These catalogues draw directly from existing museum documentation and project-based research. Most of the provenance research was undertaken by Nicole Hartwell, the postdoctoral researcher (2017-2020) on the project.
The initial remit of the project was to examine artefacts held in military collections across the United Kingdom that are associated with British military campaigns and garrison duty in Africa and India, c. 1750-1900. Following the initial survey, research increasingly focused on specific colonial campaigns.
The information contained in these catalogues is aimed at the interested researcher and is intended to be broadly representative of the content of collections held by regimental museums from colonial campaigns in Africa and India. The catalogues, however, are not fully comprehensive due to limitations of time and access, exacerbated by restrictions during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The catalogues provide provenance-based information on a range of objects, with more detailed information developed and shared with the custodians of the collections. In certain instances, where collections featured substantial quantities of potentially relevant artefacts, we have made a selection. In addition to regimental and corps museums, the collections of our project partner, the National Army Museum, and relevant collections at National Museums Scotland held in the Department of Scottish History & Archaeology and the Department of World Cultures were surveyed.
The project team (Henrietta Lidchi, Stuart Allan, and Nicole Hartwell) would like to express their gratitude to all museums and archives staff who gave their time and support to facilitate research visits and answer follow-up enquiries over the duration of the project. They would also like to thank colleagues who offered their invaluable knowledge and expertise which facilitated the interpretation of the artefacts surveyed.
In total the catalogues provide information on 835 objects across the collections of 22 museums. The compilation of these catalogues is directly related to the purposes and outputs of the project with the agreement of the holding museums. The catalogues do not substitute for existing museum catalogues and should be viewed as supplementary to them.
Levels of documentation vary across museum collections. In some instances collections have traceable provenance (suggesting a place of acquisition, a military campaign, and the name of an associated soldier, usually an officer) which can be cross-referenced with historical data (including published and un-published campaign histories, biographies and autobiographies, private correspondence, and service records). In other instances, the specific origin or identity of an object may be undocumented, or no longer accessible, for a variety of reasons. In those cases where we attempted to find out more about an object without success, entries state ‘further provenance unconfirmed’. It is hoped that, in the future, more documentation may be uncovered or accessed which could lead to further interpretation.
The catalogues use standardised object categories across multiple museum collections. In a very few instances the catalogues include objects incorporating human remains. We have indicated these by placing ‘HR’ in brackets (HR) as part of the naming convention of the catalogues concerned. In using the category ‘human remains’ we have included human hair, thus interpreting the term more broadly than the stricter definition contained in the Human Tissue Act (2005) and Human Tissue Scotland Act (2006).
The majority of the entries feature either a professional photograph or research photograph. Unfortunately due to the COVID-19 pandemic public health measures, some objects could not be photographed at all, and research photographs could not always be upgraded.
The catalogues aim to reflect existing information, including original descriptions found in documentation. When the circumstances of acquisition of an object have been described in the original museum documentation in a more precise manner (for example, as being ‘collected’, ‘captured’, ‘picked up’ or ‘obtained’), these terms are reproduced in the catalogue descriptions.
In the catalogues the project team have used the following terms to mean specific things:
In the catalogues ‘taken’ is used as the default term used, recognising that these acquisitions were made by force, in conditions of war and under duress.
The term ‘acquired’ has been used to indicate that a soldier (typically an officer) had a documented interest in collecting as an intellectual or aesthetic pursuit. These artefacts may have been purchased locally, or may originally have been taken in conditions of war and duress, and/or bought at army prize auctions.
The term ‘collected’ has been used to suggest that a soldier (typically an officer) had a more sustained investment in building a collection of artefacts originating from a specific place or culture.
Other terms such as ‘found’ and ‘recovered’ are employed solely to describe European artefacts and were often identified as such by soldiers who took them in the aftermath of military conflict. In the original documentation they are typically described as ‘found’, ‘recovered’ and ‘recaptured’ etc.