Britain was one of the most significant sources of missionaries to Africa and the Pacific during the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. While histories of missionary activity continue to matter to people in these now strongly Christian parts of the world, attitudes to Christianity in Britain, and its history of overseas missionary activity, are increasingly ambivalent. Nevertheless, a great deal of material heritage associated with early missionary encounters remains in Britain, where it is widely neglected. This material includes:
* items collected as evidence of pre-Christian religious practices, many of which are now regarded as rare and major works of art
* gifts received by missionaries from local people
* materials that were used to appeal to supporters in Britain
* the personal possessions and portraits of famous missionaries
* relics of the ships used by missionaries to reach their destinations
This AHRC funded networking project aims to create a conversation between academics, museum curators and representatives of missionary societies, as well as church bodies and heritage organizations in Africa and the Pacific to establish who cares about this heritage in the present, and who should care for it in the future.
Three workshops will be held between November 2012 and June 2013 at the National Museum of Scotland, the Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology in Cambridge, and the Sainsbury Research Unit in Norwich. The project is a partnership between researchers at these three organizations, as well as the Museum Ethnographers Group, a charity that exists to ‘Make connections through world collections’. As a recognized ‘Subject-Specialist Network’ in the museum’s sector, the Museum Ethnographers Group will use its connections to influence museum practice in relation to the cataloguing, conservation and exhibition of collections of missionary material.
For more information see project webpage