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The National Lottery Heritage Fund gives £9.9million award to transform Liverpool’s International Slavery Museum

Thanks to money raised by National Lottery players, a £9.9 million Heritage Horizon Award will be given to The International Slavery Museum in Liverpool, it is announced today.

The award will help to extend and transform the existing collections and galleries into a comprehensive and inclusive museum that addresses the impact and legacies of historic and modern slavery, the first of its kind in the UK.

By telling the challenging stories of enslavement, and celebrating Black achievement, the International Slavery Museum will become a symbolic beacon of hope. It will connect with a wider range of people and through a community-led model of working, speak with the voices of those most affected by the legacies of transatlantic and modern slavery. It is one of five Heritage Horizon Awards, totalling over £50 million, to be given to ambitious and transformational projects across the UK by The National Lottery Heritage Fund.

The International Slavery Museum will work with the local community and those most affected by the legacies of slavery in Liverpool, across the UK, and internationally to provide the representation and integration needed for visitors to fully understand the significance of the location.

Developing the historic Dr Martin Luther King Jnr building to create a new entrance to the museum is at the centre of the regeneration of the waterfront. This will mark the beginning of visitors understanding the history of Liverpool’s waterfront through the lens of the transatlantic slave trade. It was once one of the world’s major commercial ports in the 18th and 19th century, instrumental in the growth of the city and the country and a hub for slave ships.

The reinvigorated International Slavery Museum is key to National Museums Liverpool’s (NML) Waterfront Transformation Project which will also allow visitors to explore and experience the nearby Canning Docks, where ships – including slave ships -were repaired. Storytelling will extend beyond the Museum’s walls through a new pathway that supports the visitor’s understanding of this historic environment. The project will set the foundation for the integration of Black heritage in all National Museums Liverpool’s venues’ collection.

The Heritage Horizon Awards were launched in 2019, thanks to funding from National Lottery players, to support ambitious, innovative and transformational projects that will revolutionise UK heritage. These awards have become even more important since the pandemic, as they will transform lives and economies, put the UK at the lead of major environmental, cultural and heritage projects and show confidence in the heritage sector to rebuild and thrive.

At a time of enormous global challenges, the Heritage Horizon Award to the International Museum of Slavery provides a national and international opportunity to nurture innovation and completely reimagine how museums work with communities to shape the preservation and interpretation of historic legacies. More than just a museum, it will become a central resource for organisations throughout the sector, supporting them to be agents of their own change.

David Renwick, Director England, North at The National Lottery Heritage Fund, says: “Empowering a wider range of people to engage with heritage is a key priority for The National Lottery Heritage Fund, which is why we are proud to support the International Slavery Museum in this transformational project. Our funding will help create a flagship museum, a community-centric, inclusive and internationally relevant space for academic rigour, debate and sharing. As part of a wider regeneration project in the Liverpool Docks, the Museum will also contribute to a positive social and economic legacy for the area and the heritage sector. Investing in heritage projects with inclusion at their heart improves people’s lives and makes communities better places to live, creating jobs and supporting local economies. We ask the projects we fund do their utmost to think inclusively when considering the future of our cultural heritage. The International Slavery Museum will do exactly that as it seeks to engage people with the legacies of transatlantic and modern slavery. We’re excited to work with them and to see how they will develop their project in the months and years ahead.”

Laura Pye, Director, National Museums Liverpool, says: “We are thrilled that The National Lottery Heritage Fund Heritage Horizon Awards has awarded the International Slavery Museum with £9,930,000 and thank them for their tremendous support and encouragement as we step into this exciting new chapter. This grant gives us the opportunity to unlock the huge potential to co-create welcoming and thought-provoking spaces for education, exhibitions, discussion, and research. We also have the chance to realise our aspirations to create a dramatic and prominent entrance for the museum via the Dr Martin Luther King Jnr building. It will also be crucial in enabling us to enhance the Maritime Museum with both museums being just steps away from where slave ships were once fitted out and repaired.

Now more than ever, we must tackle the themes around historic slavery, human rights, racism, and discrimination, and the funding will go further than the International Slavery Museum in allowing National Museums Liverpool to incorporate Black history and the legacies of slavery into all our venues. Social movements and the growing discussion of Britain’s role in the slave trade have changed the urgency for this discourse, and thanks to the National Lottery players, we will be able to support a revitalised programme to expand and develop this approach as well as creating new exhibition and community spaces.

We are really looking forward to starting the transformation and to continue to deliver a powerful, inspiring, and engaging visitor experience for all.”