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Community researchers from the Telling our Stories: Finding our Roots project

Telling our Stories

Exeter has always been connected to other parts of the world. The objects in RAMM’s collections represent some of the journeys that have passed through, started or ended in the city. The museum collaborated with community researchers exploring Exeter’s multicultural past as part of the Telling our Stories: Finding our Roots project.

“People often think that Devon is all white and always has been. That’s not the case – this project aims to unearth some hidden stories of hidden people, said Ghee Bowman, coordinator of the project, which was led by Devon Development Education and funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund. The stories it uncovered included the city’s Jewish past, the earliest Chinese restaurants, the foundation of the mosque, as well as the Indian solders, black American GIs, and abolitionists who spent time here.

Volunteer researchers from a range of backgrounds, ages, ethnic groups and nationalities spent two days in 2012 taking a close look at RAMM’s collections, including the wealth of information available online and artefacts in the museum store. The group discussed the museum’s colonial legacy with curators and other staff, and raised thought-provoking questions. They talked about the famous Portrait of an African, previously identified as Olaudah Equiano but now thought to be Ignatius Sancho. They looked at metal u-shaped manillas used as currency in the slave trade, and red Devon clay moulds for manillas that were made in Exeter. And they talked about the prehistoric hand axes that represent Devon’s earliest migrant arrivals.

The project held a storytelling evening at RAMM, and produced several films. The project’s video about the Hindu god Ganesh is displayed in the World Cultures gallery alongside the marble statue that inspired it, and is incorporated into the museum’s online information about its collections. The Telling our Stories website includes a walking tour of Exeter, materials for schools, and a timeline of the city’s multi-coloured history.

For further information contact Ruth Gidley, Community Participation Officer, RAMM

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