Ronnie Cramond

In 1984 I was invited by to join the Museums Advisory Board, which the then Secretary of State for Scotland wanted to advise on how to join the Royal Scottish Museum and the National Museum of Antiquities of Scotland, into what is now the National Museums of Scotland (NMS). I was then appointed a Founding Trustee of NMS.

The Trustees wanted to create a Museum of Scotland within this new body. When the Scottish Office asked what it would contain, the Trustees’ Chairman, the Marquess of Bute, invited me to chair a working group to produce what became, in effect, the first prospectus for such a Museum. The members of the group were Magnus Magnusson, Professor Andrew Walls, Dr Robert Anderson, Dale Idiens and Nigel Pittman.

It is now an established part of the architectural, educational and tourist scene, but it was not a “given”. The Trustees had to lobby, privately and publicly, for the funds for it, and eventually got money for the building work only after they had threatened to resign. Even then, they had to raise £17 million from private sources for the displays within the building. I was a member of the Committee which monitored the creation of these displays, opened by the Queen on St Andrew's day 1998.

However, a decade later, I began to wonder whether we had been successful. Did the displays actually help visitors to learn more about Scottish history? There had never been a survey attempting to measure learning outcomes, so I proposed to the School of History at Edinburgh University that I should undertake research into the motivation for creating the Museum of Scotland and the educational effectiveness of its history content for the visiting public. This entailed two years work, and 121 structured interviews of visitors, selected on a random basis, on a questionnaire which I devised, and checked for validity with an expert on questionnaires.

I was awarded a Masters (MPhil by research) for the resultant dissertation. The survey on visitor learning showed conclusively that visitors do indeed learn a great deal about Scottish history from the displays. The dissertation is now on the University website, and may be downloaded and used, in terms of the Creative Commons licence, subject to acknowledgement. It is at www.era.lib.ed.ac.uk/handle/1842/5537.

It is because I believe that Scottish history matters, and that good museum displays can complement the outpouring of excellent academic histories since Professor Smout's ground-breaking work, that I support what the Saltire Society does to promote Scottish culture, heritage and history.

I was a Founding Trustee of the National Museums of Scotland, and a member of the Committee that monitored the creation of the displays in the Museum of Scotland. When it had been opened for a decade I began to wonder whether we had been successful. Were visitors actually learning more about Scottish history from looking at the displays we had created? So, under the auspices of Edinburgh University, and with the assent of NMS, I undertook research into “the motivation for creating the Museum of Scotland and the educational effectiveness of its history content for the visiting public”.

This entailed 121 structured interviews of visitors, selected on a random basis. My resultant Masters (MPhil) dissertation is on the University website, and may be downloaded and used, in terms of the Creative Commons licence, subject to acknowledgment. The link is www.era.lib.ed.ac.uk/handle/1842/5537.

I have also completed similar research on the educational value of the NTS Centre at Culloden. This is on the NTS website at www.nts.org.uk/Culloden/Visitor Centre/download. It has the results of 143 interviews with visitors to find out how much they had learned about the true history of the '45 and "Bonnie Prince Charlie". Result? They learned a great deal, and were disabused of commonly held myths.
I was awarded a Masters (MPhil) from Edinburgh last year by research into the motivation for creating the Museum of Scotland and the educational effectiveness of its history content for the visiting public. This entailed two years work, and 121 structured interviews of visitors, selected on a random basis, on a questionnaire which I devised, and checked for validity with an expert on questionnaires. My dissertation is on the University website, and may be downloaded and used, in terms of the Creative Commons licence, subject to acknowledgment. It is at www.era.lib.ed.ac.uk/handle/1842/5537.

I made copies available, free, to the Director and several curators, and presented a hard back, bound copy (which cost me £45) to the NMS Library.

R.D. (Ronnie) Cramond CBE MA MPhil FSA Scot

Posted on 29 March 2013 under History & Heritage, guest blogs