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Intended for Jamaica Exhibition

The new exhibition Intended for Jamaica exhibition opened at the Library of Birmingham on 10 May, originally due to run until 24 August it has now been extended until Sat 14 December 2024.

Intended for Jamaica

For more than 200 years, the stationary steam engine has been celebrated as a testament to the pioneering industrial heroes of Boulton, Watt, and Murdoch, who played pivotal roles in Birmingham's Industrial Revolution. Yet, beneath this celebrated narrative lies a missing chapter, one interwoven with the threads of transatlantic slavery, indentured (bonded) labour, and the enduring legacies of colonialism.

Intended for Jamaica is an artist-led project that is responding to archives held in the Boulton and Watt Collection at the Library of Birmingham. The exhibition will include new photographic work that focuses on an unseen part of the archive held within the collection that sheds light on the sale of Boulton and Watt steam engines from Soho Foundry near Birmingham to sugar plantations in Jamaica during the nineteenth century.

The project seeks to explore the collection through artist research that has also been informed by fieldwork in Jamaica to create new artworks in direct response to the archival records detailing Boulton and Watt's trade with sugar plantations in Jamaica.

The exhibition will also include unseen archive material relating to Boulton & Watt's sale of steam engines to the Caribbean including engine drawings, maps, and correspondence. Exhibits also on show will include; artifacts from Tracey Thorne's own Jamaica collection and a photograph relating to James Watt 'The Accused' (Carey's Finger) by artist Vanley Burke.

The exhibition seeks to unite these historical objects with the sites they represent, bringing them together for the first time and importantly, giving agency to this story. It focuses on the power of reorganising information and bringing previously unseen artifacts into the spotlight, curated with a broader lens to engage new audiences with the historical material.

Read More about the project here

Intended for Jamaica exhibition opens to the public on Friday 10 May until Saturday 14 December 2024. The exhibition is free and located in the Gallery on the 3rd Floor, Library of Birmingham, Centenary Square, Birmingham.

Opening times

Mon - Tue 11 am until 7 pm

Wed - Sat 11 am until 5 pm.

Closed on Sundays and bank holidays.

Please refer to the main Library of Birmingham website for general access information. For further information or access requests for any of the events listed below please contact the artist directly in advance - contact the artist

Exhibition Programme

All events listed below are free unless stated.

Intended for Jamaica Launch Event - Thursday 9 May 6 - 7.30 pm book here

Intended for Jamaica Meet the Artist Talk - 11 May 2 - 3 pm book here

Intended for Jamaica Meet the Artist Talk - 22 June 2 - 3 pm book here

Intended for Jamaica Meet the Artist Talk - 13 July 2 - 3 pm book here

Artist Research Talk (ONLINE) - 1 Aug 6 - 8 pm book here

Robinson 1804 Map of Jamaica Archive Session - 3 Aug 11.30 - 12.30 book here

Cyanotype Workshop: Making Blueprints - 29 June 12 - 2 pm - £5 book here

Note: The cyanotype workshop will be held off-site at the Old Print Works, in Balsall Heath, with all materials provided.

The exhibition has a dedicated education zone (quiet area) with selected reading available from the library's main collection relating to the exhibition theme. If you would like to arrange for small group visits contact the artist.

About the Artist

Intended for Jamaica is an independent artist led-research project and the exhibition works and curation are by Tracey Thorne, a Birmingham-based photographer and photo artist. The artist came to make the work after discovering something of this history in St Thomas in Jamaica which is close to an area where she had been living on and off since 2017. 

Tracey was born in Cornwall and grew up in a mining community, an area dominated by extractive industries and Boulton & Watt's early engines. Tracey moved to Birmingham in the late 1980s, and her work in Jamaica directly relates to the influence of Jamaican culture on her life over the last thirty years and her close family connections. Read more about the artist here

The exhibition has been supported by Arts Council England. The exhibition is delivered in partnership with the Library of Birmingham, Birmingham City Council. The initial artist research blog Sugarland was published in 2022 and is available here

Boulton & Watt Collection

Boulton & Watt Collection is held at the Library of Birmingham there is free access to the material via a pre-booked appointment in the Wolfson Centre for Archive Research on the Fourth Floor. The catalogue is available digitally here 

For further information please contact the artist

Photograph: On the Road to Worthy Park Sugar Estate, St Catherine, Jamaica

Photograph: On the Road to Worthy Park Sugar Estate, St Catherine, Jamaica. A Boulton & Watt, stationary steam engine was sold to the sugar plantation owned by the Prices of Penzance in 1846 to power their sugar mill. The engines were built at Boulton & Watt's, Soho Foundry, near Birmingham, and later shipped by sea to Kingston, Jamaica.


© Tracey Thorne
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