Conference Paper

Unsettling Naken chaetrie in Scottish museums



Ramsay R (2019) Unsettling Naken chaetrie in Scottish museums. Decolonizing the Museum in Practice, Pitt Rivers Museum, Oxford. Journal of Museum Ethnography, (32), pp. 63-83.

Unsettling Naken chaetrie in Scottish museums Gypsy/Travellers in Scotland, by any standard definition, have not been colonized. They have, however, as a minority 'other', been subject to persecution by a settled majority. The parallels between the experiences of Gypsy/Travellers and those of colonized Indigenous Peoples are strong, and include the forced removal of children, subjection to assimilation programmes, cultural and linguistic oppression, and alienation from traditional lands (Onciul 2015: 55-57; Smith 2012: 203-220). The material culture of Gypsy/Travellers held in museums was collected by, and is largely interpreted and understood from the perspective of, members of the settled community. The designation Gypsy/Travellers is itself applied to the group by settled institutions and so in this article Naken, a term of self-reference used by the communities themselves, will take its place. A fuller explanation appears in the following section on terminology. This paper explores how processes of decolonization might be reframed to consider the unique situation of this mobile minority ethnic population in Scotland. How might processes of unsettling offer a parallel to decolonization in relation to the material culture of Naken in Scottish museums? What might this mean and how might it work in practice? As a researcher, and previously as a museum professional working in learning and access, I have found challenges as well as benefits in working with different communities, including with Naken. Creative solutions, however, have helped to overcome many of the perceived barriers on both sides. A key element for this work in museums and research has been to partner with trusted individuals and organizations working with Naken. 1 Within the context of this research, approaches to obstacles have also included meeting outside the museum and sharing images of objects, exchanging knowledge via social media, and visiting Naken willing to show me their own collections and to tell me about how they collect and what they value about these groups of objects. Naken are often portrayed as a hard-to-reach group. We are all (museums, communities and researchers), however, at least a little hard-to-reach in our various ways, but solutions can often be found by working together and finding ways of meeting in the middle. From experience the benefits are enormous. What can sometimes be missed when museums have overcome barriers

Journal of Museum Ethnography, Issue 32

FundersArts and Humanities Research Council
Publication date31/03/2019
Date accepted by journal01/03/2019
ConferenceDecolonizing the Museum in Practice
Conference locationPitt Rivers Museum, Oxford

People (1)


Mrs Rhona Ramsay

Mrs Rhona Ramsay

PhD Researcher, History and Politics - Division