A repository of virtue?: The United Service Museum, collecting, and the professionalization of the British Armed Forces, 1829–1864 - NMS Research Repository
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A repository of virtue?: The United Service Museum, collecting, and the professionalization of the British Armed Forces, 1829–1864

14 April 2018

Abstract

By examining the development of the United Service Museum (established in London in 1831) this article demonstrates how the practice of collecting knowledge and material culture during the nineteenth century was considered an important avenue through which to inculcate virtuous behaviour in officers of the British armed forces. Although the museum’s curators favoured objects that reflected the development of the ‘science of warfare’ from the mid- to late-1850s and beyond, in the first half of the nineteenth century the collection of knowledge of other cultures and the natural world was considered just as significant for the professionalization of the services. By tracing these shifts in the museum’s collections policies this article highlights the complexities of the role, meaning and purpose of military museums, and makes a call to reappraise the nature of their collections, challenging the view that they should be exclusively seen as repositories of ‘spoils of war’.

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