The National Museum of Scotland

What would an independent Scotland mean for UK museums?

Geraldine Kendall, 18.09.2012
Don't miss the One Nation? debate at #museums2012
In the lead up to the Scottish referendum on independence in 2014, a key strand of this year’s Museums Association annual conference will explore how nationhood, devolution and international identity impacts on museums.

Several sessions and debates fall under the One Nation? theme, which is coordinated by Rowan Julie Brown, director of the National Mining Museum Scotland.


Would independence be good for museums in Scotland?

In Being British, speakers will explore interpretations of identity across the British Isles against a backdrop of major political change, debating whether a monothematic approach to nationhood, like that proposed by the ill-fated campaign for a museum of British history, is desirable or even achievable.

Brown said: “The referendum for Scottish independence in 2014 could bring a seismic change to the UK - the biggest for 300 years - and there’s no question that museums are becoming politicised as part of that change.

“In the lead up to the decision in 2014 people will be looking at history and heritage much more closely to help inform their vote. Museums will have a big role to play in this.

“This session is about understanding the potential implication of what greater independence would mean for museums in the UK – it could potentially bring greater diversity to what we do and or it could fracture our sector.”

A further session, Devolution Deficit?, focuses on the “nuts and bolts” of devolution, said Brown, looking at how trends towards localism and changes in governance models could influence the way museums are run.

Speakers will talk about the moral case for devolution and debate whether more local control of museums increases accountability or just adds to running costs.

Brown said: “There is alignment between social justice and communities having greater ownership over their heritage. Localism gives people a much closer relationship with decision-making.”

Stronger Together takes a look at how national strategies in Scotland and Wales are encouraging museums to work in partnership and giving the sector a united voice.

In the final session, International Identities, speakers will discuss how British history shapes current international identity and how museums work with their counterparts abroad.

“We want to look at how museums are carving out an international identity and how this may be affected by the current situation in Scotland, as well as the legacy of empire,” said Brown.

The MA Conference and Exhibition 2012 takes place at the Edinburgh International Conference Centre, Edinburgh, on Thursday 8 November and Friday 9 November.

Click here to book your place