The British Empire & Commonwealth Museum
The British Empire & Commonwealth Museum

Tel: +44 (0)117 925 4980

Fax: +44 (0)117 925 4983

Print This Page

Main Galleries
Breaking the Chains
Serving Empire

Breaking the Chains - The Fight to End Slavery

Breaking The Chains


"A magnificent carefully researched and presented exhibit."
Nancy Nelson, Denver, Colorado, USA.

"I emerged from the slavery exhibition feeling so moved."
Rosy Barnes, Edinburgh, Scotland.

"Excellent - a very sobering experience."
Louise McMillan, Bristol, England


BREAKING THE CHAINS is a £1 million Heritage Lottery Funded exhibition created to mark the 200-year anniversary of the 1807 Act that abolished the British Transatlantic Slave Trade.

This ground-breaking exhibition presents authentic artefacts, film, music, images, video and personal testimonies to provide visitors with an incredible multi-sensory experience. The entire top floor of the Museum is dedicated to telling the story of the Transatlantic trade in enslaved people, and the means by which this brutal transportation was brought to an end.

The exhibition has six galleries, a film theatre space and video response booth.

Gallery 1. What is slavery?

Slavery has existed throughout history. It still exists today. Discover what made the transatlantic slave trade so different from all other forms of human bondage.

Gallery 2. Africa and Europe

Immerse yourself in the richness and diversity of West African culture. See how early trade with Europeans degenerated into the capture and enslavement of African people.

Gallery 3: The Caribbean

Follow the horrors of the ‘middle passage’, then discover the reality of enslavement in the Americas, and how this was challenged by the courage and endurance of enslaved people.

Gallery 4: The Age of Abolition

The dawn of 'people power' – although the transatlantic trade was profitable for Britain, ordinary people throughout the country campaigned for it to end. But how was slavery itself overturned nearly 30 years later?

Gallery 5. Voices of the Caribbean

What is the price of freedom? Voices and images convey the struggle against injustice that continued in the Caribbean after emancipation.

Gallery 6. The end of slavery?

Find out why campaigns against slavery continue to this day, and learn of inspirational heroes who lead that struggle.


A multimedia gallery presenting a range of opinions, ideas and feelings about the legacies of the slave trade. Touch screens reveal powerful and emotive films on the themes of racism, identity, wealth, poverty and the Atlantic family.


A place to record your own thoughts and responses in audio or video format to any aspect of the 'Breaking the Chains' exhibition.


Personal testimonies, historical memoirs and modern day descendants bring this history to life through the exhibition’s interactive sound stations. See and hear how both spoken word and music provided an important vehicle for African expression and how black music has had a major influence on today’s popular culture.


To help younger visitors explore and understand the history and legacies of the slave trade a special Family Activities booklet is available to all families visiting the exhibition, free of charge.


A detailed teacher’s guide to the exhibition’s galleries with worksheets and a CD Rom is available to support group visits and follow-up classroom activities. The pack describes a number of learning techniques to explain and investigate the subject. It includes resources such as personal testimonies, images, maps, documents and key stage links.

Details of workshops, resources, trails and how your school could visit Breaking the Chains for free are listed on our Education Pages.

For more information on the Museum’s award winning Education programme call 0117 925 4980 or email:

Entry to Breaking the Chains is included with normal Museum admission prices.

Feedback & Comments

Please use the form below to submit any thoughts you may have on the exhibition and the issues raised within it.

Although none of the fields below are mandatory if you expect a response please ensure you complete your name and email address.

  I would like to subscribe to the mailing list for regular Museum news by email

Please note that personal data will not be sold or passed on to any third party.

Go Back

Station Approach, Temple Meads, Bristol, BS1 6QH

Tel: +44 (0)117 925 4980

Fax: +44 (0)117 925 4849

Copyright © British Empire & Commonwealth Museum 2007. All Rights Reserved. Registered Charity Number 1097205.