Scholarly and public histories: a case study of Lincolnshire, agriculture and museums

Hunt, Abigail (2013) Scholarly and public histories: a case study of Lincolnshire, agriculture and museums. PhD thesis, University of Lincoln.

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Item Type:Thesis (PhD)
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Abstract

This thesis is an exploration of the complex relationship between academic,
popular and museum histories. A central theme to the research is that nostalgia
currently keeps these categories of history quite separate from one another, as
academic historians are critical of the use of nostalgia in presenting the past,
whereas popular histories are often steeped in nostalgia, as are historical
narratives presented in museums. I argue that nostalgia and nostalgic sources
should not be viewed as problematic by historians, but embraced simply as
another type of historical source. Popular histories, rich in nostalgia, and often
reliant on memories should also be considered more favourably by academics
as they serve to engage people with historical narratives as both contributors
and consumers. The inclusion of nostalgic sources, such as memoirs and oral
histories, in historical narratives can also result in the production of new or
relative histories, which enrich the historical past presented to us, and open up
fresh debates on well covered topics. Nor is nostalgia problematic in museums
as it helps visitors relate to, and understand, the stories presented to them.
Nostalgia can also motivate people to donate objects to museums, and
therefore to have an active role in how the past is represented within museums.
Once again this serves to produce a more complex narrative for the visitor that
can broaden our understanding of the past.
These ideas are presented through two case studies of agricultural change in
Lincolnshire between 1850 and 1980, and a case study of museums in the
county. The historical narratives were produced using a range of primary and
secondary sources, including oral histories and memoirs. The inclusion of non-
ii
traditional sources aided in the production of new accounts of changes in the
labour patterns of women and children, and of increased mechanisation during
the period. Both chapters reposition agricultural modernity in history,
demonstrating that the shift from traditional to modern practices did not occur
immediately after World War Two, but over a period of 30 years from the 1930s
to the 1960s.
The museological case study explores how the past is represented in museums
and the factors that shape this. Museums in Lincolnshire were surveyed, and
professionals working in them were interviewed, to ascertain how they present
historical narratives around agricultural changes, and how nostalgia relates to
this. It was found that nostalgia had very little impact on how the past was
presented in the museums, but the processes of donation and collection, the
lack of specialist knowledge in the sector, and external political factors had a
significant impact on the presentation of the past in these institutions.
The thesis argues that those involved with academic, popular, and museum
histories should work collaboratively to explore ways of incorporating nostalgic
sources into historical narratives to develop new interpretations of the past.
They should also work in partnership to move away from the traditional
museological ‘nostalgia debate’ to resolve the issues that currently affect how
the past is presented in museums.

Keywords:History, Archives, Local history, Agricultural history
Subjects:V Historical and Philosophical studies > V214 English History
P Mass Communications and Documentation > P131 Museum studies
V Historical and Philosophical studies > V140 Modern History
Divisions:College of Arts > School of History & Heritage > School of History & Heritage (History)
ID Code:17654
Deposited On:15 Jun 2015 08:00

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