24/02/2017
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New £480,000 project will explore military artefacts in 130 UK museums

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National Museum of Scotland has announced details of a £480,000 project to explore artefacts acquired by British servicemen during military campaigns in India and Africa, which has been made possible by a £390,000 award by the Arts and Humanities Research Council.

Baggage and Belonging: Military Collections and the British Empire (1750 – 1900) will explore existing collections in over 130 military museums across the UK, investigating how these objects were acquired and why, revealing the stories behind encounters between non-European peoples and British imperial forces.

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The three year research project, starting this year, will be led for National Museums Scotland by Principal Investigator, Dr Henrietta Lidchi, supported by Co-investigator, Dr Stuart Allan. National Museums Scotland holds significant non-European collections in both its military and world cultures collections and will partner with the National Army Museum and with both organisations continuing to work with the wider networks of museums and holders of military material. 
 
Outreach projects
 
The research grant will support an extensive programme of knowledge exchange, with workshops for regimental museum professionals, promoting discussion around the interpretation and display of military collections. Research findings will be shared more widely through a special exhibition and renewal of displays at the National War Museum and the National Museum of Scotland as well as the new Discovery gallery at the National Army Museum.
 
A programme of public events, outreach and educational activities will be key to widening understanding and appreciation of the histories and contemporary relevance of these important collections.
 
The material legacy of non-European military campaigns is widespread yet relatively little is understood of how this important material was brought back to the United Kingdom. These are the proceeds of looting, trophy-taking or souvenir hunting on the one hand and co-operation, diplomatic exchange and scientific enquiry on the other. The research project will be an interdisciplinary reappraisal of these collections to reach a greater understanding of the intercultural imperial history of this period and its material legacies.

An incredible opportunity
 
Dr Henrietta Lidchi, Keeper of World Cultures at National Museums Scotland said: 'We are thrilled to have secured this substantial research grant from the Arts and Humanities Research Council. We now have an incredible opportunity to research military collections of the non-European world within a wider, cultural and historical context.
 
'We look forward to working with colleagues from across the fields of military history, military anthropology and archaeology in the delivery of this project and in collaboration with curatorial staff in regimental, corps and service museums.'

 

(Images from top {all copyright National Museums Scotland } Officers of the 1st Battalion, Royal Scots, Eshowe, Zululand, 1889; Armlet from the Sikh Court from the collection of Marquis of Dalhousie sold at Dowell’s in Edinburgh {1898})

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