Robert Burns: Inventing Tradition and Securing Memory, 1796-1909

Lead Research Organisation: University of Glasgow
Department Name: School of Critical Studies

Abstract

Robert Burns: Inventing Tradition and Securing Memory, 1796-1909 is a project which operates on three levels. On the empirical level, it provides a comprehensive web-based catalogue of public monuments to Robert Burns worldwide erected by 1909, with a selection of images from the same period, combined with a web-based classification of the different kinds of Burns-related material culture available commercially or for domestic use. These datasets will enable the whole range of images and items used in the transmission of Robert Burns' reputation into the sphere of cultural memory to be available for study or consultation in one place for the first time. This is a particularly important development, because Burns was one of the most commemorated of all poets, and the documentation of the full range of his memorialization through objects and public monuments will provide an invaluable evidence base both for analysis and for the development of similar records of other writers. The project has the support and partnership of the National Trust for Scotland Burns Birthplace Museum and is currently negotiating access to two extensive private collections of domestic Burnsiana.

On a theoretical level, the project will seek to provide a model for the relationship between literary and material culture, addressing questions such as whether the choice of means of commemoration (e.g. through particular objects or depictions of the poet) has had an effect on the reputation of individual poems or approaches to the writer's life and whether literary and material culture diverge or converge in the significance they grant the reputation of the poet. It will seek to provide outcomes which can act as a basis for the examination of the use of material and commemorative culture as a formative influence in the reception, reputation and canon of other writers.

On a policy level, Inventing Tradition and Securing Memory will contribute, through its work with the curator David Hopes, to the interpretation of Burns at the Robert Burns Birthplace Museum, the single most important Burns site in the world. The RBBM is in the process of final planning and development with £17M of the final £21M budget raised as of January 2009, and the current project will provide invaluable policy input at a crucial stage in the RBBM's crystallization as a major modern tourist venue. Burns is worth £157M to the Scottish economy (2003 figures), and the cutting-edge interpretation of his memorialization-itself so publicly visible in so many parts of the world-will be of great interest to the combined 100 000+ visitors a year expected at the Museum. It is expected that the dissemination of the research work to Glasgow Museums and to the Wordsworth Trust will also prove invaluable to the development of interpretative material in other venues.

Inventing Tradition and Securing Memory will provide a lasting web resource, a set of scholarly outcomes, and an engagement with the wider heritage, cultural and tourist industries through established collaborative agreements. Its methodologies will include:

i. The gathering of a comprehensive list of public commemorations through archives, newspapers, photograph collections and existing digital and secondary sources.
ii. The intensive use of archives to create a sense of the development of commissioning, fundraising and impact of public Burns commemoration in particular instances.
iii. The design of a taxonomy of domestic objects associated with Burns.
iv The consideration of Burns' memorialization as a form of invention of tradition (Hobsbawm and Ranger (1983)) and its use to 'compose' memories of who the poet was and what he represented.
v. Building on existing research, to establish ways in which material culture may be considered a legitimate part of the reception history of a text or author.

Publications

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Alker, Sharon; Davis, Leith; Nelson, Holly Faith (2012) Robert Burns and Transatlantic Culture

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Mackay P (2012) Highland Mary: Objects and Memories in Romanticism

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Pittock M (2016) Introduction: Scottish Romanticism in European Romantic Review

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Pittock M (2016) Thresholds of Memory: Birch and Hawthorn in the Poetry of Robert Burns in European Romantic Review

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Pittock Murray (2011) Robert Burns in Global Culture

 
Title Exhibition at Hunterian Art Gallery 
Description Exhibition of Burns memorabilia designed to show how they contributed to how the poet was remembered 
Type Of Art Artefact (including digital) 
Year Produced 2011 
Impact Available to 25 000 visitors 
 
Title Exhibition at Mitchell Library of Burns materials and memory studies, 2011, 2013 
Description Exhibition: Treasures of the Month 
Type Of Art Artefact (including digital) 
Year Produced 2011 
Impact Available to c90 000 visitors to the Mitchell Library, Glasgow in 2013 and 120 000 in 2011. 
 
Title Exhibition at Robert Burns Birthplace Museum 
Description An exhibition designed to show how C19 and C20 memories of Highland Mary were created by objects 
Type Of Art Artefact (including digital) 
Year Produced 2011 
Impact Major press coverage, including The Sun; controversy; open to 78 000 visitors. 
 
Description The key discovery is that memory in the nineteenth century could be composed (ie altered, changed) by objects and public ceremonies, just as it can be today by the electronic media
Exploitation Route In examining the role of public events and festivals on cultural memory of a place or person historically & in the present.

Already of significant interest in tourism and the Burns industry (worth iro £250M pa to the Scottish economy)
Sectors Creative Economy,Digital/Communication/Information Technologies (including Software),Leisure Activities, including Sports, Recreation and Tourism,Culture, Heritage, Museums and Collections

 
Description -Scottish Government and Visit Scotland -Burns Scotland Collections Development; Debate in Scottish Parliament on 'The Economic Potential of Robert Burns', 17 January 2018, initiated by Joan McAlpine MSP, Convenor of Culture, Tourism and external Affairs Committee: https://www.scottishparliament.tv/meeting/members-business-the-economic-potential-of-robert-burns-january-17-2018; Discussion on Economic Impact Assessment funding for Robert Burns ongoing with Scottish Government. Also advising WeeBox on Burns January theme box: WeeBox exports to 18 countries. This work has now given rise to an award from Economic Development Directorate (Scottish Government) on the Economic Impact of Robert Burns on the Scottish Economy, which reported in January 2020. The Report was launched by Joan McAlpine MSP, Convenor of the Culture, Tourism, Europe and External Affairs Committee at Alloway on 11 January 2020 and the recommendations were the subject of a debate in the Scottish Parliament on 21 January 2020.
First Year Of Impact 2011
Sector Agriculture, Food and Drink,Creative Economy,Education,Leisure Activities, including Sports, Recreation and Tourism,Culture, Heritage, Museums and Collections,Retail
Impact Types Cultural,Societal,Economic,Policy & public services

 
Description Incorporation of Robert Burns Beyond Text database on Scottish Government marketing site
Geographic Reach Multiple continents/international 
Policy Influence Type Implementation circular/rapid advice/letter to e.g. Ministry of Health
 
Description Scottish Government Burns Night Twitter ac
Geographic Reach Multiple continents/international 
Policy Influence Type Influenced training of practitioners or researchers
 
Description Scottish Winter Festivals
Geographic Reach Multiple continents/international 
Policy Influence Type Participation in a advisory committee
Impact - Working with government's Glasgow-based PR company: SMARTS - Working with government's New York-based PR company: Laura Davidson Public Relations. - Article, 'Robert Burns: Inventing Tradition and Securing Memory Worldwide' for US Blog 'Wandering Educators' (222,995 unique visitors per month) - Feature article (about PM) in The Herald Magazine: 'What it feels like to Uncover the bawdy side of Burns' by Susan Swarbrick, 24 January 2015. - Guest Curator of the government's @Scotland Twitter account from Wednesday 21 - Sunday 25 January (available to 2352 followers internationally). - Twitter Takeover Q&A of the government's @AboutScotland Twitter account on Sunday 25th January 5-6pm (available to 8019 followers internationally). - Re-launch of Burns App with new Timeline of Burns's life. Content (by Pauline Mackay) intentionally links to Beyond Text and Burns Scotland partners' images and websites. Now downloaded by over 14000 people internationally (across Android & iOS, as at 9 March 2015). Promoted through Scottish Government social media and Visit Scotland.
 
Title Inventing Tradition and Securing Memory 
Description Annotated list of extant Burns public monuments plus taxonomy of Burns memorabilia 
Type Of Material Database/Collection of data 
Year Produced 2011 
Provided To Others? Yes  
Impact Of major interest to Burns researchers and heritage industry worldwide- queries and almost 25000 visits to site in 2011-13. 
URL http://www.gla.ac.uk/schools/critical/research/researchcentresandnetworks/robertburnsstudies/ourrese...
 
Description Collaboration agreement with National Trust for Scotland. 
Organisation National Trust for Scotland
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Charity/Non Profit 
PI Contribution Information taken from Final Report
 
Description Collaboration with Burns Scotland 
Organisation Burns Scotland
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Private 
PI Contribution Research agenda for Burns collections Scotlandwide
Collaborator Contribution Access to holdings
Impact None
Start Year 2009
 
Description Collaboration with Glasgow Life 
Organisation Glasgow Life
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Charity/Non Profit 
PI Contribution Support for research and exhibitions agenda
Collaborator Contribution Access to collections, platform for exhibitions
Impact None specific
Start Year 2009
 
Description Collaboration with National Library of Scotland 
Organisation National Library of Scotland
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution Support for curatorial research
Collaborator Contribution Support for antiques roadshow event
Impact No
Start Year 2010
 
Title Robert Burns Edify Beyond Text platform 
Description Burns Beyond Reality was one of the 16 winners of the international contest (170 applicants) for Win-a-Lab to build new packages on the edify.ac platform created by the University of Glasgow/Sublime Digital. It was premiered on 30 January 2021 
Type Of Technology Webtool/Application 
Year Produced 2021 
Impact Too early to say: but there is major demand for Burns Country visualisation products, with the Burns Birthplace more visited than any other literary museum in the UK bar Shakespeare. 
URL https://www.whatsonglasgow.co.uk/event/092852-burns-beyond-reality/
 
Title Scottsh Government Burns App 
Description Downloadable app of Robert Burns for Scottish Government 
Type Of Technology Software 
Year Produced 2014 
Open Source License? Yes  
Impact Awareness raising: 14000 downloads internationally. Accompanying piece for US Blog 'Teach Thought' (1,046,740 unique visitors per month). 
 
Description 'Burns and the Rhetoric of Slavery' 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact Transatantic Burns Conference, Vancouver, 8 April 2009
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2009
 
Description 'Fiddling with Known Burns: Burns and the Limits of Criticism'. 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact Paper at Robert Burns in European Culture Conference, Charles University, Prague, 8 March
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2009
 
Description 'Robert Burns and Global Culture': 44th Will Lecture, House of Commons 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact 44th Will Lecture, Portcullis House, House of Commons, sponsored by Andrew Mitchell MP, then Shadow Secretary of State for International Devt
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2009
 
Description 'Robert Burns in Global Culture', 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Regional
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact Centre for Research into Regional Development Conference, Crichton Campus, Dumfries, 23 May 2008
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2008
 
Description 'Robert Burns in Global Culture', 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact School of Advanced Study seminar, London, 2 June
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2009
 
Description 'Robert Burns in Global Culture', 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Regional
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact Centre for Research into Regional Development Conference, Crichton Campus, Dumfries, 23 May 2008
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2008
 
Description 'The history of "Auld Lang Syne", for old time's sake' 
Form Of Engagement Activity A press release, press conference or response to a media enquiry/interview
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Media (as a channel to the public)
Results and Impact Interview on the origins of Auld Lang Syne for Washington Post, syndicated internationally
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2011
 
Description 'Whisky, Weib und Ceilidhs' 
Form Of Engagement Activity A magazine, newsletter or online publication
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact Coverage of British Chambers of Commerce Germany annual Burns Supper, at which I was the principal speaker
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2014
 
Description 'Who wrote the Scots Musical Museum ? Challenging editorial practice in the presence of authorial absence' 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact Seminar, Editorial Institute, University of Boston
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2015
 
Description 'Who wrote the Scots Musical Museum ? Challenging editorial practice in the presence of authorial absence' 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Postgraduate students
Results and Impact Harvard Graduate Seminar, 22 October
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2015
 
Description 'Who wrote the Scots Musical Museum ? Challenging editorial practice in the presence of authorial absence' 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact Roy Lecture, University of South Carolina, 12 October
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2015
 
Description Britische Handelskammer feiert das "Burns Supper", 
Form Of Engagement Activity A magazine, newsletter or online publication
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Media (as a channel to the public)
Results and Impact Principal speaker at British Chambers of Commerce Germany Burns Supper in Frankfurt
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2016
 
Description Burnisianarama 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Regional
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact 40 people attended a talk on the composure of memory by objects in the Victorian period, which was followed by an Antiques Roadshow of Burnsiana, identifying objects and talking about people's memory of them

This activity was associated with the Highland Mary Exhibition at the Robert Burns Birthplace Museum, open to c50 000 people, co curated by the PI
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2011
 
Description Global BUrns 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Undergraduate students
Results and Impact Lecture on Global BUrns, Brigham Young University, Utah- Tartan Day, 6 April
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2009