Beyond the Spectacle: Native North American Presence in Britain - new project from University of Kent

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25 October 2017
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GettyImages-72634913-07164.jpg Queen Elizabeth II meeting Bruce Two Dogs Bozsum and Mark Brown at a ceremony at Southwark Cathedral in 2006, to commemorate the death of one of their tribal ancestors, Mahomet Weyonomon, on a visit to London in 1736
A major three-year project to provide a comprehensive history of Native North Americans in Britain over the past 450 years has been launched by the University of Kent.

A major three-year project to provide a comprehensive history of Native North Americans in Britain over the past 450 years has been launched by the University of Kent.

The project, entitled Beyond the Spectacle: Native North American Presence in Britain, will look to document all forms of Native North American travel across the Atlantic, whether it resulted in return trips, onward movement into Europe, or even long-term residence in Britain.

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Its researchers are asking the public for help to uncover previously unknown historical objects and stories related to the subject that may be in their family.

Although focusing over 450 years, the project will have a particular focus on the last 150 years to the present day, a period which has not previously been examined in any depth.

It will also look beyond the traditional focus on metropolitan centres such as London and instead examine how Native visitors travelled throughout Britain and established mutual relationships, economic exchanges, and cultural connections across the whole country.

Source material

The project researchers intend to draw upon a diverse range of source material, much of it never previously examined, such as archival holdings, museum collections and oral histories.

They will also use a dynamic crowdsourcing campaign to uncover stories and material objects retained by private individuals or by descendant communities of those Native North Americans who travelled to Britain or who made their home there.

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Anyone who thinks they may have information of interest is asked to visit the project website.

As well as traditional scholarly analysis the researchers intend to present the material they uncover in a variety of exciting and thought-provoking ways. For example, four artist residencies will allow Native artists (working in visual, performative or musical media) to showcase representations of their own engagement with the material.

Mapping journeys

Furthermore, digital mapping will allow the project to produce interactive maps of the journeys made by Native travellers, which will create powerful visual representations of these transatlantic networks.

The findings of the project will also be disseminated as widely as possible including through public workshops, the creation of educational resources for school students, creative partnerships with local art groups across Britain, and open discourse with Native communities in the USA and Canada.

(image copyright Getty, courtesy of Beyond the Spectacle Project)