‘Objects as Ambassadors’: Representing Nation Through Museum Exhibitions

  • Chantal KnowlesEmail author
Part of the One World Archaeology book series (WORLDARCH)


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.’


National Museum Oral History Trading Post Land Claim Dene Community 
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The exhibition and associated activities were the culmination of five years of work in partnership with the PWNHC, NMS, the Tlicho Government (formerly the Dogrib Treaty 11 Council) and the University of Dundee. It involved many different people, and all are thanked for their hard work and support. The members of the Steering Committee were vital to the success of the exhibition in both venues, in particular, Gavin Renwick, Tom Andrews and John B. Zoe. This chapter also draws upon research work relating to the Museum’s collection and history, in particular discussions with Henrietta Lidchi, Geoff Swinney and Charles Stable. For insight into ideas of Scottish identity, nationhood and the Scots colonial endeavours I am grateful to John Burnett. Jane Wilkinson, Kylie Moloney, Alison Morrison-Low and Jeremy Coote have commented on earlier drafts. I am extremely grateful to the organisers of the session at WAC, Robin Torrence, Rodney Harrison, Sarah Byrne, and Annie Clarke for their help and encouragement in the development of the chapter and in particular Robin Torrence for her encouragement and editorial skills.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of World CulturesNational Museums ScotlandEdinburghScotland

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