Exhibition to reveal Highlands’ slavery links

The Highlands’ connection with slavery will be highlighted at an exhibition next week thanks to a collaboration between local school pupils and the University of the Highlands and Islands. The “Looking Back to Move Forward: Slavery and the Highlands” exhibition, which opens at the Highland Archive Centre in Inverness on Wednesday, is part of a wider project which investigates the Highland’s links with the slave trade.

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L-R: Janet Baker, Inverness Archive Centre; Dr Karly Kehoe, UHI Centre for History and Dr Elizabeth Ritchie, UHI Centre for History

Academics from the University of the Highlands and Islands’ Centre for History have been working with a group of sixth year pupils from Inverness Royal Academy to create the display which shows just how extensive the Highlands’ links with the West Indies were.

Using the school’s rarely seen minute books and enrolment registers, the exhibition will reveal the role the slave economy played in generating funds to establish and build the original Academy. It will also look at the diversity of the student body at the turn of the nineteenth century, the reality of life on the plantations for Scots labourers, the extent to which a Highland network operated in the British Empire.

Describing the project as a “great experience” pupil David Mardon (17) said: “Everyone involved really enjoyed it. We believe in the project as it uncovers the past and gives us and other local people an insight into how the Highlands evolved. We’re privileged to have been given the opportunity to work with Dr Kehoe and Dr Ritchie from the University of Highlands and Islands. We’d like to thank the University of the Highlands and Islands for the opportunity and hope that similar projects will be available to pupils in future.”

Dr Karly Kehoe, a lecturer at the Centre for History, developed and leads the project. She said: “The links between the Highlands and the slave trade were extensive, but it’s a topic that’s been under-researched. The students we've been working with are making a real contribution to scholarship and learning about the history of their region’s development in the process.

“The programme, which links research with public engagement, is critical for inspiring the intellectual, cultural, social and economic entrepreneurship needed to make this region sustainable. Academics have a responsibility to participate in this process and the University of the Highlands and Islands must take a lead in this.”

Inverness Royal Academy History teacher Mr John Quigley added: “This project has given students an insight into original primary evidence and a real hands-on experience in learning about the connections between Inverness Royal Academy and the development of slavery in the Highlands.”

The “Looking Back to Move Forward: Slavery and the Highlands” exhibition opens in the Highland Archive Centre foyer on 10am on Wednesday 7 December. It will run for two months.

Media contact

Susan Szymborski
Communications officer
01463 279222