Speaking for Ourselves

Putting ourselves in the picture

Putting ourselves in the picture


 Migrant Voice - Putting ourselves in the picture

Imagine being left out of your own story. Then imagine that there are lots of stories being told about you, but you’re not the one telling the story. There’s a frame around your picture, but you don’t recognise yourself.   

All too often that’s the situation for migrants’ own stories, and this and its consequences are what Migrant Voice was set up to address. In our Putting Ourselves in the Picture project in Glasgow, we’re working to address the missing migration stories in the heritage of Scotland.

Scotland has a long history of emigration and immigration, and the impact of it can be seen all around, from its infrastructure through to its culture. That heritage of migration has often been overlooked in public collections and institutions though. Now together with Glasgow Museums, we are working to rectify that, and ensure the stories of those who have made Scotland their home are seen and heard.

On Saturday September 16 we are  thrilled to launch our new exhibition, Putting Ourselves in the Picture, at the Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum in Glasgow.

The exhibition is part of Migrant Voice’s ‘Putting Ourselves in the Picture’ project, which aims to ensure migrants are engaging  in a dialogue about how they are represented in museum collections. The vision is to not only see to the heritage of migrants being identified as part of Scottish history and life, but also to it being better represented in public institutions.

There is an appetite for this - the time is right. There has been increasing recognition about the need to fill the glaring gaps in the representation of migrants’ roles in Scottish history and society.  With the Black Lives Matter (BLM) demonstrations, and the controversy over statues and heritage connected to slavery and the empire, both museums and the wider public are interested in ensuring underrepresented and diverse voices are heard. This is driving changes in curation policies, and who decides whose histories are told and by whom.  That’s why we are pleased to be working on this project with Glasgow Museums. 

putting ourselves in the picture

At a time of hostility towards migrants, dehumanising language, and divisive policies, any absence of migrants’ own stories further skews the debate and adds to the misrepresentation. Through showing the interconnectedness of migration and the city it is our hope that more visitors become aware how migration is not one-way and is integral to the country’s history.

Our exhibition at the Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum in Glasgow is composed of sixty photos representing diverse experiences and lives, and it showcases not only the impact of immigration on Scotland’s rich heritage, but also the feelings of those migrants who have built their lives in the country.

Featured in the exhibition is Sir Geoff  Palmer, grain scientist and historian, and the first black professor in Scotland, who said: “In 1707 there were hardly any Scots in Jamaica, by 1800 there were about 300,000 slaves in Jamaica, and about 10,000 Scots, mainly men. Three quarters of the surnames in the Jamaican telephone book are Scottish, so many Jamaicans have some Scottish blood or history in them, whether they like it or not. So as I tell many Scots, your ancestors were not in Jamaica doing missionary service alone! Many Scottish people are fascinated by this history, because their historians never told them. Why should historians hide the truth? It is the truth that sets people free to be fair to all.” It is that truth which this exhibition will help to showcase. 

Launching on 16 September, the exhibition provides a safe space to explore and understand the experiences of those who have chosen to settle in Scotland. It will run for a year at the Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum in Glasgow alongside a programme of public events.

The exhibition is part of our Putting Ourselves in the Picture project funded by the National Lottery Heritage Fund. With thanks to National Lottery players. The project will run several activities, including photography and illustration exhibitions, publications, and workshops, exploring and celebrating the heritage and contributions of those who have made Scotland their home. For more information contact marzanna@migrantvoice.org.

Image credit: Photos are a collage of images from the exhibition, which includes portraits taken by photographer Karen Gordon and by others who participated in our Changing lenses project.

Get in touch

Migrant Voice
VAI, 200a Pentonville Road,
N1 9JP

Phone: +44 (0) 207 832 5824
Email: info@migrantvoice.org

Registered Charity
Number: 1142963 (England and Wales); SC050970 (Scotland)

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