Interpreting World Cultures at National Museum of Scotland

Jessica Juckes, International Training Programme Assistant

Last week, before attending the ICOM UK conference on ‘Working Internationally’, I visited the site and collection of the National Museum of Scotland in Edinburgh for the first time. I spent most of my time in the World Cultures sections of the museum, and was particularly interested in the museum’s approach to interpretation in these galleries, so I took some photographs of labels and panels to share with the ITP network!

-Recognition of how traditions maintain continuity, while never remaining static. Also frequent reminders of how the various groups whose objects are on show make up part of our contemporary world, and how the local and global intersect.


-Noting the function of objects beyond aesthetics (and the fact that exhibiting takes objects out of context).


-Non-Eurocentric mapping – highlighting global connections that may not be evident when looking at the standard world map.


-Information on the museum’s contemporary collecting practice and how it has been engaging with communities whose heritage is represented in the collection. Individual acknowledgement for contemporary artists and makers.


-Acknowledgement of how the artefacts on display came to reside in Scotland, and of particular Scottish people’s roles in this – and not shying away from links to British imperialism.


-My favourite object:

19th century ivory box from Benin, Nigeria, showing ‘two quarrelling Portuguese soldiers’ alongside a pangolin, whose scales are used to represent the strength and resilience of the Oba (king) of Benin.