Welcome to Ancient History, Contemporary Belonging

Ancient History, Contemporary Belonging is a UKRI–funded project based at the Manchester Centre for Youth Studies and led by Drs Jennifer Cromwell and Caitlin Nunn. The project is a creative exploration of the migration of ancient historical objects with migrant-background young people. The project is a collaboration – across ages, backgrounds, practices, and expertise – and is conducted in partnership with Manchester Museum and Sheba Arts. The project is funded by a UKRI ‘citizen-science’ award (2021 – 2023) which seeks to promote co-produced research across different disciplines.  

The migration of people and objects—from the ancient world to the present day—is an important part of national and transnational histories.  However, these histories are often presented through colonial and colonising narratives, which emphasise difference and overlook and silence diverse perspectives. Ancient History, Contemporary Belonging collaborates with migrant-background youth researchers to address this, by generating innovative new biographies of ancient historical objects from their regions of origin, now housed in UK collections.
Combining archival research with a participatory arts-based research approach that engages with youth researchers’ own lived experiences, this project aims to produce new understandings about the migration of both contemporary young people and ancient historical objects. Centred on the knowledge and expertise of migrant-background young people, this project introduces co-production and participatory arts-based practices to the discipline of ancient history, and conversely the use of ancient history and heritage in refugee studies.
Through the development of an innovative new approach—participatory arts-based object biography—this project will open up new possibilities for inclusion and belonging and create unique opportunities to explore shared histories and inheritances.


  • To collaborate with migrant-background young people to critically and creatively research the biographies of ancient historical objects from Manchester Museum. 
  • To use art techniques to explore the biographies of ancient historical objects and to share the outcomes in an exhibition at Manchester Museum and online. 
  • To use the long history of the migration of objects and people to encourage wider societal discussion about colonialism, migration and belonging in the UK.
  • To work with youth researchers to develop skills, knowledge, and networks. 
  • To show how projects like this can build bridges between communities and the heritage sector and help create new knowledge and understandings.

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The artwork for this project’s website has been produced by Anastasia Morozova. It is a collage of objects from Sudan, Palestine, Syria, Iran, and Iraq, today housed in Manchester Museum. You can find more information about the objects included in this image here.

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