In 1753, Sir Hans Sloane bequeathed his collection of over 70,000 objects to the nation, founding the British Museum’s collection, and those that would become the British Library and Natural History Museum.
His collection spanned from natural history specimens to ancient sculpture, plants and contemporary 18th-century objects. But Sloane’s collecting is tied closely to colonialism, empire and slavery – his family profited from sugar plantations in Jamaica worked by enslaved people, and some of the objects in his collection were also collected with assistance from enslaved people. So how do we navigate Sloane’s story in the 21st century?
Guests Miranda Lowe and James Delbourgo explore Sloane’s life, collecting and legacy with Hartwig Fischer and Sushma Jansari, and examine the role of slavery and enslaved people in his collection and collecting practices. They also consider how museums should respond to these histories and to figures like Sloane.
Miranda Lowe is Principal Curator and museum scientist at the Natural History Museum.
James Delbourgo is the James Westfall Thompson Distinguished Professor of History at Rutgers University, New Jersey.