Ask a Curator: Have any items in your collection gone viral?

Ask a Curator: Have any items in your collection gone viral?

With the Black Lives Matter movement making headlines around the world, we’ve been having a lot of questions and requests about our Slave Medallion and Josiah Wedgwood’s early involvement in the abolitionist movement here in Britain.

In 1787, Wedgwood asked one of his chief modellers, William Hackwood, to model what was to become the most important symbol of the abolitionist movement. The small cameo featured a kneeling slave in chains and the motto 'Am I not a Man and a Brother?', which was also the seal of the Society. The slave medallions were worn in hatpins, brooches and necklaces and were also inset in other items, such as snuff boxes. They were one of the earliest examples of a fashion item that was used to support a cause.

Wedgwood produced the slavery medallions at his own expense and freely distributed them. One notable batch was sent to American Founding Father, Benjamin Franklin, in 1788. A copy of Josiah's accompanying letter exists in the museum archives, where he explained: "…the subject of freedom will be more canvassed and better understood…"