Defining national identity? Visiting the architectural spaces of the Museum of Scotland

Cooke, Steven and McLean, Fiona 2000, Defining national identity? Visiting the architectural spaces of the Museum of Scotland, in Regional Identities : Shifting boundaries and contested meanings : Interdisciplinary conference organised by the Manchester Centre for Regional History, [Manchester Centre for Regional History], Manchester, England.

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Title Defining national identity? Visiting the architectural spaces of the Museum of Scotland
Author(s) Cooke, Steven
McLean, Fiona
Conference name Regional Identities : Shifting boundaries and contested meanings (2000 : Manchester, England)
Conference location Manchester, England
Conference dates 13-14 Sept. 2000
Title of proceedings Regional Identities : Shifting boundaries and contested meanings : Interdisciplinary conference organised by the Manchester Centre for Regional History
Editor(s) [Unknown]
Publication date 2000
Conference series Regional Identities : Shifting boundaries and contested meanings
Publisher [Manchester Centre for Regional History]
Place of publication Manchester, England
Summary National Cultures construct identities by producing meanings about the nation with which we can identify, meanings which are contained in the stories which are told about it, memories which connect its present within its past, and images which are constructed of it. A museum, the repository of a nation’s culture, which connects the past to the present through recounting stories about the artefacts of past cultures is clearly significant in representing the culture of a nation.

This paper explores the architectural spaces of the new Museum of Scotland, which opened in Edinburgh in November 1998. The museum has opened at a crucial time in Scottish history. The Scottish cultural renaissance is manifested in the increase in cultural production and call for Scottish cultural institutions. Parallel to this renaissance are political developments with the re-creation of a Scottish Parliament in 1999. When the idea of ‘Scotland’ is itself in a state of flux, the stories of the nation told in the museum, which attempt to give a sense of location, a connection between the individual and the nation are especially important.

Thus, issues of identity and ‘self’ are crucially important in understanding the contemporary museum. Within this, the relations between the production of these narratives and their consumption by the public are little understood. The majority of studies have concentrated, although not exclusively, on the production of museum displays, primarily with the "politics and poetics" of display. This paper analyses the relationship between producer and consumer within the Museum of Scotland, attempting to reconnect the forces of production and consumption. In doing so, it focuses primarily on the differing conceptions of the ability of the Museum to be able to narrate the nation.

Based on interviews both with museum staff and with visitors to the museum, it argues that an understanding of the relationship between the museum and Scottish national identity can only be considered through an understanding of the tension between the producers’ intentions and the way in which consumers conceptualise the museum as a space for "telling the nation".
Language eng
Field of Research 210204 Museum Studies
Socio Economic Objective 970121 Expanding Knowledge in History and Archaeology
HERDC Research category L3.1 Extract of paper (minor conferences)
Persistent URL http://hdl.handle.net/10536/DRO/DU:30039011

Document type: Conference Paper
Collection: School of Humanities and Social Sciences
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