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Material Spirits: Objects, Past and Landscape in Contemporary Scottish Whisky

Last updated: 8 February 2022

About the research

This project will explore how the material culture of whisky is shaped by ideas about place and history.

Whisky made in small distilleries is an iconic luxury good that shapes ideas of Scotland as a place of quality production across the world today. Objects such as whisky bottles, packaging and related craftwork speak of the Scottish past and landscape, and evoke ideas of quality and luxury. In exploring how the material culture of whisky is shaped by ideas about place and history, the student will be encouraged to develop their research with reference to a number of questions:

  • How does Scottish whisky generate a material culture, and shape the look and feel of objects?
  • What can these objects tell us about perceptions of Scotland internationally?
  • How are sensory experiences of whisky – and ideas of past and place –materialised in images and objects?
  • How is whisky and its social or cultural uses linked to other Scottish commodities and materialities?

The project will answer these questions with an interdisciplinary methodology, drawing on social and cultural history and material culture studies. By conducting research into documentary sources, contemporary production and existing collections at National Museums Scotland and elsewhere, the student will make an original contribution to understanding the role of objects, past and landscape in creating ideas of Scotland through luxury goods. Given the wealth of material, we anticipate that a number of innovative connections between collections will emerge from the research.

Whisky label with a mostly green and black illustration of a landscape for The Usquebaugh

Whisky label, The Usquebaugh, produced by Ross & Cameron, Lochgorm Bonded Stores, Inverness.

Doctoral research project details

Project title

Material Spirits: Objects, Past and Landscape in Contemporary Scottish Whisky | National Museums Scotland

Student

Laura Scobie

Project active

2019 - present

Funder

AHRC Scottish Cultural Heritage Consortium (SCHC) – Collaborative Doctoral Partnership

University of Edinburgh Supervisor

Professor Stana Nenadic - School of History, Classics and Archaeology

National Museums Scotland Supervisor

Dr Sarah Laurenson - Scottish History & Archaeology

Research theme

Scotland's Material Heritage

Email icon Dr Sarah Laurenson

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