Current students

Julie HolderJulie Holder

Collecting the Nation: Scottish history, patriotism and antiquarianism after Scott, (1832-92)

This project is a collaboration between National Museums Scotland and the University of Glasgow. It is funded by a collaborative award from the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC).

Supervisors: Dr Catriona Macdonald and Prof. Dauvit Broun, University of Glasgow; Dr Stuart Allan and Dr Fraser Hunter, National Museums Scotland.

From 1832 to 1892 interpretations of the Scottish past were contested and debated in both academic and public spaces. In 1832, the father of Scottish antiquarianism Sir Walter Scott died. Like many Scottish antiquaries, he was a Fellow of the Society of Antiquaries of Scotland, which had established a museum in Edinburgh. The Society’s collections were transferred to the nation in 1851. By 1891, the museum had become the National Museum of Antiquities of Scotland and in 1892, had published the entire Scottish collection in a comprehensive, illustrated catalogue.

Joseph Anderson, Keeper of the Museum of Antiquities , with its displays in the Royal Institution, c.1890.

Above: Joseph Anderson, Keeper of the Museum of Antiquities, with its displays in the Royal Institution, c.1890.

The project will examine the relationships between collecting, representing and writing about the Scottish past during this period in relation to concepts of Scottish nationhood and history. This will be done by researching the archives and publications of the Society of Antiquaries of Scotland to assess how material artefacts were used as evidence to represent and write Scottish history. The project will also assess the influence of methods and ideas from Scandinavia, Europe and the rest of Britain on collecting, representing and writing national histories.

Rose Roberto

Democratising knowledge: Chambers’s illustrated encyclopaedia

This is a project in conjunction with National Museums Scotland, funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC) through a collaborative award.

Supervisors: Dr Rob Banham and Professor Paul Luna, University of Reading; Alison Taubman, National Museums Scotland.

Driven by an investigation of the collection of 20,000 wood block engravings from the firm of W&R Chambers that are held by National Museums Scotland, this project will examine the first two editions of Chambers’s encyclopaedia (1860–68 and 1888–92). The research will explore how each edition was affected by changes in technology, working practices in the printing and publishing industries, and growth of new knowledge in the late Victorian period. It will also consider the philosophy, implicit in its publication, of a democratisation of knowledge made explicit in the Encyclopaedia’s sub-title: ‘a dictionary of universal knowledge for the people’.

In addition to the wood block collection at National Museums Scotland, the doctoral research will also draw upon business archives of W&R Chambers held at the National Library of Scotland.

You can find out more about the project at Rose's research blog.

Two editions of Chambers' illustrated encylopaedia

Above: Two editions of Chambers’ illustrated encyclopaedia at Chetham’s Library, Manchester, 2014. Photo by Rose Roberto.

Projects starting October 2017

Typewriters and commerce in Scotland, 1870s–1920s

Department of Science and Technology, National Museums Scotland and the University of St Andrews (Dr Sam Alberti, National Museums Scotland and Dr Aileen Fyfe, University of St Andrews)

The School of History at the University of St Andrews and National Museums Scotland will investigate the development of the consumer market for information and office technologies during the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. The studentship, starting in October 2017, will have full access the technology collections at both National Museums Scotland and Glasgow Museums.

The student will study the ways typewriters were sold and used in Scotland during the first fifty years of their commercial availability. The project will innovatively combine the use of printed and archival historical sources (such as advertisements, catalogues and trade directories) with active engagement with the outstanding collections of early typewriters (and auxiliary devices) held by National Museums Scotland and Glasgow Museums, both of which have a philosophy of operating their technology collections where possible. The student will be able to analyse the different features of competing models, and consider how they were represented in marketing material; how certain features became more significant and standardized over time; and how users evaluated and valued the peculiarities of one model over another. In many cases, the student will be able to film the typewriters being used, in order to gain a richer understanding of different features, ease of use, and the aural/haptic ‘sensescapes’ of these information machines. 

The studentship is funded by the AHRC via the Scottish Cultural Heritage Consortium (SCHC), and will be supervised by historians of science and technology The start date is 1 October 2017, and the duration is 3 years.

The Material Culture of Mass Politics in Scotland, c.1815–c.1914

Department of Scottish History & Archaeology, National Museums Scotland and the University of Edinburgh (Elaine Edwards and Dr Gordon Pentland gordon.pentland 

The University of Edinburgh (Graduate School of History, Classics and Archaeology) and National Museums Scotland (Department of Scottish History & Archaeology are supporting the Studentship entitled:  The ‘long nineteenth century’ witnessed the development of a mass politics replete with material culture. This was especially evident around questions of parliamentary reform. Flags and banners, rosettes, commemorative medals, statues and monuments all made for a rich political life that was prominent in civic spaces and shaped individual and collective experiences.

By conducting intensive research into the collections at National Museums Scotland and collections elsewhere in Britain, the student will make original contributions to understanding the development of ‘modern’ politics in Scotland and to how historians, museums and educators can best interpret the material artefacts of past political cultures. In exploring the relationship of objects to mass politics the student will be encouraged to develop his/her research with reference to a number of questions:

• Who made different objects and for what purposes? 
• How were political objects displayed or used and what meanings did they hold for those who owned, used or displayed them? 
• How can we explain the survival, re-use, and collection of the material culture of politics?

For more information please see

Intellectual properties: transferring science from universities to National Museums Scotland

Department of Science and Technology, National Museums Scotland and University of Edinburgh (Dr Tacye Phillipson/ Dr Sam Alberti of National Museums Scotland and Dr Niki Vermeulen/ Dr Dominic Berry University of Edinburgh

The University of Edinburgh’s Science, Technology and Innovation Studies subject group, in collaboration with National Museums Scotland, is supporting a studentship on the history of collecting scientific materials in museums. The studentship will research and analyse the collecting practices of National Museums Scotland with a focus on materials from the sciences, looking at three key museum acquisitions: the transfer of material by Professor Lyon Playfair in 1858, including 18th-century chemical material such as Joseph Black’s glassware; the Scotland-wide university collecting survey undertaken by NMS in 1985-7, including standardised pieces of lab equipment such as spectrophotometers; and present efforts on collecting for the future (2017-2020).

The aim is to reconsider these collections as forms of intellectual property, attending to knowledge and forms of ownership associated with these collections, and understanding how the object’s meaning (intellectual, personal, social) changes or is maintained as it moves from its context of use to being an artefact.

Loyal exchange: the material and visual culture of Jacobite exile, 1716-60

Department of Scottish History & Archaeology, National Museums Scotland, National Portrait Gallery and the University of Edinburgh (Dr Stuart Allan, National Museums Scotland and Professor Viccy Coltman – University of Edinburgh)

The University of Edinburgh, in partnership with National Museums Scotland and the Scottish National Portrait Gallery (both members of the ‘Scottish Cultural Heritage Consortium’ Collaborative Doctoral Partnership), is seeking to appoint a suitably qualified applicant for a full-time collaborative PhD studentship undertaking a study of the material and visual culture of Jacobite exile. The studentship will commence in autumn 2017. 

Scottish collections reflect the significance of material and visual culture in articulating, promoting and prolonging the Jacobite cause in exile. By analysing contemporary documentary evidence contained in sources such as the Stuart Papers, family papers and other collections, the student’s research will track the movement of objects and images between the exiled Stuart court and their supporters in Scotland. By 1760, an intertwined material and visual language of Jacobite sympathy had emerged which endured thereafter in the romantic popular culture of the post-1760 Jacobite ‘lost cause’. This project will examine how that language was originally developed through networks of personal and symbolic exchange.

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