The spectacular, award-winning Power of Stories broke footfall records during its four-month run in Ipswich in 2021. The exhibition - co-curated with the local Black community, allies and comic book experts - featured three original costumes of lead characters from Marvel Studios’ 2018 Black Panther movie: T'Challa, Okoye and Shuri.
The outfits sat alongside Marvel comics and historic museum items, which were carefully chosen to echo objects in scenes of the film.
In 2022, the Museum and Heritage Awards, the ‘Oscars of the museums world’, named Power of Stories the top Temporary or Touring Exhibition in a strong shortlist including titans of culture: the V&A, the Natural History Museum and the World Heritage Site of Blenheim Palace.
Overcoming the challenges of putting on an exhibition mid-pandemic, Power of Stories echoed Marvel Studios’ Black Panther’s inspirational call to millions of people around the world to think about where they came from and who they want to be.
The exhibition attracted more than 24,000 visitors to the small museum, despite Covid restrictions limiting numbers. It also attracted the most diverse audience in the museum's history and created a significant community impact. Take a look at the comic book-style report.
Intelligent, honest curation
The considered and authentic curation allowed visitors to explore how storytelling has shaped our lives through history and across the globe with a focus on the stories of the local Black community and heritage. The heartfelt production resulted in a concise yet showstopping experience, imbued with what was described as "soul" and authentic voices.
Much more than an exhibition, Power of Stories became a catalyst for reigniting a sense of belonging and pride among a Black community that had been chronically overlooked and underrepresented in Ipswich.
The social impact created a legacy which continues to evolve...
Power of Stories was originally produced with support from Arts Council England. Then, in a new partnership between Marvel Studios, the Association for Suffolk Museums at Suffolk County Council and Aspire Black Suffolk, the exhibition toured other locations in the county.
Each venue re-imagined Power of Stories to match their own spaces, cultures and specialist themes. While visiting Moyses Hall Museum, the Food Museum and Britten Pears Arts (Snape Maltings), the Marvel costumes acted as a catalyst to enable Black stories to come to life and trigger conversations about race and inclusion.
The museums worked with Aspire and other community members, such as ancient Africa historian Imani Sorhaindo, to ensure the integrity and authenticity of the original exhibition remains intact. We worked archivists and curators to develop Black history and cultural content, and trained staff in equality, diversity and inclusion.
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"This significant award, which is strongly fought for by the UK’s museums and galleries large and small, recognises great storytelling, enormous creativity, and a wonderfully positive impact on audiences. This was such an eye-catching collaboration between Marvel and Ipswich Museum, supported by a brilliant network of community organisations, that I had to visit it for myself. I loved it. Clever, bold, confident and, frankly, marvellous.” - Bernard Donoghue, Chair, Museums and Heritage Awards judges.