Make the Link, Break the Chain was a ground-breaking international education project developed by National Museums Liverpool. In partnership with Plan UK, the project involved working with eight schools in Liverpool, Brazil, Haiti, Senegal, and Sierra Leone to explore slavery and its impact and legacy in communities along the trade route.
The impetus behind the project was to inform the development of the Education Programme for the new International Slavery Museum. It provided the staff with an excellent opportunity to work with international partners who could offer new perspectives and ideas that they could incorporate into the Education Programme and its resources.
The project’s format was multi-faceted. All pupils undertook a programme of study on slavery – examining both historical and contemporary examples – based on series of online shared resources. Pupils could navigate around the site, learning as they went along, and UK teachers found the lesson plans extremely useful. The learning process and outcomes from the participating schools were captured and posted on the internet and students created their own pages.
A critical element of this project was to offer pupils the opportunity to communicate in real-time with their peers around the world, and a bespoke online forum was developed to facilitate this. This enabled pupils to first get to know each other – sharing interests and hobbies – before moving on to discuss slavery and exchange cultural and personal perspectives. Conversations were carried out in English, the language barrier in Brazil and Haiti being overcome by using Portuguese and French speakers in the UK to translate the pupils’ emails. The development and technical aspects of the forum were managed by an external website management company.
Pupils also continued their studies offline, producing creative responses to what they had learned – from learning about the dance style Capoeira, which was first performed by Brazilian slaves, to composing and recording anti-slavery songs in Sierra Leone. Pupils in Liverpool worked with Clapperboard UK to produce four films about the transatlantic slave trade.The project culminated at the launch of the International Slavery Museum where the students’ work is now permanently displayed. Three pupils from Brazil, Haiti, and Senegal visited Liverpool to help celebrate the launch.
For museums and galleries in general, the project highlights the benefits of working with an international partner that has a presence in other countries. Collaborating with Plan UK, one of the world’s largest child-centred community development organisations, strengthened this project’s Case for Support and resulted in securing funding from DFID (Department for International Development) and Liverpool City Council for the total project costs, which was approximately £110K. Working with them also ensured that the delivery and outcome of this project was a success. Make the Link, Break the Chain won the International Award at the UK Museums and Heritage Awards for Excellence, and subsequently National Museums Liverpool has completed a further four international school projects.
Paul Khan, Deputy Director of Education and Visitors, National Museums Liverpool