Overseas Warrior

Jo, Michael and Robert tackled the topic of the ‘Overseas Soldier’ which chronologically was tightly wedged between the Jacobite topic and that of the World Wars. It was clear from the outset that this would guide the direction of the interpretation for the case, providing a natural bridge between the two topics.

After briefly flirting with the concept of the mercenary soldier, we decided instead to explore the experience of those recruited into the service of Britain: the imperial soldier. While recognising some men did carve our careers in foreign service, the group focussed on the disproportionate number of Scots who joined Scots or Highland Regiments for the service of the British Empire.


General Gordon v General Gordon: Thomas Gordon (left) was a General for the Portuguese, while George Gordon (right) was a British General.

The challenge the group faced was trying to represent such a complex story of 200 years worth of changing loyalty and identity into one case. Given the rich and diverse collections held by the University of Aberdeen it was a difficult task to choose the ten or so objects that would tell the story of the period. Indeed, many objects we would have liked to display had to go.

os2We decided to stick to three main interpretative aims in the case. First – off the back of the Jacobites – we aimed to explore the transition from Jacobite rebel to imperial soldier. Secondly, we set out to contrast the imperial soldier against the ‘primitive savages’ they were sent overseas to ‘civilise’. This again was a nod to both the Prehistoric sub-topic, and indeed the Jacobites. Lastly how this overseas service to the empire was the only practical experience professional soldiers had gained in the lead up to the First World War.

The dominant feature of the case is a map of the world which pin points the footsteps of the Scottish Regiments oversea. It became clear very early on that this was a must have for the group, working as a striking visual showing the remarkable impact of the Scots soldier overseas. It helps to enforce the idea of the Scottish warrior as the exported muscle of the British Empire.

#UoAScottish Warrior

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The Jacobite Warrior

Katie, Kelcy, and Leston joined forces to focus on the Jacobite section of the exhibition. The period from 1688 to 1745 that encompasses the Jacobite uprisings was a pivotal point in Scottish history and had huge ramifications for future depictions of the ‘Scottish Warrior’. The three of us had a lot to learn if we wanted to do justice to the topic and explore how nineteenth-century Romantic artists and writers latched onto the Jacobites for inspiration.

1We all sought to read a wide variety of books – from folk stories about Jacobite heroes to serious monographs. One of the favorites was Damn’ Rebel Bitches by Maggie Craig, an Aberdonian author, which focused on women during the Jacobite risings. Unfortunately, we found ourselves unable to focus on female Jacobites because of the lack of related objects in the University’s collection and our focus on the nineteenth-century romanticisation of the Jacobites. That turned out to be a common theme for us, having to exclude information we thought was interesting but that turned out not to be super relevant to the exhibition.

2As a group, we were able to visit Culloden Battlefield and Visitor Centre, a trip we wrote a previous blog post about. We also took a trip down to Marischal College to view the items we wanted to include in our case. This was an opportunity for us to handle the targe and also a carved ostrich egg that we ended up not including. Working on the exhibition has provided each of us with challenges, whether it was deciding what information and objects to include, figuring out how to make everything fit in the case, or designing the overall look of the case. But we’ve greatly enjoyed our work and are excited for you to see the finished product!

Come check out our exhibition ‘The Scottish Warrior’ and keep an eye out for more behind the scenes posts on the blog! #UoAScottishWarrior

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The Medieval Warrior

1Hello from Alanna, Laura and Kieran! As part of the exhibition we have been working on researching and curating the display case for the medieval Scottish Warrior. We have been faced with a broad time period ranging from 1200 to 1600, which included the Early Medieval period through to the start of the Renaissance and the Union of the Scottish and English crown in 1603. Coming into this topic, we were faced with the enormous challenge of having to select a focus for our text panel, and with only 300 words to sum up the main argument for our section, we had some difficult decisions to make.

When we began thinking about what we wanted to focus on for this time period our attention was immediately drawn to the ‘warrior’ figures of the period, such as William Wallace and Robert the Bruce who both have statues in Aberdeen. This got the team thinking – why is it that figures such as these great warrior are remembered and celebrated while all else seems to pale in comparison? We knew this was something we wanted to address; after all, this period was the age of Renaissance Princes and Kings. While Scotland did gain much of its identity on the battlefield, it also prospered during times of peace, seen through the developing trade routes and diplomatic links with Europe during this period. It was these links that allowed Renaissance ideas to take hold and flourish, bringing new forms of art, architecture and literature. It also saw the foundation of universities, including the University of Aberdeen in 1495.

2The Medieval period proved difficult to condense. So, as a team we had to carefully consider the story we wanted to tell and decide if we had the objects and evidence to support it. We were faced with questions such as should we focus on the stereotypical Scottish warrior with a sword and kilt? Could we consider the role of child monarchs? How would we balance the image of Scotland as a nation at war against the flourishing influence of the Renaissance? Through the process we moved away from just considering the ‘Scottish Warrior’ to considering Medieval Scotland as a whole and re-named out theme to Medieval Scotland: Barbarity or Renaissance? We have spent many hours poring over books, looking through the museum’s catalogue and visiting the stores to view our objects. The team has been writing texts and object labels and considering how everything will fit into our display case, including a claymore and rather large portrait! Keep an eye out for our team’s largest display challenges which involved finding a way to mount the claymore on open display!

3Our exhibition ‘The Scottish Warrior’ is open now until May 2018 so why not come along and see the case for yourself. If you do visit be sure to use our hashtage and let us know what you think at #UoAScottishWarrior. As always keep an eye out on the blog and social media for more behind the scenes posts.

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The Prehistoric Scottish Warrior

1Hello from Sophie, Vic and Ellen; the prehistory team!

Our experience working with the theme of the prehistoric Scottish warrior has been challenging, particularly as it is a time period that spans thousands of years which makes it difficult for us to focus on any particular area. Furthermore, we found that much of the literature on prehistory is very conflicting, which gave us frequent headaches! However, our final focus looks at the bias and stereotyping that has been impressed upon Scottish prehistory and the idea of the prehistoric Scottish warrior in more recent history. This blog will offer you a bit of insight into what each of us got up to during the process of creating our section of the exhibition.

Ellen: Object Selection and Installation

2Selecting objects for the Prehistoric group has really opened my eyes to a period of time that I’ve not previously explored. We’ve all heard of the Stone, Bronze and Iron Ages but looking at the people in Scotland who lived through these times has been an exciting project! As our narrative is about the creation of prehistory, choosing objects which were previously owned by 19th century antiquarians was of interest to us and finding part of the collection of Sir Alexander Ogston was fantastic. It gave me a real thrill to see one object in particular in Sir Ogston’s own records; the re-shafted jadeite Axe. Delving into the history of objects has been a fascinating experience and it has really shone a light on how ideas of prehistory have evolved. One of the most satisfying parts of the exhibition process for me was creating the narrative through the objects. Making the stories behind each object link together to create a cohesive narrative, was by no means an easy task. Deciding to cut many interesting objects because they didn’t fit well into the narrative was particularly difficult. However, selecting objects has still been an amazing task that was integral to telling our story of the ‘Prehistoric Savage’!

Sophie: Interpretation and Editing
As the interpretation and editing member of the group my main focus was to ensure that our narrative was clear and cohesive. This included our two text panels and the object labels. We decided early that we would have two panels, one focusing on problematic interpretations of Scottish prehistory and the other on the lasting myth surround the Picts. For me the text panels were the most challenging part; having to keep them clear and informative whilst working within a restricted word count. It was also important that our narrative fit within the exhibition’s overall narrative and constantly having to keep an eye on this, combined with the many redrafts required, was sometimes frustrating! We all worked together on the early drafts and in the final edits I was there to make sure the text sounded unified, tightened up our narrative, and checked spelling and grammar. Writing the object labels was a similar process, where we wrote collaboratively at the start, and then I undertook the task of editing the words down, keeping the information clear and relevant and then checking spelling and grammar. The biggest challenge here was not including information about the objects that, despite being very interesting, was irrelevant to the exhibition’s theme and narrative.

Vic: Design and Marketing
As our design and marketing member, I was responsible for choosing the colour scheme and design of our text panels, ours being brown for prehistory and blue for Picts. This was done collaboratively with the whole design and marketing team who devised a tartan for the exhibition made from the different colours used in each text panel. The panels look absolutely fantastic, their most striking feature being the individual silhouettes of warriors on each panel, relevant to the time period it discusses. Choosing a design that really conveys the message of the exhibition was a particularly tricky task, but the end result shows that is has definitely paid off!

3From the experience we have learnt that communication within our group is absolutely essential, as with so many different tasks needing to be completed it is easy to forget who is doing what, and when for, and things can get stressful very quickly! Despite the ups and downs however, we feel that we managed to pull together as a team, and we are all completely ecstatic with the final product, which is looking great!

Make sure you visit the exhibition and tell us what you think! #UoAScottishWarrior

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Museum Marketing

This weeks blog follows students as they give us an insight into marketing an exhibition:

‘It was important for us to develop a marketing strategy so that we could attract as many people as possible to visit our exhibition, which we have been working on tirelessly this semester. King’s Museum is uniquely placed to attract a number of different audiences including university students and staff, local residents and visiting tourists. So, we decided to use a range of strategies to market our exhibition including social media, local businesses and involving the public in the exhibition prior to its launch.

One of the key tasks for the marketing team was the poster. After putting a lot of effort into the design process, we are very proud of how the final product came out! It was exciting to see the poster printed out of the first time and we had fun putting it up around campus and the city. We also sent it out to local business and heritage sites to display.

Our marketing campaign also has an online component, such as this blog. This has been a great way to tell our story of putting together the exhibition and has given everyone in the class the chance to write about their involvement in the team.

We decided a fun and easy way to spread the message was to make badges for ourselves and to give away to visitors. Additionally, the badges can be found around the campus, for example, in the University’s Sir Duncan Rice Library. We used the poster design as a starting point and simplified it to put it on a badge. The whole class plans to wear the badge and hand them out during the opening of the exhibition. So keep an eye out of #UoAScottishWarrior to see where our badges end up as visitors and students go on their travels!

You can get involved with the Scottish Warrior exhibition too! Part of the exhibition is an interactive area where all ages can think about and share what the term ‘Scottish Warrior’ means to them. We have already had a lot of great entries from local schools and individuals. These ideas will be displayed in the exhibition and throughout social media.

A group of the marketing students will be doing a castle tour wearing ‘Scottish Warrior’ t-shirts, which were designed for the exhibition, and you can find photographs of the trips on our Instagram and Facebook pages @uoamuseums so keep an eye out!


Come along and visit the exhibition yourself and share your interpretation of the Scottish Warrior with the hashtag #UoAScottishWarrior!

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2017: Scotland’s Year of History, Heritage and Archaeology

Museum Studies students tell us about their exhibition and how it links with the year of History, Heritage and Archaeology:

2‘The Scottish Government has designated 2017 Scotland’s Year of History, Heritage and Archaeology, which lined up perfectly with the exhibition theme of the ‘Scottish Warrior’. It gave us a fun challenge to figure out how we wanted our exhibition to fit into the overall theme of the year. But first, we had to figure out what exactly the Year of History, Heritage and Archaeology meant. This year is all about celebrating the richness of Scotland’s past; the country has an intriguing history, demonstrated through the range of historical sites dating from the Neolithic through to the twentieth century.  As a student exhibition team, we decided to take a more critical approach to Scotland’s past and we chose to examine the origins of the idea of the ‘Scottish Warrior’ and how that image persists in modern day.

Just take a moment to think about these questions: when you think of ‘The Scottish Warrior’ who or what do you see? Are there words or phrases you would associate with a Scottish Warrior? As a class we have discovered that there are many influences and stereotypes surrounding the term. A few that immediately spring to mind are historical figures such as William Wallace and Robert the Bruce, large scale battles such as Culloden and Bannockburn, and popular culture representations such as Braveheart and Outlander. As a team we have constantly had to question how these influence our own perceptions and how we can avoid stereotyping the past while still celebrating the vast and impressive history of the Scottish warrior.


The Jacobite imagery on this pistol, still recognised today, is just a small part of the rich history that Scotland has to offer.

Our research has demonstrated just how far the influence of ‘The Scottish Warrior’ has spread across the tourist industry and Scotland’s popular culture. We’ve realised that it is important to understand the origins of the image so that we can better understand modern Scottish identity. While curating this exhibition, we’ve enjoyed seeing the wide range of interpretations of the Scottish warrior, from our own imaginings to gross caricatures to the more realistic.


Join in the Year of History, Heritage and Archaeology by visiting our exhibition, opening 13 June 2017, and checking out other events and exhibitions in the area. Keep checking the blog for more about the exhibition and the process behind it! #UoAScottishWarrior’

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Object Loans

Last week’s blog was all about some of the Museum Studies class’s visit to the Gordon Highlanders Museum to view objects for a potential loan. This was a really valuable experience and they enjoyed the opportunity to look around the museum collections. This week they will tell you all about the loan process!

‘Given the nature of our topic we were presented with a great opportunity to work with the Gordon Highlanders Museum. Specialising in the Military History of the Gordon Highlanders Regiment, they are a wonderful museum to have so close for an exhibition on the ‘Scottish Warrior’. Curator Ruth Duncan was happy to help us narrow down the best and most interesting objects she could find to enhance our display and themes.


Taking measurement of the 20th-century uniform

The World Wars and Overseas Soldier groups worked together on the loan since our time periods overlap at the beginning of the 20th century. Firstly, we did some research using the Gordon Highlanders online catalogue to get a feel for what objects they had. We were specifically looking for a WWII gas mask and a 19th century uniform but instead we found a 20th century uniform with interesting medals from several different campaigns. Suitably, the uniform applies to the First World War, while the medals show how far Scottish soldiers had travelled overseas in the period leading up to the ‘Great War’.

Next, museum staff reached out to the Gordon Highlanders to formally arrange a viewing of the objects we had put on our wish list. The museum staff also helped us consolidate our list of potential objects and suggested some objects they thought would fit well with our themes. Then, as discussed on the last blog, we went to the museum and met with the curator of the Gordon Highlanders Museum, Ruth. After this it was up to us to come up with a final list to request for loan. Luckily, Ruth and the rest of the staff at Gordon Highlanders Museum were very obliging and we were allowed to borrow all the objects on our list.


Looking at an embroidered kilt apron shown to us by Ruth

Loans between museums are important and beneficial as the sharing of resources can help build community relationships and allow collections to be seen and enjoyed by a much wider audience. As we want to work in the museum sector, it was interesting to be part of the loan process. This could only have happened with the cooperation of the Gordon Highlanders Museum – so thanks again to Ruth Duncan and also the University of Aberdeen Museums staff.


Stay tuned for more information on the ‘Year of History, Heritage & Archaeology’ and make sure to look out for our special objects in the exhibition!


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‘The Scottish Warrior’ at Gordon Highlanders Museum

Some students working on the upcoming exhibition at King’s Museum tell us about a trip to look at the collections at Gordon Highlanders Museum in Aberdeen:

‘At the end of March, Emily, Amanda, Miranda and Robert from the World War and Overseas Soldier groups had the chance to visit the Gordon Highlanders Museum in Aberdeen to discuss a potential object loan for the upcoming exhibition on ‘The Scottish Warrior’. The museum explores the history of the Gordon Highlanders Regiment, active from 1794-1994.

We met with the museum’s curator and University of Aberdeen Museum studies alumna, Ruth Duncan, who showed us the objects we thought we might want to borrow. We enjoyed seeing the objects in person that we had been looking at through the museum’s online catalogue. Seeing these objects up close helped us with understanding them a bit more and appreciating how they will fit into the exhibition. Ruth was also on-hand to tell us more information about each of the objects in addition to some of the history of the museum itself and its collections.


Emily, Robert and Miranda unpacking an embroidered kilt apron under Ruth’s supervision

We looked at a wide range of objects, from an officer’s dirk to a child’s gas mask, along with a soldier’s beautifully embroidered kilt apron. These measurement are important for the Object Team, who had been working on the case layouts. We have to make sure everything fits! Design team member, Miranda, noted that the size of a kilt we wished to be lent from the Gordon Highlander’s Museum might change one of case’s layouts.

After spending some time looking at the objects we were then given the task of deciding which ones to formally request to borrow from the Gordon Highlanders Museum. This was a difficult decision, as we had to make sure that the objects we have on loan are the ones that will best enhance the exhibition. It is also important that these objects help the exhibitions’ themes be better understood by visitors.

Given the topic of ‘The Scottish Warrior’, reaching out to the Gordon Highlanders Museum seemed like a no-brainer! Getting to be involved in organising a loan from another local museum has made the curating process even more exciting and provided us with a great experience of professional collaboration. We are very grateful for the positive responses we have gotten from Ruth and the Gordon Highlanders Museum. Make sure to have a look around Gordon Highlanders next time you are in Aberdeen as it is well worth a visit!

Our exhibition opens early next month so keep an eye on our blog for more information and behind the scenes looks at our exhibition process! #UoAScottishWarrior

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Museum Mounts Matter!

As their exhibition approaches, Museum Studies students have been learning more about the different ways to display objects and the many things to consider:

‘Object mounts are essential tools used to display objects and artefacts to their full potential when constructing exciting and engaging exhibitions. This can be achieved in many different ways and many variables must be taken into account. For example, a shiny black plinth will enhance a shiny bronze objects and a long flat object (like a sword) will be easier to see when lifted to an angle of 30 degrees. Images are also a great addition to displays as they can really enhance an object and give it new meaning. Here are some of the display challenged our sub-groups experienced when preparing for ‘The Scottish Warrior’.

Prehistoric Savages
Creating a display for the Prehistoric section proved to be difficult at times. Chronologically this is the first section a visitor will encounter in our exhibition, which puts a degree of pressure upon this display to be exciting and engaging in order to grab your attention! The Prehistoric segment has been split into two separate cases which flow into each other. These two cases are smaller than others in the museum and have been designed to be looked down into from above. Within one of our cases we have included a jadeite axe that was owned by an antiquarian during the nineteenth century. When looking through the object’s original records kept by the collector, we discovered a fantastic collection of photographs displaying the objects he owned, including the very same jadeite axe! This was a very exciting discovery for us as we will now be displaying the picture alongside the axe in the case.

Medieval Warrior

mounts 2

Alanna and Melia measuring the space in King’s for the Claymore mount.

For the ‘Medieval Warrior’ topic we will be display a late-sixteenth-century Claymore sword. As it is far to big to display within the case, we have had to find a way for to be exhibited safely on open display. This has been achieved by creating a mount which allows it to be fastened to the window board next to the case. Another object that has required a special mount is a grave slab which features a carving of a sword. Initially we considered having this on open display alongside the Claymore, but the special mount ensured the case could support the weight and this has enabled us to display the slab alongside the other objects in the case.

Jacobites and the Highlands
In the ‘Jacobites and Highlands’ group we have decided that many of our objects are best display mounted to the back of our case .Luckily most of these objects, such as the targe and the pin cushion, have had mounts made specially for them in previous exhibitions. This means the mounts can conveniently be reused in our display to fix these objects to the back of our case. We will also have several objects in our case, including a sporran and carpet sample from Balmoral, which need to be propped up form the base so that visitors are able to see both objects clearly.

Overseas Soldier
One of the three objects in the ‘Overseas Soldier’ display that requires a mount is an African shield. The shield was originally planned to be mounted to the wall at an elevated position where it would be at eye-level for most adult visitors. Unfortunately, due to space being taken up by a world map and a soldier’s uniform, compromises had to be made. The shield will now require a mount that allows the artefact to stand at the bottom of the display case. The most important thing to consider is the angle at which the shield is tilted when held in the mount so that visitors can comfortably look at its surface without having to bend down to see the interesting parts.

World Wars
The ‘World Wars’ section of the exhibition is very fortunate to have a kilt on loan from the Gordon Highlanders Museum. As kilts are a strong symbol of Scottish heritage and worn with great pride we thought it was important to display this item to its fullest potential by mounting it on the back of our case. We needed to be able to show the pleats and movement of the kilt, as well as the little details of  burn marks from where the soldier who wore it had used a lit cigarette to burn away the live that plagued him. There is also mud visible on the kilt from the trenches of the Somme, to date still the bloodiest battle in human history.

The object selection team, and the entire ‘Scottish Warrior’ exhibition class, has had the opportunity to learn valuable information and skills regarding object mounting and object display from Melia Knecht, one of the museum staff. We would like to thank her for all of the knowledge and help she has given us as she moves on to an exciting new project in the wilds of Alaska! Thanks Melia!’

mounts 3




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Black Watch Blog

Our Museum Studies students tell us about a recent research trip to the Black Watch Museum for their exhibition:

‘In March a group of students visited the Black Watch Museum in Perth to meet with Hope Busak, the curator of the museum. A group of students interested  in the first half of the twentieth century, Amanda, Miranda, and Emily, were hoping to see some new ways to display and explore the World Wars in our upcoming exhibition. Jo, Kelcy, Leston, and Kalyn also tagged along to learn more!

amanda black watchHope took us on a tour of the museum, which details the history of the Black Watch regiment from its formation in 1739 to the present day. Hope and one of the volunteer guides told us some great stories about the Black Watch and Scottish warriors in general. This provided some great inspiration for our own exhibition and there was definitely some envy over one of the cases full of swords! Amanda, Miranda, and Emily particularly enjoyed the different and unique ways the museum displayed military medals and that the exhibition included a world map just like the one we would like to have in our exhibition!

We all enjoyed hearing about both sides of the Scottish warrior; the fearsome soldier and the humanitarians that gave food to Russian soldiers during the Crimean War. One of the stories Hope told us was of the first documented instance of “women and children first.” The Black Watch soldiers were on a ship with several of the wives and children when it hit some rocks and half the life boats were crushed. They evacuated the women and children while the men stood at attention on the deck as the ship sank. The Black Watch museum has two silver pitchers from the ship as one of the officer’s wives grabbed them and hid them in her dress as they evacuated. According to Hope, the Black Watch wouldn’t consider such as action theft – it was using her initiative!

We were also lucky enough to get a quick tour of their collection. Having all visited the University’s museum collection we enjoyed seeing another example of how collections are organised and stored. One piece of collections advice that we took from this was to check inside objects as you never know what you might find; the Black Watch staff had opened a military drum and discovered signatures from the soldiers inside!

Visiting the Black Watch was a great day trip and we got a whole host of ideas for our exhibition. Keep and eye on the blog for more trips and behind the scenes posts and check out #UoAScottishWarrior on social media for more!

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