Museums and the Web

An annual conference exploring the social, cultural, design, technological, economic, and organizational issues of culture, science and heritage on-line.

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Parliament and the British Slave Trade 1600-1807

Commissioned by the Parliamentary Archives and produced in association with Culture24.
Created by Lexara with graphic design by System Simulation Ltd.

This website allows users to browse, research and view archival documents, objects and pictures related to the 200th anniversary of the abolition of the British slave trade. The material featured on the site gives us a fascinating insight into the relationship between Parliament and the slave trade from 1600 and explores the issues and processes leading up to the passing of the Act in 1807. Narrative text on the site was written in collaboration with one of the UK’s leading experts on slavery, Professor Jim Walvin, and doesn’t shy away from the prominent role Parliament had in enabling the trade. One of the key ideas behind the site layout is that users should be able to explore the content of interest and relevance to them, clearly and easily. All historical material is presented in high quality, ‘zoomable’ viewers with supporting information ranging from archivists notes and context to teachers notes, transcripts and printable pdfs. The ‘History’ section offers a linear and chronological pathway through material. ‘Explore’ enables users to browse through material by type or simply in sets of interesting stuff chosen by members of the team. The database also throws up resources related to each individual asset a user is looking at, encouraging greater exploration. Audiences have been involved throughout the website’s development. Before launch family history enthusiasts transcribed thousands of petitions on signatures for the Archives, enabling us to invite users to search for and identify their relatives. Results of relatives searches are published on the website. The site has also gathered comments, reactions, writing and artwork from users and will continue to do so for several months. Another very interesting dimension is the ‘About the Archives’ section, which goes behind the scenes of this incredible archive and helps site users understand how it is these documents are cared for.As an online exhibition the website reflects a real-world exhibition presented in Westminster Hall at Parliament in the summer of 2007. It goes so much further than simply being a record of that display though – giving a home to its home to the output of its writer-in-residence and enabling the extensive research and expertise that went into the exhibition to become a resource available to all for a long time to come. This is particularly important for the Parliamentary Archives who have very limited display and visitor space and are keen to make their resources available for lifelong learning. This is a website you could browse for hours, tackling difficult issues with clarity, authority and sensitivity.

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