced understanding of the way the events and personalities key to 1807 have been remembered, forgotten, utilised or ignored in drawing social and political meaning out of the bicentenary.
The results from this research will be made available for discussion through this website which is produced by the 1807 Commemorated project team in collaboration with the Institute of Historical Research.
The insights from the individual phases of the project will be relayed to museum practitioners and academics in a series of three workshops. These will be designed to facilitate feedback between the partner museums and the grant holders, and thus enable the knowledge transfer process between the project and its partners. The final outcome of the project will be the promotion of the workshop findings to inform public policies on heritage and exhibition practices dealing with traumatic and contentious cultural histories and issues.
The project will enable the grant holders and partner museums to achieve a number of objectives:
- A sense of how individual exhibitions interlink with public social and political debates about the meaning of 1807.
- An archive of resource material about the exhibition process.
- Inter-museum discussions about, and understanding of, the exhibition development process.
- Establishment/reinforcement of a network between Knowledge Transfer fellows, partner museums, media and community groups.
- Broadening of expertise on the critical evaluation of commemoration as a means of evaluating public consumptions of the past in modern society.
- An understanding of audience reactions to exhibitions and the implications of this for exhibition development and outreach.
- Methodologies for continuing audience evaluations.
The two-year project is a major collaboration between 1807 Commemorated and IPUP with six national museums - the British Museum, the International Slavery Museum, part of the National Museums Liverpool, the British Empire and Commonwealth Museum in Bristol, the National Maritime Museum in Greenwich, the Museum in Docklands, the Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery and the Wilberforce House Museum in Hull. Of the 5 partner museums, 3 are creating new permanent galleries, most significantly the 2nd floor of the National Maritime Museum into an Atlantic World Gallery and an Indian World Gallery; the 3rd floor reorientation of the British Empire and Commonwealth Museum called 'Breaking the Chains'; and the annex for the National Museums Liverpool called The International Slavery Museum. These reorientations of national museums are groundbreaking because until recently the subject of slavery has been largely absent. Now in 2007, not only will the exhibitions acknowledge the fact of slavery but also national museums will put the transatlantic slave trade centre stage. Museums want to participate in discussions about how to display problematic and uncomfortable content about the experience of slavery.
- Dr. Laurajane Smith - Principal Investigator for 1807 Commemorated, Archaeology Department, University of York
- Dr. Geoff Cubitt - Co-Investigator for 1807 Commemorated, History Department, University of York
- Professor Helen Weinstein - Chair of Data Development Committee for 1807 Commemorated, Institute for the Public Understanding of the Past, University of York
- Dr. Michael White - Co-Investigator for 1807 Commemorated, History of Art Department, University of York
- Kalliopi Fouseki - Research Assistant for 1807 Commemorated, Institute for the Public Understanding of the Past, University of York
- Ross J. Wilson - Research Assistant for 1807 Commemorated, Institute for the Public Understanding of the Past, University of York
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All work on this website is attributable to the authors stated in the work itself. All other work which is not attributed to an author is by Ross Wilson.