From local to global – new exhibition at the Scarborough Art Gallery – explores the impact of the actions of an East Yorkshire big game hunter
From Local to Global is part of a Scarborough Museums and Galleries project, which has engaged residents of the borough of Scarborough and beyond in conversations about race and the environment, forging connections with researchers and conservationists across the UK and in the Democratic Republic of Congo. .
The project revolves around a set of objects from the collection of the museum and art galleries: the Harrison Collection, brought back from Africa by Colonel James Jonathan Harrison (1857-1923) from Brandesburton Hall in the East Yorkshire, many of which will be on view in the exhibition.
A wealthy landowner and big game hunter, Harrison undertook expeditions around the world to hunt animals for sport. In 1905, he brought back six Bambuti natives from the Ituri forest in what was then known as the Congo Free State, which he roamed around the country as a “human zoo” for his own. financial gain.
The exhibition examines the legacy of British colonialists like Harrison in today’s world, and how attitudes around race, positioning white Britons above those in colonized countries, still influence attitudes today .
The Harrison Collection of artifacts collected by or owned by Harrison includes stuffed animals, diaries, gramophone records and photographs, creating a comprehensive record of our colonial past.
His widow, Mary Stetson Harrison, gave the collection to the Scarborough Corporation, where it was displayed in a room named after her – now the Scarborough Library Concert Hall.
In the 1950s the collection was transferred to the Wood End Natural History Museum and was absorbed into the museum’s collection, remaining largely forgotten for several decades.
This new exhibition explores the Harrison Collection as a dynamic new archive and includes artistic responses from artists Ila Colley, Andrew Dodds and InterStruct Collective of Porto, Portugal, who have each undertaken their own speculative and creative investigations into the collection.
Artist-photographer Dr Errol Francis, director of the independent arts and education charity Culture&, wrote an essay to accompany the exhibition and produced a photographic work.
Curator Dorcas Taylor said, “This exhibit does not follow the conventions of a traditional museum exhibit in telling Harrison’s ‘story’ or exploring the collection thematically. Instead, he acknowledges that this archive is an unfinished project, adding Congolese and African voices that have been missing from the collection until now. Our research has led to more questions than answers, so we’re sharing our learning, acknowledging our mistakes, and offering questions for further debate.
Citizen scholars from Scarborough and beyond, members of the Congolese diaspora in the UK, Bambuti from the Ituri forest, academics, students, artists and activists were introduced to the collection and helped demonstrate how a collection like this can act as a springboard for exploring multiple perspectives.
The exhibition is ongoing and will run until Sunday, February 19. The Scarborough Art Gallery is open 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily except Mondays (plus bank holidays).
Admission is free with a £3 annual pass.