Wilberforce House Museum, Hull

Robin Diaper, Curator of Maritime & Social History

I never paid much attention to careers advice at school, and after leaving school with A-levels in History and English Literature I spent a couple of years doing this and that: a bit of time in London where I discovered the National Gallery, a bit of time on the dole. The time came when I felt I ought to finish my education and go to university, much to my parent’s relief.

I was lucky enough to study History and English Literature at York St. John, spending much of my time in the historic Grays Court near the Minster, but crucially I had a work placement at the National Railway Museum which helped to focus my goals. I did my Masters in Museum Studies at the University of Leicester and briefly worked at Snibston Discovery Park, before moving on to Harewood House and then to the Guildhall in Hull.

 I now curate the maritime and social history collections and am involved in the ambitious Hull: Yorkshire’s Maritime City project, supported by the HLF. This will celebrate Hull’s role as major maritime city both past and present and is integrally linked to the broader City Plan for Hull, which the UK City of Culture was also part of in 2017. Hull is an amazing city and we want everyone to discover that. Wilberforce House Museum is obviously a key part of that heritage.

 This 17th century former merchant’s house is where Wilberforce was born and is one of our key sites. People come here from all over the world. It’s hard to overstate Wilberforce’s achievement alongside his general philanthropy. Of course, he didn’t achieve abolition of the slave trade and slavery alone but he was the political figurehead of that campaign, who worked tenaciously and at the expense of this own health.

Of course slavery continues today, even in Hull. History is never dead and the importance of learning from it has never been more important, in my view.

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