New Audiences at Sites of Colonial Slavery: Cases in the Caribbean and Africa

By Valika Smeulders.

Published by The International Journal of the Inclusive Museum

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Article: Print $US10.00
Article: Electronic $US5.00

Museums and other heritage producers are motivated by different reasons, varying from the portrayal of national narratives and the education of the general audience to the overdue representation of previously underrepresented groups and goals of a commercial nature. In the 1990’s, UNESCO started encouraging heritage producers to break the silence around colonial slavery. Since then an increasing amount of heritage producers with an array of different perspectives and goals have produced new presentations of slavery. This development is taking place on both sides of the Atlantic: in Suriname and Curaçao as well as in Ghana and South Africa. Who are the visitors of these presentations? The various population groups in these countries, descendants of enslaved, enslavers and other groups, relate to colonial slavery in different ways. As do various groups of international tourists, that in some of these countries are considered very important heritage visitors. Based on research at eight presentations in four countries, this paper will shed light on the audiences that visit presentations of colonial slavery, the motivation for their visits and their reactions to the presentations. It will focus on the productions which are successful in attracting new audience groups and analyze which strategies in marketing and outreach have worked.

Keywords: Slavery, Heritage, Museums, Visitors

The International Journal of the Inclusive Museum, Volume 5, Issue 2, pp.13-22. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Article: Electronic (PDF File; 282.324KB).

Valika Smeulders

Journalist and Researcher, Netherlands Antilles

Valika Smeulders studied Languages and Cultures of Latin America at the University of Leiden. As a freelance journalist and researcher she specializes in diversity in the Netherlands, focusing on the position of the Dutch Antillean community in Dutch society. She is especially interested in the heritage of colonial slavery and the way this is dealt with nowadays in different countries. She is co-author of Op zoek naar de Stilte: Sporen van het slavernijverleden in Nederland (KITLV, 2007), a book on heritage institutions and slavery heritage in the Netherlands. In “Exhibiting The Heritage of Slavery”, published in Living History: Encountering the Memory of the Heirs of Slavery edited by A. L. Araujo (Cambridge Scholars Publishing, 2009) she compares the organization and reception of a traveling slavery exhibition in Suriname and Curaçao. “New Perspectives in Heritage Presentations in Suriname and on Curaçao: From Dutch Colonial Museums to Diversifying Representations of Enslavement” is published in: Caribbean Museums, edited by A. Cummins, K. Farmer and R. Russell. (Common Ground Publishing, 2012). For her PhD thesis at the Erasmus University Rotterdam, she added research in Ghana and South Africa.

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