Edinburgh Centre for Global History

Managing History: Museums, Sites of Memory and the Scottish Diaspora

This project examined how Scotland’s museums and visitor centres engage with the Scottish diaspora, and how museums serve as spaces of identity building and memory for members of Scotland’s global community.

Tourism is widely understood to be a major industry in Scotland, and an industry that is intimately connected with perceptions of the nation’s past. Scotland’s visitors are often attracted to the country for its rich history and heritage. Many of these visitors can be described as genealogy or roots tourists who consider themselves members of the Scottish diaspora. For these individuals, understandings and interpretations Scotland’s past often serve as the basis for constructions of personal and national identity.

Managing History sought to understand the issues of history, memory and identity within the policy context of the Scottish Government’s Diaspora Engagement Plan, which has significant implications for the heritage sector. The project focused on four key themes:

  1. The tensions between academically informed history and the popular myths that inform national identity, and what role museums play in addressing these contested views of the past.
  2. History, identity and inclusiveness, in other words how history can be portrayed in a way that is inclusive to members of the Scottish diaspora as well as to communities within Scotland.
  3. Identity projection and the relationship between the views visitors bring with them and the pasts that are presented in museum spaces.
  4. Digital heritage and the place of the 'non-visiting' audience

These themes were addressed through a collection of national, regional and local case studies.

It was intended that the outcomes of the project would not only be of interest to academics, but also to heritage professionals in Scotland, helping them to better serve their audiences

Acknowledgments

The project was funded by the Scottish Government.

Dr Tawny Paul

Project leader