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Burnishing Nationalism: Touring Burns and Authenticity in Scotland

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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.
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Keywords: AUTHENTICITY; MUSEUMS; NATIONALISM; SCOTLAND

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: 2010-10-01

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  • Tourism, Culture & Communication is international in its scope and will place no restrictions upon the range of cultural identities covered, other than the need to relate to tourism and hospitality. The Journal seeks to provide interdisciplinary perspectives in areas of interest that may branch away from traditionally recognized national and indigenous cultures, for example, cultural attitudes toward the management of tourists with disabilities, gender aspects of tourism, sport tourism, or age-specific tourism.
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