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Dr Sarah Laurenson is Principal Curator of Modern and Contemporary History.
Dr Sarah Laurenson is Principal Curator of Modern and Contemporary History and Head of the Modern and Contemporary History Section. She is responsible for the Scottish collections representing cultural, social, political, military and domestic history from c.1750 to the present.
Sarah's broad research interests span the period of Scottish history from 1750 to the present day with an emphasis on Scottish cultures and identities, and on the ways in which shifting engagement with the physical landscape and natural environment has shaped – and continues to shape – the material world. Sarah’s doctoral thesis from the University of Edinburgh, funded by the Leverhulme Trust, examined Scotland’s jewellery craft from 1780 to 1914. Her forthcoming book expands on this research with a particular focus on how the use of jewellery materials extracted from Scotland’s natural landscapes – namely precious metals, agates and crystals, and freshwater pearls – throw light on the complex and shifting relationships between people and the natural world since the mid-eighteenth century. Other research interests include: the relationship between people, objects and environments in the Highlands and Islands, and the material culture and contemporary legacies of Scotland's colonial histories. In 2018-19 Sarah was co-Investigator on the project, The Matter of Slavery in Scotland, funded by the Royal Society of Edinburgh.
Sarah joined National Museums Scotland in 2017 when she was appointed as Curator of Modern and Contemporary History, and was made Senior Curator in 2020. During this time Sarah had specific responsibilities for developing the Scottish History & Archaeology Department’s innovative contemporary collecting programme, which documents the impact of social, cultural, political and environmental change in twenty-first century Scotland.
Sarah is Chair of the National Museums Scotland Contemporary Collecting Working Group, a Trustee of the Scottish Goldsmiths Trust, and a member of the Advisory Board for the George Bain Collection at Groam House Museum.
Sarah supervises Laura Scobie’s doctoral research on the material culture of Scottish whisky. Laura’s work is funded by the AHRC as a Collaborative Doctoral Project (CDP) in partnership with the University of Edinburgh. Sarah is shortly to launch another of these CDP projects, focused on Gaelic material cultures in collaboration with Sabhal Mòr Ostaig, University of the Highlands and Islands: ‘Cultar Dùthchasach: Materialising Gaelic Cultures in 21st-Century Scotland’.
Sarah Laurenson (forthcoming) The Material Landscapes of Scotland's Jewellery Craft, 1780-1914 (New York: Bloomsbury).
Sarah Laurenson & Stana Nenadic (forthcoming), ‘Metals and Jewellery’ in Stana Nenadic (ed.), A Cultural History of Craft in the Age of Industry (New York: Bloomsbury Academic).
Sarah Laurenson, ‘The Matter of Slavery at National Museums Scotland’, in Emma Bond and Michael Morris (eds), Transnational Scotland: Empire, Heritage, Stories (Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, forthcoming early 2022).
Sarah Laurenson, Calum Robertson & Sophie Goggins, ‘Collecting COVID-19 at National Museums Scotland’, Museum & Society 18, no.3 Special Issue: ‘Isolation as a collective experience’: Museums’ first responses to COVID-19 (October, 2020).
Sarah Laurenson Material landscapes: the production and consumption of men’s jewellery during the Scottish gold rush of 1869, History of Retailing and Consumption 2:2 (July, 2016).
Sarah Laurenson, ‘Fair Isle Knitting, past and present’ in Laurenson, S. (ed) (2013), Shetland Textiles: 800 BC to the Present (Lerwick: Shetland Heritage Publications, 2013).
Laurenson, S. (ed), Shetland Textiles: 800 BC to the Present (Lerwick: Shetland Heritage Publications, 2013).