Enriching our Interpretation

During Black History Month last October we began to look more closely at our collections. In partnership with our local community, volunteers and researchers, we have been exploring links to Black histories, Empire and colonialism. Here, our community engagement manager, Harvinder Bahra shares an update our Black Chiswick through History Project.

Black Chiswick seeks to explore our collections through a diversity of voices and perspectives. Local young people from Chiswick School and Hogarth Youth and Community Centre worked alongside staff, researchers and curators to explore the history of Chiswick House & Gardens.

Led by historians Raj Pal and Nadege Forde-Vidal, the young people asked us to question traditional approaches to interpretation and curation and provided new and progressive ways of understanding our collections. Focusing on six objects within the house and gardens, this new research drew out stories of people, places and experiences related to Black history, linking global connections across time and cultures.

Inspired by their findings and their own diverse backgrounds, the young people produced a series of thoughtful and creative responses to the collection. They delved into themes that had relevance and importance to them as young people living in Chiswick today. Some of their responses can be seen in the House when you visit this season, in the forms of films, artworks and audio content. Importantly, asking us all to consider how people of colour have been, and continue to be, represented throughout our shared history in places of national heritage.

Chiswick School have produced a series of short films exploring the visibility of people of colour in historical houses. They address the changing attitudes towards faith communities. Highlighting how influences of African art and culture can be found throughout our Gardens and how some of our most iconic sculptures can be linked back to prominent people of colour in history.

Hannah Nonnenmacher, Head of History at Chiswick School said:

Working with Chiswick House has been a fantastic opportunity for our Sixth Form students. The chance to engage so deeply with their own local heritage has been eye-opening. Although these students have walked past Chiswick House every day for many years, most have never been inside.  All felt that it was a place very far removed from their identity and their own lives. Watching them reconsider these opinions and engage with their local history in a completely new way has been a privilege for me.

Young people from Hogarth Youth and Community Centre worked with artist Ayesha Weekes to ‘put the colour back into Chiswick’. Placing themselves within an intricate and layered collage, referencing their own personal connections to Chiswick, while making visible people of colour present within the house, within the local and national history.

Black Chiswick through History is an ongoing community research project, looking more deeply at our collections and challenge us as an organisation. We will continue to work in partnership with our local community to explore and question our collections and help us redefine how we understand our shared local history. Importantly, making these interconnected and diverse histories visible to all those who work at and visit Chiswick House & Gardens. If you would like to know more about the Black Chiswick through History project please contact: community@chgt.org.uk

This project has been delivered in partnership with English Heritage and Shout Out Loud. Supported by The National Lottery Heritage Fund and The Linbury Trust.