Culturally sensitive images

Culturally sensitive images

The breadth and historical nature of our collection, particularly relating to naval and maritime activity, spans a wide range of historical subjects and contemporary issues, often connecting the two.

Images of the transatlantic slave trade and colonial slavery are historic visualisations of an inhuman system of suffering and exploitation. Many show the casual violence that was endemic within the slave system. Black people, whether free or enslaved, are almost always depicted in a derogatory and racially stereotyped manner, reflecting the widespread European prejudices of the day. A significant number of the historic images also have inscriptions, which frequently use words and phrases that are offensive and upsetting. Although the visual culture of slavery is difficult and distressing, it provides an essential resource for contextualising important and often disturbing episodes in global history.

Exploration is often understood to refer to the long-distance journeys of Europeans into unfamiliar parts of the world, especially from the 18th century onwards. As a set of ideas and practices relating to scientific knowledge, individual endurance and state power, it has had a powerful hold on the imagination. More recently, discussions about what exploration is, who its heroes are and the roles of Indigenous communities in expeditions have led to much more nuanced understandings of these histories.

We endeavour to write captions that are accessible, respectful and accurate, consulting with individuals, communities and specialists to address the complex and challenging themes within our collections. We continue to review and update captions for factual inaccuracies and inappropriate or harmful content, so please do contact us at if you find documentation on the site that needs to be addressed or corrected.