The Sloane Lab has appointed the following Community Fellows to contribute to “The Sloane Lab: Looking back to build future shared collections”, led by University College London (UCL) in partnership with the Technische Universität Darmstadt, British Museum (BM) and Natural History Museum (NHM). The fellows are undertaking creative, critical, practice and/or research-led projects with the Sloane Lab’s Knowledge Base and data, demonstrating the new forms of analysis and interpretation the project unlocks.
Dr Gayle Chong Kwan
Project: Travelling Taxonomies
Travelling Taxonomies asks how can research that encompasses cross-disciplinary and diasporic fine art practice complicate ideas of fixed taxonomic boundaries and hierarchies in Sloane’s ‘Miscellanies’. The project will use multi-disciplinary approaches to explore, blur, layer, and complicate ideas of fixed and stable boundaries and hierarchies of text, objects, and images in the taxonomies to which Sloane established and propagated. The project will explore multiple strands of movement, flux, and flow that are: inherent in Sloane’s collection; are between disparate aspects of the collection; and as creative conjectures at the edges of taxonomies. The project will focus on Sloane’s ‘Miscellanies’ and will research: the lists; the objects to which they referred; and cabinets in which they were displayed. It will explore and conjecture objects that are missing and make connections with other objects in the British Museum collection. It will travel beyond Sloane’s taxonomies to explore the historical uses, meaning, and context in the countries from which they were taken. Outputs include: workshops with community groups; digital data sets which tabulate research; sets of digital Miro boards; digressional, anecdotal, and relational mapping of images, objects, connections, tensions, and gaps; which will be developed into a series of photographic prints, which combine aspects of digital data and analogue research.
Dr Dorothy Kyagaba Sebbowa
Project: Sloane’s involvement in the local history of Jamaica: Inquire into African Slave Trade and Slavery
The project aims to document collections about Sloane’s involvement in the local history of Jamaica with inquiries into African Slave Trade and Slavery.
This project aims at achieving the following objectives:
i). To conduct a carefully constructed research-based study on Sir Hans’ Sloane ‘s Jamaican collections (specimens, flora, fauna used by the slaves, masters, Trans-Atlantic Slave trade). The history of slavery and the experience of enslaved people at Sloane Lab has been largely uninvestigated with notable gaps and omissions, reference to the Specialist Guide to the Sloane Database. The guide is currently completely silent on the question of enslavement (just mentioning ‘plantations’).
ii). To work with and participate in training and co-design activities with the Sloane lab team (engage in ongoing, participatory research with Sloane lab team and (Anti) Colonial Archives Working group as a network that brings together archival practitioners, cultural heritage and GLAM sector professionals and volunteers and academic researchers hosted by Cambridge Digital Humanities).
iii). To deliver online workshops with the academic researchers, students at the School of Education Makerere University and (Anti) Colonial Archives Working group members hosted by Cambridge Digital Humanities.
iv). To engage in ongoing debates with collection-holding institutions in the former colonizing countries in order to stimulate critical reflection within and between those institutions about how the legacy of slavery, colonialism has shaped these collections until now.
Anna Sofia Lippolis
Project: Exploring polyvocal knowledge in the Sloane collections
This project draws from the notion of polyvocality to understand how researchers can represent in a machine-readable way both historical biases and different conceptualisations of objects among cultures and states, so that users of online collections can be aware of different perspectives and contexts items can be looked at. The main aim of the project is to find design patterns in the collections to help create an ontological module for polyvocal sources, which, to the best of my knowledge, doesn’t exist yet. The ontology would be populated with instances of the collection and would eventually be included in the Sloane Lab platform (and subsequent UI), where users would be able to query the collections and receive results that spread awareness on controversial items, along with an explanation of why a certain answer is returned to the user. Apart from articles and conference papers, the output of the research consists in the creation and publication of the ontology, its population with relevant items of the collections and the documentation of all the tools employed in the process. The reusability of the ontology for other use cases will be investigated, along with the applicability of the enriched platform to educational settings such as high school or university courses on history and colonialism.