Wednesday 22 February, 2017

National Museums Scotland has been awarded £390,000 by the Arts and Humanities Research Council for a £480,000 project to explore artefacts acquired by British servicemen during military campaigns in India and Africa.

Baggage and Belonging: Military Collections and the British Empire (1750 – 1900) will explore existing collections in over 130 military museums across the UK, investigating how these objects were acquired and why, revealing the stories behind encounters between non-European peoples and British imperial forces.

The material legacy of non-European military campaigns is widespread yet relatively little is understood of how this important material was brought back to the United Kingdom. These are the proceeds of looting, trophy-taking or souvenir hunting on the one hand and co-operation, diplomatic exchange and scientific enquiry on the other. The research project will be an interdisciplinary reappraisal of these collections to reach a greater understanding of the intercultural imperial history of this period and its material legacies.

The three year research project, starting this year, will be led for National Museums Scotland by Principal Investigator, Dr Henrietta Lidchi, supported by Co-investigator, Dr Stuart Allan. National Museums Scotland holds significant non-European collections in both its military and world cultures collections and will partner with the National Army Museum and with both organisations continuing to work with the wider networks of museums and holders of military material.

The research grant will support an extensive programme of knowledge exchange, with workshops for regimental museum professionals, promoting discussion around the interpretation and display of military collections. Research findings will be shared more widely through a special exhibition and renewal of displays at the National War Museum and the National Museum of Scotland as well as the new Discovery gallery at the National Army Museum. A programme of public events, outreach and educational activities will be key to widening understanding and appreciation of the histories and contemporary relevance of these important collections.

Dr Henrietta Lidchi, Keeper of World Cultures at National Museums Scotland said,

“We are thrilled to have secured this substantial research grant from the Arts and Humanities Research Council. We now have an incredible opportunity to research military collections of the non-European world within a wider, cultural and historical context. We look forward to working with colleagues from across the fields of military history, military anthropology and archaeology in the delivery of this project and in collaboration with curatorial staff in regimental, corps and service museums.” 

Dr Alastair Massie, Head of Research and Academic Access at the National Army Museum said,

“The National Army Museum is delighted to be involved in an enterprise which, thanks to an earlier pilot project that the Museum co-funded and helped manage, we know will yield ground-breaking results.”

Further information and images from Susan Gray, Press Office, National Museums Scotland on 0131 247 4088 or email s.gray@nms.ac.uk

Notes to editors 

  1. National Museums Scotland looks after museum collections of national and international importance and provides loans, partnerships, research and training in Scotland and internationally. Our individual museums are the National Museum of Scotland, the National Museum of Flight, the National Museum of Rural Life and the National War Museum.  The National Museums Collection Centre in Edinburgh houses conservation and research facilities as well as collections not currently on display. 
  2. The National Army Museum is the leading authority on the history of the British Army. Founded in 1960 by Royal Charter and established for the purpose of collecting, preserving and exhibiting objects and records relating to the Land Forces of the British Crown, it is a museum that moves, inspires, challenges, educates and entertains. The Museum seeks to tell the story of the British Army, the personal experiences of the soldiers who have served in it and to connect the British public and its Army demonstrating how the role of the Army and its actions are still relevant today. http://www.nam.ac.uk/
  3. The Arts and Humanities Research Council funds world-class, independent researchers in a wide range of subjects: history, archaeology, digital content, philosophy, languages, design, heritage, area studies, the creative and performing arts, and much more. This financial year the AHRC will spend approximately £98 million to fund research and postgraduate training in collaboration with a number of partners. The quality and range of research supported by this investment of public funds not only provides social and cultural benefits and contributes to the economic success of the UK but also to the culture and welfare of societies around the globe. You can find out more information via http://www.ahrc.ac.uk/ or following us on Twitter, on Facebook at Arts and Humanities Research Council, or Instagram.