Unpacking the Collection

Part of the series One World Archaeology pp 231-247


‘Objects as Ambassadors’: Representing Nation Through Museum Exhibitions

  • Chantal KnowlesAffiliated withDepartment of World Cultures, National Museums Scotland Email author 

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The histories of both the Scottish and the Tlicho Nation in Canada are entwined through the fur trade. The National Museums Scotland (NMS) holds a nineteenth century collection of Tlicho artefacts made by Scots working in Canada. Each nation considers the collection part of its cultural patrimony and heritage. In 2008 when NMS exhibited these artefacts, the individual objects became agents of representation for both nations and their emerging political identities and histories. In discussing the significance of the objects for each nation in the twenty-first century, I examine how two such disparate groups can lay claim to the collection in this way. Through a case study of collecting, interpretations and exhibitions, I will explore artefact agency and the Tlicho perception of ‘objects as ambassadors.’