Museums and Englishness: The Failure to Establish a National Museum in Twentieth Century England

Carter, Thomas (2016) Museums and Englishness: The Failure to Establish a National Museum in Twentieth Century England. PhD thesis, University of Gloucestershire.

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Abstract

This thesis takes as its starting in point an examination of the complex and contested construction of English national identity and its deeply problematized intertwining with ideas of Britishness. By examining three case studies of failed English national museum projects, this dissertation has demonstrated that these proposals have not coalesced around a consistent interpretation of Englishness, but upon specific, threatened forms of culture such as the preservation of rural, agricultural and folk heritage; or have been motivated by a particular desire to inculcate a sense of citizenship through the improvement of history education. Each of these projects failed because of practical and financial shortcomings, but their failure also reveals much about contemporary debates upon the nature of English national culture, as well as several consistent issues which have impeded the creation of an English national museum. Firstly, that the absence of cohesive definitions of Englishness and Britishness means that the notion of a national museum has become intensely politicised, and therefore, public funding has not been forthcoming. Secondly, those definitions of Englishness that have arisen have formed around localised, often rural cultures, and thusly the idea of a single, London based national institution has met resistance from regional museums. Finally, the thesis demonstrates that museological paradigms have shifted significantly over the course of the twentieth century. Changing attitudes to interpretive practices, the role of curatorial authority, proscriptive ideas of culture, and museum-visitor relationships, have effectively made the very concept of a centralised national museum antithetical to the museum community. The original contribution of this thesis then, is in demonstrating how the inability and reticence to define a homogenous English national identity has impacted upon the creation of an English national museum.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Thesis Advisors:
Thesis AdvisorEmailURL
Robertson, Iainirobertson@glos.ac.ukUNSPECIFIED
Cowen, Harryhcowen3@glos.ac.ukUNSPECIFIED
Morrisroe, Vickyvmorrisroe@glos.ac.ukUNSPECIFIED
Uncontrolled Keywords: Museums, England; National identity, England;
Subjects: D History General and Old World > D History (General)
D History General and Old World > DA Great Britain
Divisions: Schools and Research Institutes > School of Liberal and Performance Arts > Religious, Philosophical and Historical Studies
Depositing User: Susan Turner
Date Deposited: 05 May 2017 14:11
Last Modified: 05 May 2017 14:11
URI: http://eprints.glos.ac.uk/id/eprint/4602

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