A new one-year project from the Scarborough Museums Trust aims to engage residents of the Borough of Scarborough and across Yorkshire in conversations about race and the environment.
From Local to Global will connect with researchers and environmentalists across the UK and the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). The project, which has received Â£ 130,000 in funding from the National Lottery Heritage Fund, will use as a focal point the Harrison Collection, part of the Museums Trust collections named after Colonel James Harrison (1857-1923) of Brandesburton Hall, East Yorkshire.
Harrison embarked on expeditions around the world to hunt sports and animal trophies, and in 1904 brought six indigenous peoples from the Ituri forest to what was then known as the Belgian Congo (people who were believed to have been described as “pygmies”) which he toured the country in public exhibits, most notably at the London Racecourse and in the House of Commons.
The Harrison Collection of Artifacts collected by or belonging to Colonel Harrison includes taxidermized animals, diaries, phonograph records and photographs, creating a comprehensive record of our colonial past.
It will be the starting point for activities, including the development of a network of âcitizen researchersâ recruited from local community groups, including the Museums Trust’s own volunteers, with the support of the Scarborough Library and volunteers from Scarborough Conservation, to research the collection and connect with environmental experts, activists and academics here and in the DRC to research Harrison, colonialism and broader environmental issues.
The project also aims to develop a campaign to encourage action and advocacy for the environment, as well as a school learning program for primary, secondary and sixth graders.
It will include a year-long program of films, lectures, artist commissions and a website to attract a wide and diverse audience, culminating in an exhibition at the Scarborough Art Gallery next fall that will build on community-led research and will offer a range of alternative perspectives.
The project will be overseen by East Yorkshire-based Gifty Burrows, an experienced inclusive practitioner who recently led the highly acclaimed Heritage Lottery Funded African Stories in Hull and East Yorkshire, who explored the stories of the local people of African descent, and From Local to Global will build on this work.
“The historic imprint left on Scarborough through this collection provides a glimpse into the 20th century colonial attitudes and values ââattached to Africa, its people, culture and natural resources. It is hoped that by exploring Harrison’s expeditions in the Ituri forest in particular, we are better able to rebalance the misunderstandings that still resonate today.
The design of the project brings together many complex themes but with recognizable strands as contemporary issues such as the loss of species, our changing environment and the hidden aspect of forced labor in a way that connects Yorkshire to the rest of the world.
Scarborough Museums Trust Curator Dorcas Taylor says:
âThis project is not only important to the Scarborough Museums Trust, but also to our local communities and to the people who still live with the impacts of our colonial past. We want to make visible a part of Yorkshire history that says a lot about past attitudes towards people and places that experienced colonial rule and reflect on the lessons to be learned from that. We also want to use this project as a constructive platform to share the stories and voices of the DRC to help communities organize themselves to respond to the environmental challenges that ultimately affect us all.
Andrew Clay, Managing Director of Scarborough Museums Trust, says:
âThis project is really significant for us because it gives us the chance to sensitively reassess a Collection that has been hidden from view for several years. Visitors will be able to view the Harrison Collection and take a critical look at how Africa has been portrayed in a way that has yet to be addressed. We would like to thank the National Lottery Heritage Fund and the National Lottery players for providing the funding to help us on this journey. Without it, we would not be able to undertake such an ambitious and vital project.
Dorcas Taylor added:
âWe hope this project will inspire the people of Scarborough or Yorkshire to get involved in finding historic links with the DRC or exploring the links between our natural environment and that of the DRC today. This project opens up so many ways to learn more about our shared stories and to create present and future local and global collaborations.
To learn more about how to get involved, please visit: https://www.scarboroughmuseumstrust.com/from-local-to-global/