Re-Framing the Collection

In common with museums and galleries locally, nationally and internationally we are working to uncover the full history of artworks and objects in Aberdeen Archives, Gallery & Museums’ collection. Where this relates to histories involving or linked to British colonialism, it can sometimes be referred to as ‘decolonising the museum’. This is a long-term process that seeks to recognise the integral role of empire and colonialism in museums – from their creation to the present day. At AAGM we have started to explore what this means for the collections we hold in trust.


What is the wider museums and galleries sector doing? 
Museums Galleries Scotland is the national development body for the Scottish museums' sector. The Empire, Slavery & Scotland’s Museums project has made recommendations to the Scottish Government on how Scottish museums and galleries can confront challenging histories. You can read the recommendations here.

Follow the link to read a series of blogs about the challenges before museum educators, curators, and theorists in their quest to decolonise the museum

Follow the link to read the Museums Association’s statement on decolonisation


What is Aberdeen Archives, Gallery & Museums doing? 

Re-framing the Collection exhibition 
Aberdeen Art Gallery, 15 October 2022–29 January 2023
This exhibition shares our approach to tackling offensive or outdated language in artwork titles and our efforts to bring new and varied voices into the interpretation and curation of the collection. You can read our renaming statement here.

You can find details of artworks that have been renamed so far on our e-museums pages here.

Local Heritage Symposium: That Belongs in a Museum!
Aberdeen Art Gallery, 24 September 2022
This year we held the first in what will be a series of events exploring how artefacts end up in museums, who puts them there and why – and what it all means once they’re part of a collection. Throughout the day we invited discussion and comment from speakers and members of the public around the themes of improving representation of Aberdeen’s residents in the collection. Panellists included Emily Freeman (Treasure Trove Manager), Neil Curtis (Head of Museums & Special Collections, University of Aberdeen), Lesley Anne Rose (Safe Harbour: Open Sea project), Dr Anthony Schrag (artist and senior lecturer in Cultural Policy and Arts Administration, Queen Margaret University); Derek Jennings (Book of Deer Project), Steven Watt (AOC Archaeology); Sue Taylor (Alford Heritage Museum); Joan Bruce (Garioch Heritage Society); Bruce Mann (Regional Archaeologist); Patricia Weeks (Live Life Aberdeenshire); Jenny Brown (curator, AAGM). We’ll be working towards holding a second event in 2023 – keep an eye on our website and social media for updates.


The History and Legacy of Enslavement in Aberdeen
We have been working closely with Dr Richard Anderson at the University of Aberdeen, to identify Aberdeen’s connections to transatlantic chattel slavery. This has included the recent installation of a plaque on the Powis Gateway in Old Aberdeen. Details of the plaque can be found here.

Twenty-five sites or streets in Aberdeen have been identified as having links to transatlantic chattel slavery, with a further 60 to investigate. The next step is to undertake community consultation on the best way to share this history with the people of Aberdeen and the world.


Aberdeen Built Ships
Aberdeen Built Ships is a database of over 3,000 ships built in Aberdeen, researched by volunteers over nearly 20 years. As part of work to clean and standardise data for a new-look website, we are identifying ships with links to slavery, empire and colonial history, and where women played active roles. We hope to investigate their stories further and would welcome more volunteers to help. We expect to publish any research online by 2025.

For further information about these projects and to get involved please contact