A visit to Post Abolition: Commemorative stamps from around the world

by Jennifer Flippance, 2010 Exhibitions & Project Manager 

The exterior of the Museum of London Docklands, a former dock side warehouse completed in 1802.

External view of the Museum of London Docklands

Earlier this week I visited the Museum of London Docklands to see their new exhibition, Post Abolition: Commemorative stamps from around the world. This is the first exhibition to open this year as part of the London 2010: Festival of Stamps.

The Museum is located in a former warehouse in West India Quay. Completed in 1802, West India Quay was the largest dock complex in the world, through which most of the nation’s sugar was imported. The sugar was produced on slave farms in the West Indies and the museum devotes an entire gallery – the London, Sugar and Slavery Gallery – to examining the transatlantic slave trade.

Visitors viewing the display Post Abolition: Commemorative stamps from around the world at Museum of London Docklands

Visitors viewing the display

It is in this gallery that you can see the new temporary display, Post Abolition: Commemorative stamps from around the world, until 30 June 2010. The display explores how the abolition of slavery has been commemorated through the everyday postage stamp.

It’s a fascinating look at the different approaches taken by different countries and how these have changed over time, since Sierra Leone issued the first stamp to commemorate the abolition of slavery in 1933.

Four drawings by students show scenes of slavery and slave ships, as well designs for commemorating Freedom From Slavery

Drawings by Barnet College students

I enjoyed finding out more about some of the differences in the images and symbols used on stamps that were issued by former slave colonies as opposed to countries like Britain and America. It was also interesting to see how, while these stamps have often depicted those involved with bringing about the end of slavery, more recently there is a shift from showing the public figures involved (like Abraham Lincoln) to those who struggled personally to end enslavement, like Toussaint Louverture, the Haitian revolutionary.

The final section contained designs by students at Barnet College, developing their own ideas about how abolition should be commemorated on stamps.

The Museum of Docklands and this display are well worth a visit. There are also two free talks about the collection, details of which are on the London 2010: Festival of Stamps website.

Three of the people who helped make the exhibition happen:  (left to right) Tom Wareham, Curator of Maritime and Community History, Nigel Sadler, Sands of Time Consultancy who loaned the stamps in the exhibition, Lucie Fitton, Inclusion Officer, Museum of London.

Three of the people who helped make the exhibition happen: (left to right) Tom Wareham, Curator of Maritime and Community History, Nigel Sadler, Sands of Time Consultancy who loaned the stamps in the exhibition, Lucie Fitton, Inclusion Officer, Museum of London.

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