Slavery & The Bank

Exploring the history of transatlantic slavery through its connections with the Bank of England

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Client:   Bank of England Year:   2022 Location:   London, UK Services:   Exhibition Design Fabricator:   Omni Colour

Founded in 1694, the Bank of England’s history coincides with Britain’s involvement in the transatlantic slave trade. In 2021 the Bank commissioned research into those historical links, covering the period from 1694 to 1888.

As part of this work, in 2022 the Bank of England Museum launched a public exhibition drawing on some of the findings from the research. Visitors learn how the wealth created by slavery shaped the development of Britain.

The exhibition describes the role of former Governors and Directors who featured in some of the portraits and busts that were removed from display in a private area of the Bank. The exhibition also examines other types of involvement the Bank had with the transatlantic slave trade and is told through a select number of objects in the Museum’s collection combined with graphics, including reproductions of archival material.

 

 

We established a core tone of ‘powerful’ as the content needed to stand forward in amongst a visually busy setting. This was realised through considered uses of form, scale, materiality, colour, typography and imagery. The exhibition itself required a strong and consistent framework that could act as the foundation for which to either increase the volume with powerful moments, or alternatively, to shift the tone into a more reflective and thought-provoking space.

Inspired by the notion of creating powerful moments, we devised a large hanging ring that is suspended above the visitors head as they walk around the space. Its form reflects the circular shape of the room, complimenting the grand scale of the ceiling to create a multi-faceted device which is memorable, informative and emotional.

On the outer face of the structure is the exhibition title along with a time-line of the slave trade which serves as a contextual tool for visitors of all ages. The internal side features a delicately typeset composition of all 599 names of the enslaved people from the Granada Plantation.

The core technique for delivering the content is via large hand-painted MDF panels. By dropping the panels into each case we were able to re-purpose the existing structures of the cases, making for a more resourceful outcome. Objects such as coins or spoons could then be fixed to the back wall on a bespoke rod that extrudes through die cut holes in the MDF panel, spotlighting objects and bringing the viewer closer to the content in an engaging manner.

Praline took the time to understand the brief and the history we were looking to present from the outset. Their approach to developing the exhibition design was led by a collaborative consultation process that allowed a multiplicity of voices to shape how we told this story.”

Kirsty Parsons and Libby Paterson, Exhibition Curators, Bank of England Museum