Ann Stirling’s Dress

This charming dress represents not only a product of enslaved labour, but also the wealth of those involved in the slavery economy and their extended families. The gown is made from muslin, a finely woven cotton cloth, and has been delicately embroidered in white cotton thread with wheat ears motifs worked in satin stitch. The silhouette, with its wide collar, gigot sleeves and frill skirt … Continue reading Ann Stirling’s Dress

Robert Burns and Jamaica

Robert Burns (1759–1796), the celebrated ploughman poet, is lauded for the humour and earthy realism of his poems that raised the status of the Scots dialect and showed new respect for the rural poor in Scotland. He is a Scottish cultural icon and a national obsession. Many public monuments were erected in his honour in the nineteenth century, often through public subscription, with vast crowds … Continue reading Robert Burns and Jamaica

Inheritance and Privilege – Alexander Oswald of Changue

Among the many paintings in Glasgow Museums’ collection is a portrait by Andrew Geddes, of his friend, Alexander Oswald. Oswald was an advocate, or barrister, and landowner, and born into the Oswald family dynasty of merchants, MPs and propertied gentlemen.  The Oswalds had been established in Glasgow as colonial merchants and ship owners since the early 1700s and owned numerous estates including Scotstoun, Shieldhall, Moore … Continue reading Inheritance and Privilege – Alexander Oswald of Changue

Addressing the legacies of empire and slavery

I’m delighted and honoured to be joining Glasgow Museums as a curator focussing on the legacies of the British Empire and the trans-Atlantic trade in enslaved African people. This post, funded for two years by Museums Galleries Scotland, is a result of Glasgow Museums’ wider programme of activity addressing these issues. I certainly seem to be joining at an exciting time, with cultural institutions looking … Continue reading Addressing the legacies of empire and slavery

A Seat of Power

The Burrell Collection includes a chair with a large decorative crest, carved with the coat of arms of the Cann family of Bristol, with the date ‘1699’ inscribed into the rails of the chair. The Cann family amassed their wealth from plantations they owned in the Caribbean. Sir Robert Cann, 1st Baronet of Compton Greenfield (1622-1685), was a prominent merchant in Bristol and served as … Continue reading A Seat of Power

John Robertson: Cash for a Cashier

As seen by his signature on this guinea bank note in Glasgow Museums’ collection John Robertson was the Cashier for the Glasgow Arms Banking Office in 1778. The Glasgow Arms Bank was originally established as Cochran Murdoch & Co. in 1750, changing to Speirs, Murdoch & Co in 1763. It later became Murdoch, Robertson & Co a few years after this bank note was issued … Continue reading John Robertson: Cash for a Cashier

Cathkin House 1870

Cathkin House and Slavery

In 1870, James Maclehose published a volume of photographs entitled Old Country Houses of the Old Glasgow Gentry. The photographs were taken by Thomas Annan (1829 – 1887), and the text, by John Guthrie Smith and John Oswald Mitchell, catalogued the stories of the families who lived in them. Tom Devine has commented that “they were essentially uncritical hagiographies, silent on the slavery roots of … Continue reading Cathkin House and Slavery

Glasgow Museums and Collections T-SK-22-5

Glasgow Plantation Owners in Jamaica

In the 17th and 18th centuries Glasgow achieved commercial success through its trade in tobacco and sugar. Its merchants acquired land on the east coast of America and in the West Indies where the land was cleared for tobacco and sugar plantations.  The Scots relationship with the Caribbean became more significant, particularly after American Independence. Jamaica became the dominant island in the Caribbean and by … Continue reading Glasgow Plantation Owners in Jamaica

'Polygraphs' exhibition GoMA, Glasgow

Contemporary Art and Slavery

Polygraphs was an exhibition at the Gallery of Modern Art (GoMA) that explored truth, fiction and evidence in a complex world. The show was drawn from Glasgow Museums’ collection and included artists who interrogate dominant historical narratives such as our relationship to the arms trade, colonialism and the slave trade. In terms of Glasgow’s relationship to the slave trade we included works by Beth Forde, an … Continue reading Contemporary Art and Slavery