Desmond Thomas
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A regimental culture of collecting
in Dividing the spoils
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The spread of military museums across the United Kingdom reflects the atomised regimental system which characterises the history and organisational culture of the British Army. The history of most British regiments includes colonial campaigns, and opportunities to acquire trophies and souvenirs, an ongoing practice since the beginning of human conflict itself, have rarely been lacking. Enemy weapons, flags and other military accoutrements have always been popular choices as souvenirs but non-military objects, some of which would now be classified as ethnographic material, were also eagerly procured. This chapter examines, using the first-hand experience of the author, the regimental collecting of contemporary or near-contemporary conflict, reviewing practices and challenges. Applying the findings of several regimental museum surveys and other research, these present-day practices will be compared with those of longer established regimental museums to help contextualise and better understand why certain types of objects might have been collected historically. It considers the relationship between provenance and legitimacy both in historical and contemporary contexts.

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Dividing the spoils

Perspectives on military collections and the British empire


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