Institute of Ideas: Slaves To The Past
Tate Britain with the Institute of Ideas – part of Museums and Galleries Month

= The Institute of Ideas' mission is to expand the boundaries of public debate by organising conferences, discussions and salons, and publishing written conversations and exchanges. =

March 2007 marks the 200th anniversary of the abolition of the slave trade in the British Empire. Is this cause for celebration, or should we instead reflect on the evil of slavery itself?

Many museums, galleries and heritage organisations are taking the opportunity to explore the legacy of the slave trade, and their own role in it as institutions implicated in the politics of Empire. How should they approach this? Should museums make restitution for collections built on slavery, for example?

Or are there problems with the current preoccupation with documenting and commemorating slavery? Does the focus on man's inhumanity to man obscure the more inspiring lessons of history? Are museums and heritage organisations neglecting their responsibility to document the past objectively, by engaging in 'the politics of apology'?


  • Josie Appleton: convenor, Manifesto Club, and freelance journalist
  • Maurice Davies: Deputy Director, Museums Association
  • David Miles: English Heritage and author of The Tribes of Britain
  • Dr Mike Phillips OBE: novelist, historian, curator and Cross Cultural Consultant - Tate
  • Chair - Tiffany Jenkins: Arts and Society Director, Institute of Ideas

The Institute of Ideas
Slaves to the Past
Where: Tate Britain, Millbank, London SW1P 4RG
When: Mon 21 May 2007, 6.30pm
Tickets: Tickets are free but must be reserved. Please email with your name and affiliation. Visit the Museums and Galleries Month website for more events

Institute of Ideas