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Competition launched for holistic redevelopment of Liverpool’s International Slavery Museum

The redevelopment of the Martin Luther King Jr Building, formerly the Dock Traffic Office, will be the highlight of the project to transform the International Slavery Museum. Photograph by Adrian Murphy

National Museums Liverpool (NML) has launched a competition to transform its International Slavery Museum and neighbouring Maritime Museum in the city’s Royal Albert Dock.

NML says that the highlight of the building transformations will be the redevelopment of the former Dock Traffic Office (pictured) built in 1846, which was renamed the Martin Luther King Jr Building last year. The two museums are situated behind the King building, which will eventually form a grand and welcoming entrance for visitors.

Transatlantic Slave Trade

It is part of a wider ten-year project to transform the city’s waterfront with the recent appointment of Asif Khan Architects (currently designing the new Museum of London) and David Adjaye (who designed the National Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington DC) to transform the nearby Canning Dock which once fitted out, cleaned and repaired ships used in the transatlantic slave trade, which was instrumental to Liverpool’s economic expansion.

During the 18th century, Liverpool made about £300,000 a year from the slave trade and in the 1780s Liverpool-based vessels carried more than 300,000 Africans into slavery.

Last week, as part of the same waterfront vision, Tate Liverpool launched a competition for a £25m reimagining of its landmark gallery.

Diverse team

This latest competition sets out to select a diverse team of architects to refresh the International Slavery Museum and Maritime Museum, which both occupy a Grade I-listed former warehouse known as the Hartley Pavilion on Liverpool’s historic waterfront.

The winning team will lead a £1.75m project to improve exhibition spaces and circulation across the two museums while also creating a new community space.

“The team is to work with NML and our community partners in developing the transformation project for both the International Slavery Museum and the Maritime Museum,” the NML brief for the tender said.

“This would entail the refurbishment of both the Martin Luther King Jr Building and the Hartley Pavilion and the creation of a link bridge between both buildings at first floor level.”

Democratic and representative process

NML says the project will be co-produced through a ‘democratic, diverse, bold and truly representative’ process in consultation with members of Black communities and people whose lives have been affected by slavery.

“Our vision is to create a holistic and evolving blend of experiences and spaces to challenge and inspire visitors. The new offer will incorporate beautiful social, event and education spaces as well as temporary and permanent exhibition galleries interpreted through a radical, innovative, brave and cohesive design,” the brief said.

“We intend this project to be the catalyst for change in our approach to the interpretation of our collections, setting the foundation for the integration of Black heritage across NML. In the spirit of our project, we encourage diversity within the appointed design team to bring an authentic and inclusive perspective to the creative process.”

The deadline for applications is 10am, 7 February.

About the author – Adrian Murphy

Adrian is the Editor of MuseumNext and has 20 years’ experience as a journalist, half of which has been writing for the cultural sector.

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