Many people would be surprised to learn that the debt from compensation awarded to plantation owners by the British government was only paid off by  taxpayers in 2015, says Nelson Cummins.

He is the curator of a new exhibition charting Glasgow's own links to transatlantic slavery and colonialism, which run deep within the city's streets, statues and buildings.

Around £20million was paid to enslavers for 'loss of property', a sum that would total billions in today's money.

Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum is among the first cultural institutions in the UK to create a new, permanent display that does not shy away from the suffering that fuelled the wealth of the Second City of the Empire.

The Herald: An exhibit in Glasgow City of Empire at Kelvingrove MuseumAn exhibit in Glasgow City of Empire at Kelvingrove Museum (Image: SNS)

An opium pipe is displayed in a glass cabinet highlighting the drug's use by Chinese seamen to blur the effects of harsh working conditions.

A museum worker educated in Glasgow in the 1960s describes in a video how pupils were taught about the city merchants who led the sugar, tobacco and cotton trade but nothing of the plantation workers who toiled for the city's riches.

"You were taught that everything good was white," says a woman in the same video reflecting on her school years growing up in Zimbabwe.

The Herald: For over 30 years the Christian transported huge amounts of colonial goods between Jamaica and Greenock, some of which were produced by enslaved people. The ship was owned by Stirling, Gordon & CompanyFor over 30 years the Christian transported huge amounts of colonial goods between Jamaica and Greenock, some of which were produced by enslaved people. The ship was owned by Stirling, Gordon & Company (Image: SNS)

Some of the material carries a warning that it may cause offence or pain including a nursery textbook published in 1943 that contains racist language and images. Visitors are encouraged to "sit with this discomfort".

READ MORE: Agenda: Learning how to teach about slavery 

"Without slavery, modern-day Glasgow would look completely different in terms of its size, its population and its influence," says Scots actor David Hayman, who narrates another video in the exhibition - Glasgow City of Empire - which opens on Friday.

Duncan Dornan, the city's head of museums and collections, said the display was the culmination of three years of research and was something that Glasgow's people had asked for.

"They told us they were broadly aware of the issue but wanted to be presented with the facts so they can form an informed opinion," he said.

"We need to understand our history and where Glasgow comes from. Glasgow is the shop window for the factory floor but what happened here was replicated across the country.

The Herald: A door made for the Indian pavillion at the Glasgow International Exhibition1888A door made for the Indian pavillion at the Glasgow International Exhibition1888 (Image: SNS)

"It helps us to understand why we are all here. It's a city of immigrants, we all ended up here because of the activities of the empire and people in modern-day Glasgow are building and developing the city together so I think that this context is vitally important in order to move forward as a cohesive society."

The Herald: Kelvingrove Art Gallery and MuseumKelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum (Image: Newsquest)

He said Glasgow had "led the way" in repatriating objects to their countries of origin referencing the return of the Lakota Ghost Dance shirt to the South Dakota Cultural Heritage Center in the United States in the 1990s.

READ MORE: New book highlights hundreds of sites tying Glasgow to the slave trade 

Efforts to recognise the colonial legacy of artifacts within the museum are ongoing. A text panel next to the painting of Queen Victoria's state visit to Glasgow for the 1888 Empire Exhibition has already been updated. The exhibition was held to raise funds to build Kelvingrove, which opened in 1901.

Many of the museum's natural history specimens were sourced in the colonies.

Part of the exhibition is dedicated to the acts of resistance by plantation workers who are frequently depicted as "passive" said Mr Cummins, who is Glasgow's Life's curator of legacies of slavery and empire.

The Herald: Nelson Cummins, curator of Glasgow City of EmpireNelson Cummins, curator of Glasgow City of Empire (Image: SNS)

Women who rose against the ranks are also rarely mentioned, he says.

There is a bronze statue of Rani of Jhansi, from 2013, who was one of the first women freedom fighters of India who revolted against the British in 1857.

She died fighting British colonial rulers near Gwalior in a place known as Kotah-ki-Serai. 

READ MORE: Walking tour highlights Glasgow's links to the trans-Atlantic slave trade

"Not only are these histories that shaped Glasgow's past but they also have a huge impact on Glasgow's present day," said the curator.

"In highlighting historical racism that Glasgow has been complicit in we get an understanding of how we end up being a city that still struggles with those issues."

The exhibition, which is in the museum's south balcony, has been co-curated with the Our Shared Cultural Heritage (OSCH) Changemakers. 

The Changemakers are a group of young people who explore the shared cultures and histories of the UK and South Asia.

Presented alongside the exhibition is a film installation and ceramic works by Aqsa Arif, who has been artist-in-residence for Kelvingrove since August 2022.

She said: "The film installation and ceramic works delve into themes of South Asian ornamentalism with the museum, uncovering the narratives behind the objects within their collections.

"Exploring South Asian rituals, traditions, and the collective act of creation has been a profoundly cathartic way to challenge and reclaim the colonial gaze.”