Scholars criticise National Museum of Ireland for failing to credit research
Geraldine Kendall Adams, 21.11.2018
Museum cancels public lectures and conducts internal review of Spanish flu exhibition
An internal review is underway at the National Museum of Ireland (NMI) after a number of academics criticised it for failing to credit their research in its current exhibition on the Spanish flu.
The museum suspended a series of public lectures and amended details on its website after receiving complaints about the exhibition.
According to a report in the Times, the exhibition quoted statistics on the number of people who were infected and died from the flu in Ireland, which the historian Ida Milne says were derived from her book, Stacking the Coffins: Influenza, War and Revolution in Ireland, 1918-19, which came out this year. Milne has been publishing research on the epidemic since 2006.
The exhibition also described the epidemic as being “almost forgotten” by Irish historians. Milne said that, in saying this, the museum had failed to recognise the pioneering research undertaken by her and two other historians, Patricia Marsh at Queen’s University Belfast and Caitriona Foley at University College Dublin. She has contacted the museum’s director Lynn Scarff with her concerns.
Milne told the Times: “I had a book out at the same time the museum was sending out a press release to the country’s provincial and national newspapers saying the subject had been neglected by academics.”
The museum’s website has now been amended to cite the research undertaken by the three academics.
In a statement to Museums Journal, the museum said: “A core value of the NMI is to ensure our work is 'informed by rigorous research, scholarship and staff expertise'. To achieve this objective, the NMI is developing enhanced processes and protocols around research references and the involvement of experts in our work.
“An internal review of the Spanish Flu exhibition is underway at the NMI. The exhibition comprehensively tells the story of how the flu impacted on Ireland, however, we are reviewing potential areas of improvement in our outreach programme.
“During this process, the NMI has postponed outreach talks associated with the exhibition. Areas we are examining include how we can link more comprehensively with national experts on this topic, and we are currently engaged in a dialogue with these experts.”
Milne told Museums Journal: "I am thankful to the director, Lynn Scarff, for enabling the changes to the website which set the record straight."
The article originally stated that Ida Milne's book, Stacking the Coffins: Influenza, War and Revolution in Ireland, 1918-19, was published in 2006. While this was the year that Milne began publishing her research, the book in question came out in 2018.
The article has also been updated to include a comment from Milne.