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"To Whom Does This Belong?"
A Powerful Exploration of Black History in Cornwall's Archives
The short film 'To Whom Does This Belong' is a powerful exploration of Black history in Cornwall's archives. Created with the support of Cornwall Museums Partnership, the film features members from Black Voices Cornwall as they handle documents and archival material related to Cornwall's history and its links to the trade of enslaved African people.
The film was produced and edited by Ashton John and Caroline Deeds and features a haunting, melodic track by Cornwall-based folk singer and composer, Angeline Morrison. It opens with a coastal scene in Porthcurno, giving a sense of regionality and space.
The film captures the voices of Black people in Cornwall as they explore archival records and documents, some of which contain harrowing and violent accounts of the treatment of enslaved Africans on board a ship. It is a powerful account of the care needed in archive and museum spaces and the recognition of the trauma involved in reliving racialized experiences to fully understand the legacies of our past.
The film is an iteration of ideas and thinking that has evolved over time with Cornwall Museums Partnership, Kresen Kernow archives, and local award-winning documentary filmmaker, Caroline Deeds. It was made with the support of Art Fund, Sandra Shakespeare (founder of Museum X and initiator of the Black British Museum Project and Museum Detox), and Chloe Philips formerly of Kresen Kernow.
Since 2020, Cornwall Museums Partnership and Museum X have been working together to understand the collections held by Cornish museums and archives relating to Black history and increase access to them for people of color. In the same year, Kresen Kernow started a project to re-document their collection to accurately reflect Black Cornish history and the historical Black presence in Cornwall.
In 2022, Black Voices Cornwall were invited to Kresen Kernow to spend time with collections from the archives in Kresen Kernow and PK Porthcurno, Museum of Global Communications. The resulting film is a poignant and sensory experience that sheds light on the often-overlooked Black history of Cornwall.
'To Whom Does This Belong' is an important film that contributes to the ongoing conversations surrounding Black history and representation in museums and archives. It highlights the need for increased access to collections and the care required when handling sensitive material. It is a vital reminder of the importance of acknowledging and understanding the past to create a more equitable and just future.
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