Dividing the spoils
in Dividing the spoils
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The trajectory into the collections of National Museums Scotland made by two horn cups is explored as a means to discuss military culture and collections of the non-European world. Both cups are associated with storming at the fortress city of Maqdala, Ethiopia in 1868. These objects are examined here from a shared, interdisciplinary perspective embracing museum anthropology and military history. They represent the products of one end of a range of collecting practices, running from looting through to scientific collecting, and between which the boundaries are not always clear. The stories of their acquisition, and of their afterlives as museum objects, open up some of the complexities and fascinating ambiguities which can emerge from close study of material of this kind. These, and similar objects preserved in military collections across the UK, raise questions about the relationship between the British Army and Empire, the culture and practices of appropriation, collecting and memorialisation in British military culture, about the fluidity of the terminology applied to such objects, and about the challenges and opportunities inherent in interpreting such objects for museum visitors in the post-colonial era.

Dividing the spoils

Perspectives on military collections and the British empire


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