The University of Cambridge houses significant collections from, and pertaining to, Africa, across its museums, libraries, archives, departments and other institutions. These include anthropological, art and archaeological collections; zoological, geological and botanical collections; books and manuscripts; maps, photographs and archives. The collections include items spanning deep prehistory to the present day, and records relating to the history of acquisition and research. Many of the collections were acquired within the context of British colonialism, and the University actively engages with countries and communities of origin to discuss the future of specific collections.
The Cambridge African Collections Futures Project, a new initiative funded by the University’s Research & Collections Programme, aims to produce a strategic assessment of these collections:
- Undertake a high-level mapping of African collections across museums, libraries, archives, garden and departments, including assessment of documentation, digitisation and cataloguing progress, including but not limited to artwork, material culture or natural specimens produced in the continent, made of materials from the continent, or representing Africa (e.g. artworks, maps, environmental data, colonial era documentation), and potentially extend to products relating to the African diaspora.
- Survey university, museum and heritage partners in Africa (including existing Cambridge collaborations) to consider potential for collaborative research or engagement programmes around these collections;
- Engage with Gardens Libraries Museums & Archives-related community partners in Cambridgeshire, to gauge audience perspectives on priorities, opportunities, challenges around African collections;
- Produce a report that sets out the history and range of collections, and the strategic opportunities and priorities for further research, collections development, public engagement and partnerships.