How Has the Image of the Georgian house changed
The 1800’s had been seen in a positive way and how Bristol’s involvement in trade accelerated its wealth. However, for many years many Bristolians were ashamed of there act in the slave trade and therefore were in denial that this wealth was driven by exportation of black slaves who had to face inhumane conditions. In the present day, Bristol has become more open to its involvement in the slave trade. An example of this is how slavery and plantations are mentioned more as part of Bristol’s history.
The Georgian house was re-vamped and open in 1997. The advertising leaflet described the house as “an exquisite Georgian house furnished in the style of the period (source Bristol Museum advertising leaflet). This source was written in 1997. Later it was changed to a “West India merchant’s town house of 1792 furnished in the style of the period” (1999). With time attitudes have changed. However, there is still no direct mentioning of the slave trade, telling us how we are still not completely open about slavery.
Furthermore, this source taken from ‘a guide to the Georgian House’ mentions negro (black) twice and says how a brief history of Pinney’s role in the plantations, again no real evidence supporting Bristol’s involvement in the slave trade. This guide was used since 1960-1970 portraying how views were ignored or the same (denial) for a very long time. Currently, racism considered wrong amongst the society it is still in existence such as in football. Therefore, reasons for being defiant towards Bristol’s contribution in the slave trade maybe racist views are still in existence.
Many, activists and pressure groups have tried to make Bristol more honest to its past. This is an account of a local a Bristol historian (2000) who collected evidence on slavery hoping they’d be put on display “in the Georgian house which would explain that Pinney got his money to build his house by the involvement in slavery. ” However the museum was against his request writing back a letter “why this could not be done. ” So the matter was discussed with a councilor but only one of her colleagues responded “that person was against the idea. ” So, despite the publics efforts Bristol can be defiant against slavery and racism.
On the other hand, acts have been taken to portray Bristol’s shameful connection in slavery, mainly encouraged by these activists such as BSTAG. This group was formed by the government in 1996 because of the protests at the docks and the anger in the black community to see what could be done. It included councilors, museum staff, and community workers some of whom were black. A historian joined the group and said how “members basically have organized all the things that have happened in Bristol on this issue since then including the panels in the Georgian House.
In September 1997 panels were placed in the house giving a description of Pinney, the slave trade, and Bristol. These panels are situated on the top floor in a small room on the top floor; therefore I don’t think these panels are trying to make an obvious connection with slavery and the Georgian house but I don’t think this is because of racism or denial but the reasoning behind the Georgian house. It was not rebuilt to establish Bristol’s links with slavery but is “first and foremost, a period-house museum, and the main display areas must reflect this.
It is a public museum portraying Georgian features so “a museum type display on the first floor: would make nonsense of recent work” (letter from museum 1992). Nevertheless, there are more acts showing Bristol’s acceptance to its participation in slavery. For example, in the Bristol Industrial Museum there are permanent displays to the slave trade and a plaque dedicated to the sufferings of slaves was unveiled on Dec 12 1997 by Ian White MEP for Bristol. Also, a bridge was named after a slave called ‘Pedro’.
Some argue this is “gestured politics” (Stephen Williams Evening Post 1998) and naming the bridge was due to pressure from black groups to show they have a heritage here and not doing it out of regret. Whether these gestures were sincere or just politics they have an affect. The Georgian House has changed by portraying aspects of slavery. Further acts include at 1996 Festival of the sea were many celebrated our sea-faring history there was a protest on the ignorance against slavery consisting of 20 white people (not just angered blacks). They gained TV publicity.
Also, a new director was appointed at the Georgian House to incorporate new ideas. So, through acts of the protests and pressure groups has changed the image of the Georgian House by linking the Georgian period to slavery. Therefore new additions to the house have been added such various items suggesting slavery (globes, paintings of the West Indies, sugar canes etc) but the main representation of Bristol’s involvement in slavery are the panels dedicated to Pinney and the slave trade. However, these are slight changes as the house is still primarily a Georgian House.