Imperial Legacies and Decolonial Futures: Investigating the Science Museum Group's 'Wellcome' African Material (Sep 2022 - Sep 2023)
I took up the position of African Collections Research Curator (ACRC) at the London Science Museum from the start of September 2022. This position was established in 2022 to enable the Science Museum Group (SMG) to conduct its first ever systematic investigation of the African material currently on long term loan from the Wellcome Trust. This material was originally collected by Sir Henry Wellcome (1853 – 1936) through his colonial networks during the heights of the British empire. Through this appointment, both the SMG and Wellcome Trust intended to gain greater knowledge of the its provenance and significance, as well as future research and engagement opportunities regarding the Wellcome African material, which has mostly remained unexplored since the 1970s when it first entered the Science Museum. My task as the ACRC was carried out through three central means: 1) conducting primary and secondary research on the material, 2) establishing relevant networks between museums and stakeholders across Britain, Africa and other international sites, and 3) through a final Report appraising the collection material and recommending next steps.
The final Report produced from my thirteen-month investigation into the material was intended to provide an overview examination of the history and current state of the Wellcome African material which will enable the SMG and Wellcome to forge future methods of strategic engagement in line with the policies and priorities of both institutions. Crucially, given that the National Collections Centre, Wroughton – where the vast majority of this material is now housed - will be fully open for public tours, schools, and research visits in from 2024, my final Report plays a pivotal role in facilitating appropriate engagement, networking, and research opportunities in both the immediate and distant future for both the SMG and Wellcome.