Colonialism and the development of the English Provincial Museum, 1823-1914
During the nineteenth century, when the British Empire was nearing its peak in terms of territory and population, museums in England were being founded at an exponential rate. This thesis sheds light on the relationship between colonialism and provincial museums, and the role colonialism played in the development of these institutions, by focussing on the acquisition of colonial material by five English provincial museums between 1823 and 1914. Through the use of acquisition records the flow of colonial material (both natural history and ethnographic) from the British colonies of Africa, Australia and India to the museums of the Natural History Society of Northumberland, Durham and Newcastle upon Tyne, Saffron Walden Natural History Society, Whitby Literary and Philosophical Society, Leeds Philosophical and Literary Society and Liverpool Museum was quantified. This revealed that each museum experienced unique trends in the flow of colonial material which I suggest was caused by the individual institutional dynamics of each museum; there was no direct correlation between the flow of material to these museums and historical themes relating to British colonial history, the geographical location of museums (on ports or inland) or the flow of material to the British Museum, although these elements did influence acquisitions. Donors were mainly middle-class males who preferentially contributed to their local museum, and although employed in a wide-range of occupations within the Empire a surprising number had never visited the British colonies. While the donation of this material may not have been entirely philanthropic, it both benefited the donors and proved a valuable asset to museums, contributing to their role as educators, entertainers and promoters of civic pride. These findings contribute to our understanding of the development of provincial museums in England, and illustrate their varied and dynamic histories.