Museum partnership secures £1 million for Cold War research

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The University of Stirling has secured a major funding grant in partnership with National Museums Scotland for a unique research project exploring how the Cold War features in museums.

The partnership has been awarded £1 million from the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC) for the three-year project Materialising the Cold War.

The research team will analyse museum collections and displays across the UK and Europe – covering everything from military and social history to technology, art and design – to understand how the Cold War materialised in a specific national context and ask exactly how it features in museums today.

The research will culminate in a major exhibition about Scotland and the Cold War, which will be accompanied by schools programming, publications and activity to support the museum sector in engaging new audiences with this period of history.

The Cold War, which was a nuclear standoff, didn’t escalate to the point of direct confrontation, and as a so-called ‘imaginary war’, it is often a hard story to tell and not represented in museums as comprehensively as other conflicts.

Professor Judith Phillips, Deputy Principal for Research at the University of Stirling, said: “This is a significant grant and, as such, recognises the leading expertise of our academics in the Faculty of Arts and Humanities.

“It marks the start of an important partnership and will explore a fascinating time in world history which has helped shape lives today.”

Dr Chris Breward, Director of National Museums Scotland said: “The Cold War casts a significant shadow over the second half of the 20th century, yet the intangible nature of this period of geopolitical tension makes it difficult to convey in museums.

“This generous grant from the AHRC will allow us to work with partners across the UK and Europe to conduct in-depth research into the representation of the Cold War in museum collections. Among a number of exciting outputs will be the first exhibition to tell the full story of Scotland’s place in this extraordinary conflict.”

Materialising the Cold War will begin on October 1. The Principal Investigator is Dr Sam Alberti, Director of Collections at National Museums Scotland and Honorary Professor of Heritage Studies at the University of Stirling. His Co-Investigator is Holger Nehring, Professor of Contemporary European History at the University of Stirling.

UK partner organisations for the project are RAF Museums and Imperial War Museums. International collaborators are the Norsk Luftfartsmuseum in Bodø, Norway and the Allied Museum in Berlin. Representatives from these organisations and other stakeholders will form a specialist Advisory Board.