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Dr Geoffrey N. Swinney

Geoff Swinney
Dr Geoffrey N. Swinney
Research Associate
Research interest/expertise: History and historical geography of museums. Models and modelling practices, particularly the work of Leopold Blaschka. The career of William Speirs Bruce and his contributions to polar and high-latitude scientific exploration.

Dr Geoffrey N. Swinney is a Research Associate.

Geoff graduated with a B.Sc. in Life Sciences (Zoology) from the University of Liverpool before conducting research in fish ecology in the Freshwater Fisheries Unit of the University. He joined the Museum in 1976 as curator with responsibility for the collections of lower vertebrates (fish, amphibians and reptiles). During his 34 year career in the Museum’s Natural Sciences department his main research interest was in the taxonomy and ecology of deep sea fish. Alongside his zoological activities Geoff developed an interest in the history of the Museum and its collections and in 1989 he co-curated (with David Bryden and David Caldwell) the temporary exhibition ‘Wealth of a Nation’, which formed a major element of the campaign for the creation of the Museum of Scotland. Geoff was the recipient of a Millennium Fellowship (Sharing Museum Skills Award) which funded a short-term secondment to the National Gallery, London, where he pursed his research interest in the use of gas lighting in museums.

One zoological collection that particularly piqued his interest was that made by the Scottish National Antarctic (Scotia) Expedition (1902–1904). His research on the expedition, together with the temporary exhibition he curated on the life and career of its leader, William Speirs Bruce, earned him the Royal Scottish Geographical Society’s Scotia Medal. In 2014 he was a guest of the Government of Argentina at the celebrations to mark the centenary of Argentina’s operation of the base which had been established by the Scottish expedition on Laurie Island in the South Orkneys.

Following his retirement, Geoff gained a Ph.D. from the University of Edinburgh with a thesis entitled ‘Towards an Historical Geography of a ”National” Museum’. In it he explored and analysed the practices of space and place which established and maintained the Museum in the period from its founding in 1854 until its temporary closure at the outbreak of World War II. He has published extensively on diverse aspects of the Museum’s spatial and temporal past in both the academic press and in popular magazines. With his eclectic interests, he had been a Research Associate in the Natural Sciences department and in the Scottish History and Archaeology department before joining the Science and Technology department. In this latter role his research focuses on the Museum as, itself, a technology.

Geoff is an Associate of the Royal Scottish Geographical Society and a Fellow of the Society of Antiquaries of Scotland.

Swinney, G. N. 2019. Projecting the Museum: Moving Images in, and of, Scotland’s National Museum. Museum History Journal, 12(2), 129–152.

Swinney, G. N. 2019. Appropriate and Appropriated Sites for Elephants: A Case Study of the Making of Museum Objects. Society and Animals, 2019, 123.

Alberti, S.J.M.M., A. Blackwell, P. Davidson, M. Goldberg and G.N. Swinney. 2018. The Art and Science of Replication: Copies and Copying in the Multi-Disciplinary Museum. In Museums as Cultures of Copies: The Crafting of Artefacts and Authenticity, ed. B. Brenna, H.D. Christensen and O. Hamran. London: Routledge.

Swinney, G. N. 2017. "I am utterly disgusted …" – The Edinburgh Museum of Science and Art Effecting Moral Decline? Review of Scottish Culture 16, 76–84.

Swinney, G. N. 2016. George Wilson's Map of Technology: Giving Shape to the ‘Industrial Arts’ in Mid-nineteenth-century Edinburgh. Journal of Scottish Historical Studies 36(2), 165–190.

Staubermann, K. and G. N. Swinney. 2016. Making Space for Models: (Re)presenting Engineering in Scotland's National Museum, 1854 – Present. International Journal for the History of Engineering & Technology, 86(1), 19–41.

Swinney, G. N. 2014. Collecting Legacies: The World-Wide Collections of National Museums Scotland and National Identity Review of Scottish Culture, 26, 132–-147.

Worden S. and G. N. Swinney. 2013. Exhibiting Livingstone: A Life and Legacy on Display. Scottish Geographical Journal (David Livingstone Bicentennial Issue), 129(3–4), 258–276.

Swinney, G. N. 2007. The Scottish National Antarctic Expedition (1902–04) and the Founding of Base Orcadas. Scottish Geographical Journal, 123(1), 48–67.

Swinney, G. N. 2003. The Evil of Vitiating and Heating the Air: Artificial Lighting and Public Access to the National Gallery, London, with Particular Reference to the Turner and Vernon collections. Journal of the History of Collections, 15(1), 83–112.

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