National Museum facing protests over lack of Gaelic in Jacobites exhibition

A major new exhibition on Bonnie Prince Charlie and the Jacobites is facing protests today over claims it has sidelined the Gaelic language.

More than 350 objects, including loans from the Vatican and the Louvre, are in the new Jacobites exhibition at the National Museum.
More than 350 objects, including loans from the Vatican and the Louvre, are in the new Jacobites exhibition at the National Museum.

Campaigners will stage a demonstration outside the National Museum of Scotland in Edinburgh amid allegations of “cultural appropriation and English language colonisation.”

The museum also stands accused of failing to provide Gaelic translations for visitors and of minimising the role of the language in the exhibition.

The first show to be devoted to the story of the Jacobites for 70 years, it is billed as an exploration of “a 200 year sweep of Scottish, British and European history from the perspective of the dynastic claim of the Stuarts to the thrones of Scotland, England and Ireland.”

The museum says there has been a misunderstanding over the exhibition, which runs till November, insisting Gaelic language and culture has been part of the planning of the exhibition from the outset.

Publicity material for the protest, announced by campaign group Misneachd before the opening of the show yesterday, states: “This is cultural appropriation and English language colonisation of our history. The museum is attempting to make money and raise its profile internationally from a history completely interlinked with the language of the Highlands.

“Even now, we sing the Gaelic songs composed at that time and tell the tales connected with the events. Gaelic, and the Gaelic peoples of the Highlands as a minority population, still suffer from the consequences of Culloden.


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“One of the main difficulties faced by Gaelic speakers is their compatriots’ lack of understanding of how strong the link is between Gaelic and the important events in our history. If we present our history without any reference to the important part Gaelic played in it, it is little wonder some Scots still don’t understand that Gaelic has relevance in Scotland today.”

Dr Gordon Rintoul, director of the museum, said: “People are commenting on an exhibition they’ve never seen. I would encourage them to come to see it for themselves. I would suggest they don’t know what it’s about.

“It’s not an exhibition that focuses on the Highlands or the Jacobite risings. It’s an exhibition that covers a huge sweep of European history over 200 years. We are telling a broad story of the attempts by the Jacobites to restore the Stuart dynasty. It’s not a Scottish story, or a narrow Gaelic-related story. There is a misunderstanding or assumption of what the exhibition might be about.”