MILES Greenwood is the newly appointed curator of legacies of slavery and empire at Glasgow Museums. Here he talks about some of the objects in the collection that will come under his remit.

Glassford Family Portrait

A painting of tobacco lord John Glassford and his family by Archibald McLauchlan, dating from around 1767. It was gifted to Glasgow Museums in 1950. A myth grew about a young, enslaved boy who had been painted over. This theory was disproved during conservation work in 2007.

"As far as we know, the enslaved boy wasn't painted over," says Miles Greenwood, curator of legacies of slavery and empire. "It was more that, over time, the painting faded, and dirt collected on it. After cleaning, this was revealed.

"The reason I find it interesting is that it encapsulates something else that is important about the slave trade in that, on this mass scale of forced transportation of human beings, the identities of the enslaved people were largely lost.

HeraldScotland: Glassford Family Portrait. Picture: Copyright © CSG CIC Glasgow Museums and Libraries CollectionsGlassford Family Portrait. Picture: Copyright © CSG CIC Glasgow Museums and Libraries Collections

"Their names were either taken away from them, changed and adapted, or in this case, the boy in the painting, completely lost.

"We know quite a lot about John Glassford, who is centre stage of this painting, but one of the tragedies of the slave trade is we don't know anything about this particular enslaved boy and we know so little about similar boys who would have lived in aristocratic households.

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"The boy occupies this space as a prop to showcase the wealth of Glassford and not as a human being. It is important that we try to recentre the narrative to think about these people as individuals who would have had lives and wherever possible find out more about their experiences."

Sherbro Dagger

An Afro-Portuguese dagger from Sherbro Island, Sierra Leone, with carved ivory handle. It became part of the collection in 1974.

"The dagger dates to the 15th century, a time when there is the earliest direct Atlantic trade between Europeans and Africans," says Greenwood. "This is prior to the mass trade in human beings.

HeraldScotland: An Afro-Portuguese dagger from Sherbro Island, Sierra Leone. Picture: Copyright © CSG CIC Glasgow Museums and Libraries CollectionsAn Afro-Portuguese dagger from Sherbro Island, Sierra Leone. Picture: Copyright © CSG CIC Glasgow Museums and Libraries Collections

"It is important because when we think of the slave trade, we almost kind of imagine this is the start of the history of black peoples. Whereas people across Africa – from West Africa to Egypt, Ethiopia and Zimbabwe – had these ancient, complex cultures that were incredibly rich and advanced.

"To understand the impact of the slave trade in terms of what was lost, changed and survived, we have to understand what was there before."

Orisha Figure of Osain

Cuban artist Filiberto Mora's The Rhythm of the Saints exhibition at Kelvingrove in 2001 comprised more than 40 papier mache deities of the Afro-Cuban Santeria religion. Glasgow Museums purchased five pairs of these Orishas in 2002.

"What the figure represents is a deity of the Santeria religion," says Greenwood. "Santeria is most common in Cuba but it is practised across the Americas and has roots in Yoruba culture and religion from what is now modern-day Nigeria.

HeraldScotland: Orisha figure of Osain made by Filiberto Mora, Cuba. Picture: Copyright © CSG CIC Glasgow Museums and Libraries CollectionsOrisha figure of Osain made by Filiberto Mora, Cuba. Picture: Copyright © CSG CIC Glasgow Museums and Libraries Collections

"It is important because it shows enslaved African people fought hard to retain their cultures, religions and identities despite colonists trying to eradicate them.

"People in Africa who were enslaved, forcibly transported across the Atlantic and underwent brutal forced labour, still maintained connections to their roots as is shown by this modern work of art."

Rani of Jhansi

A dhokra brass alloy sculpture of the Rani of Jhansi by father and son artists Ramu and Shubho Karmakar from West Bengal. It was commissioned in 2013.

"Again, this is a modern piece," says Greenwood. "This alloy sculpture depicts Rani Lakshmi Bai, known as the Rani of Jhansi, a warrior queen and one of the leaders of the 1857 Indian Rebellion against the British East India Company.

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"She is depicted on horseback with a sword aloft and her adopted son tied around her back. That is how she is said to have fought in battle against the British.

HeraldScotland: Rani of Jhansi. Picture: Copyright © CSG CIC Glasgow Museums and Libraries CollectionsRani of Jhansi. Picture: Copyright © CSG CIC Glasgow Museums and Libraries Collections

"The reason why it is important is the Rani of Jhansi is a symbol of resistance for many Indians against British rule. It shows that colonised and enslaved people rarely accepted the status quo. Many resisted covertly and overtly against oppression.

"And, in this case, contributing heavily towards the end of East India Company rule and forcing the Crown to take control in starting the British Raj."

For the full interview with Miles Greenwood from The Herald Magazine, click here.