In recent years, we have been working on a new project – Facing Our Past – to research the legacies of slavery in Scotland as part of the wider, extensive research we undertake into topics and issues of interest and concern to the Trust.
When the Facing Our Past project began in September 2020, we were aware of around 20 Trust properties across Scotland that had connections to slavery. That number has now doubled to over 40 – more than half of our visited properties – and we anticipate that it may well grow as we continue to carry out further archival research.
These links are part of the wider history of Scotland, and we’re committed to expanding knowledge and supporting our staff and volunteers to address Scotland’s role in enslavement and colonialism where this is associated with our places. With our very large and varied portfolio – featuring museums, grand historic houses, humble cottages, magnificent gardens and landed estates – we have a unique opportunity to realise this ambition across Scotland, using our research to expand on the stories that our properties should tell, helping people to understand better our country’s complex history.
We are continuing a review of our buildings and estates in order to highlight the links to slavery to the millions of people who visit our places each year – we aim to integrate our findings with the historical interpretation. Some of these links include the story about the enslaved young boy (who was later freed) at Culzean Castle in Ayrshire; exploring multi-generational links to West Indian plantations at Pollok House in Glasgow; and looking at how wealth accrued from Jamaican plantations contributed to the building of Glenfinnan Monument.
Facing Our Past is now moving into its second phase, Colonial Connections, which celebrates the culture and heritage of the former British colonies. It will show both how Scots impacted on those colonies and how their culture and heritage enriched our properties and families. We shall realise our aims through international and local research, training and a rich variety of events and opportunities that are designed to engage with existing visitors and also encourage increased and diverse audiences to our properties.
We continue to facilitate research and creative interventions on these hidden stories. Such interventions have included commissioning Barbadian artist Annalee Davis to develop a suite of artwork on the dark connections between the Highlands of Scotland and Barbados, holding an exhibition of renowned artist Maud Sulter's work at Pollok House, developing community engagement programmes for marginalised communities, and fostering research through collaborations with higher education institutions across the globe.