Burnishing Nationalism: Touring Burns and Authenticity in Scotland

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Abstract

This article argues that museums are an effective tool in the assertion of a sense of nationhood. In order to validate this argument this article examines the question of authenticity in three museums in the southwest of Scotland dedicated to Robert Burns and how they convey a sense of nationhood. Examples have been used to show how an authentic past is narrated to visitors, including the presentation of artifacts that are reproductions or unoriginal, the use of language in brochures that are an assertion of the past, and restoration efforts in the town of Dumfries. The data collected at the three museums compiled from the author’s field notes indicate that Scotland is presented as primordial, ancient, original, and distinctive—all of which are concepts associated with nationalism. Given Robert Burns’ reputation as an iconic national figure, the role of authenticity in the museums plays a semiotic role in presenting a symbolic version of national identity.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)137-147
JournalTourism Culture & Communication
Volume10
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2010

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