New lecture exposes Edinburgh’s links to the slave trade
Sir Geoff Palmer O.B.E., the respected human rights activist and Professor Emeritus in the School of Life Sciences at Heriot-Watt…
26th July 2018
Edinburgh World Heritage
The exhibition, housed within the atmospheric 17th century former kirk, attempts to capture the essence of the World Heritage Site in Edinburgh through the voices and opinions of local people. The story is told in a series of videos, quotes, and specially commissioned portraits from award-winning Scottish photographer Alicia Bruce.
‘Our World Heritage’ explains what makes Edinburgh’s heritage so special and internationally recognised as well as highlighting some of the issues associated with the World Heritage Site. A series of sections, with titles such as ‘City of Contrasts’, ‘Survival Stories’, and ‘High and Mighty’ set out the formal reasons for the city’s UNESCO inscription, but also challenge residents and visitors to think differently about the city and consider some uncomfortable questions. These range from whether we are doing enough to conserve the authenticity of the site, the role of the transatlantic slave trade in funding the city’s extraordinary 18th and early 19th century expansion, and the absence of women in the city’s many grand statues and monuments.
‘Our World Heritage’ also describes Scotland’s other five UNESCO sites – St. Kilda, The Heart of Neolithic Orkney, the Antonine Wall, New Lanark, and the Forth Bridge. These sites showcase the best of Scotland’s natural wonders, ancient past, and social and industrial genius. The space will also house ‘John Kay’s Shop at the Tron’, a museum-style shop selling specially commissioned heritage merchandise unavailable elsewhere on the Royal Mile. Proceeds from the shop will go towards supporting the initiative.
The new use for the Tron has been initiated by Edinburgh World Heritage, the charity responsible for the conservation and promotion of the city’s World Heritage Site, and is part of a longer-term effort to conserve and fully refurbish the building. The Tron, which is currently on Historic Environment Scotland’s ‘At Risk’ register, has been described as one of Edinburgh’s most difficult conservation challenges.
Adam Wilkinson, Director of Edinburgh World Heritage commented: ‘This is a first step in a longer-term plan for the Tron. We are just scratching the surface in terms of the meaning and importance of World Heritage in Scotland, but it’s important we start raising awareness of these wonderful sites and having open and honest discussions about some of the issues. The building itself is in a poor state, as people will see for themselves, but we are confident that over time we will be able to properly conserve and refurbish the Tron so that it becomes, once again, central to the life of the city’.
Barbara Cummins, Historic Environment Scotland’s Director of Heritage added: ‘Our vision is that as many people as possible understand and appreciate Scotland’s six incredible World Heritage Sites, so this new exhibition is very welcome. This important building also needs a long-term sustainable use, which has been a challenge for the city for many years. We look forward to working even more closely over the coming years with our partners at Edinburgh World Heritage and the City of Edinburgh Council to make this project a success’.
Cllr Neil Gardiner, Planning Convener of City of Edinburgh Council, commented: ‘I’m delighted to see the Tron used for such an important purpose. Edinburgh’s heritage belongs to all our citizens. Our World Heritage Site is so important to Edinburgh – for cultural, social and economic reasons, and the more people who understand and engage with it, the better for its long term conservation. The Tron initiative can make heritage accessible to all our communities and international visitors, whilst also highlighting the challenges we must face together. The building also holds a special place in many people’s hearts, as the place where Hogmanay was traditionally celebrated in Edinburgh. I would encourage everyone who lives in, or visits the city to go along and enjoy the exhibition’.