Community consultation and the shaping of the National Army Museum’s Insight gallery
in Dividing the spoils
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This chapter examines how the National Army Museum, in the course of a major redevelopment, set about creating the new ‘Insight’ gallery to reflect the British Army’s historical presence around the world. Artefacts collected by British soldiers while serving in West Africa, the Panjab, Egypt and the Sudan were chosen for the first redisplay. The ‘Insight’ gallery highlights how artefacts were taken, for instance as battlefield loot or deliberately to deprive conquered peoples of the symbols of political power. In advancing new interpretations, the museum wished to demonstrate the relevance of the past to the present, and to that end organised workshops with community groups within the UK – Sikh, Ghanaian and Sudanese – in order to discuss their responses to the museum’s collections. This led to the reinterpretation of collections with the museum, in particular through reading inscriptions, which reveal entirely new provenance information, or alternative identifying materials and techniques. These collaborative discussions elicited various, and sometimes conflicting interpretations, of the collections and recommendations as to how they should be displayed. The results of this work can be found in the current display through audio-visual interpretation.

Dividing the spoils

Perspectives on military collections and the British empire

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