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Leicester Special Collections

St. Fagan's National Museum of History and the National Museum of Wales

St. Fagan’s is an open air, folk museum more akin to what you would find typically in Scandinavia. It lists its purpose clearly as representing a nation’s ‘life and culture’. This can be both tangible such as artwork and buildings, but can also represent the intangible such as speech, dance and music. This is unique within the case studies featured as it talks about intangible objects, which are often overlooked. But this document is also unusual in that it talks more about exhibiting and preserving than acquiring and collecting. Do folk museums have different priorities to a stereotypical museum?

Being built just after the Second World War, the idea of preserving local heritage and proudly exhibiting it, has nationalistic undertones. The second document addressing Welsh-Americans has a similar nationalistic tone. It talks about the National Museum of Wales’ purpose as being to ‘create such as visible record … of life and work in old Wales’. The booklet goes further saying that its aims are to ‘teach the world about Wales, and the Welsh people about their own fatherland’. Are there any other examples of museums either in war time or peace time that have similar aims? What makes a museum such a useful institution in which to promote national heritage? How does Wales compare to other UK countries such as Northern Ireland and Scotland in how it uses museums to promote nationalism?

The Purpose of a Museum
St. Fagan's National Museum of History and the National Museum of Wales