Representing the Nation: The historic and continuing role of national art institutions

Session Convenors:

Freya Spoor (Assistant Curator, ‘Celebrating Scotland’s Art’ The Scottish National Gallery Project)

Neil Lebeter (Amgueddfa Cymru – National Museum Wales)

Please email your paper proposal to the session convenors using the Paper Proposal Form


In late 18th-century Europe, a number of royal art collections were nationalised. The purpose of such institutions was to house significant collections of art that would be representative of the nation and its cultural aspirations. The best way to achieve this aim has been subject to continual debate. Some institutions have prioritised displays of recognised masterpieces in order to elevate local art production and the perceived cultural status of the nation. Others have provided a national forum for art either by resident artists or that depicts subjects of national interest. With large, historic collections these strategies are rarely distinct and often overlap. Factors that shape the display policy might include the political climate, economic considerations and social necessity. The physical space available and location of the gallery can also determine the presentation made and whether or not it is seen as successful. More recently, the development of new technologies has broadened audiences for national art collections to a global scale. By analysing the historic and continuing role of national art institutions, it is possible to view in microcosm many of the processes involved in creating and presenting a collected image of the nation. Thus, this session welcomes papers that examine but are not limited to the following themes:

  • nationalism/globalism
  • collection formation past and present
  • pedagogical purpose
  • the role of culture in society
  • community engagement
  • physical space and location of the gallery
  • new technologies
  • audiences for art
  • representativeness of collections
  • ownership
  • partnerships

Submit a paper

Please email your paper proposals direct to the session convenors above, using the Paper Proposal Form

You need to provide a title and abstract (250 words maximum) for a 25-minute paper (unless otherwise specified), your name and institutional affiliation (if any).

Please make sure the title is concise and reflects the contents of the paper because the title is what appears online, in social media and in the printed programme.

You should receive an acknowledgement receipt of your submission within two weeks from the session convenors.

Deadline for submissions: Monday 21 October 2019

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