Natural Sciences research in the National Museums of Scotland and its relationship to the collections - NMS Research Repository
Skip to main content
Shared Research Repository
Conference paper (published)

Natural Sciences research in the National Museums of Scotland and its relationship to the collections



The term "research" covers a confusingly wide range of activities, nowhere more so than in a museum. This paper focuses on "question driven" research that is externally motivated rather than being primarily introspective with respect to the museum or its existing collections. The many reasons why it is important for the National Museums of Scotland (NMS) to conduct in-house research of this kind are outlined, and include benefits in the familiar museum functions of exhibition and education as well as contributing to Scotland's international status as an intellectually developed and participating nation. Question-driven research typically needs new and focussed collecting activity, and sometimes the most important relationship that the collection has with current research is simply to act as a depository, whereby the research done will remain objectively testable. However, the collection growth achieved through developing particular areas of research activity is, over career-length time spans, of especially high quality and adds substantially to the usefulness of the collections for the large variety of purposes to which they are put, including other research dimensions. The need for research in the natural sciences to be to some extent (and in different ways) opportunistic in an institution the size of NMS is outlined, and it is explained how research programming is approached in strategic terms aimed at enabling NMS to "punch above its weight" in relevant fields. The maintenance of a healthy research environment is also dependent on other factors, however, and there is a crucial need for NMS to project the research aspect of its work strongly so as to encourage an even broader understanding of value and support for non-introspective question-driven research to be conducted as an important, even obligatory, part of overall activity.


This is a metadata only record.