Legacies of Empire
27 Nov 2020 - 29 Jan 2023
Legacies of Empire examines the histories connected to objects brought back from colonial conflict by the military forces of the British Empire.
Entry to the museum and exhibition is free. Historic Environment Scotland charges for admission to Edinburgh Castle where the National War Museum is located.
Legacies of Empire is about encounters and confrontations between nations and cultures in times of war. The objects featured here were taken, purchased or otherwise collected by British military and naval personnel during colonial wars or garrison service across the British Empire. Today, they are preserved in national and military museum collections. The contentious material legacy of the British Empire is represented in each object.
Collections made during the period of European colonial expansion from the 18th to the 20th century are controversial and widely debated today. Using the insights of military and imperial history, this exhibition investigates why these objects were collected, and how they came to be in museums. This exhibition is one of the products of a research project focused on military culture and the practices of taking and collecting in the midst of colonial warfare.
Since the middle of the 20th century the taking of objects in war has been regulated under international law. Objects taken in earlier colonial wars are today the subject of moral and legal discussions reflecting the different perspectives of a diverse society. These include arguments for wider access to international cultural heritage and, in some instances, return of objects to their country of origin.
National Museums Scotland is committed to presenting the colonial and imperial histories of the collections in line with rigorous and up-to-date research.
Legacies of Empire blogs
From conserving a 250 year old drinking horn taken by the Scottish explorer James Bruce from Ethiopia to researching the Cawnpore Cross, an object that exemplifies a British perspective on a conflict that both then and now is remembered differently in India, catch up with our blog posts.Browse blog posts
We want everyone who comes to our museums to enjoy their time with us and make the most of their visit.
- An adapted courtesy vehicle is available at the Castle's admissions kiosk to take visitors with mobility difficulties, including wheelchair users, to the Museum and other parts of the Castle.
- The Museum itself has a level entrance and wheelchairs are available for loan at no charge.
- There is a public lift between the two floors and seating is available throughout.
- Adapted toilets are also available.
Find out more about access information.