IASH-National Museums Scotland Fellowship


Applications are invited for the IASH-National Museums Scotland Fellowship from postdoctoral scholars in any area of the Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences, to carry out research based on collections held at the National Museum of Scotland.

National Museums Scotland (NMS) is an Independent Research Organisation (IRO) holding one of the largest and most diverse national heritage collections in the UK. Our collection comprises over 12.4 million objects across four collecting areas – Global Arts, Cultures & Design; Science & Technology; Scottish History & Archaeology; and Natural Sciences. NMS has four display sites - the National Museum of Scotland, the National Museum of Rural Life, the National Museum of Flight and the National War Museum. Our fifth site, the National Museums Collection Centre (NMCC), holds collections of national and international significance. Located in Granton, Edinburgh, NMCC is the heart of NMS' collections research and care with 99.8% of the estimated 12.6 million items held, accessed, cared for and researched at this site. One of NMS’s core functions, as defined by the National Heritage (Scotland) Act 1985, is to “preserve, interpret and make accessible for all, the past and present of Scotland, other nations and cultures, and the natural world”. This is realised through the creation of research partnerships, including collaborative doctoral projects, as part of NMS’s Collections Research Strategy and its Independent Research Organisation status.

IASH provides an enviable location in one of the world’s most intellectually inspiring cities, together with a dynamic network of international connections. Home to the Scottish Enlightenment, Edinburgh has a rich cultural heritage of scholarship and creativity that continues to the present day. In this haven of libraries and archives, galleries and music venues – all set amid iconic architecture – IASH helps scholars to take the humanities beyond campus to engage the public and work with organisations in a variety of sectors.

The Institute welcomes visiting researchers from across the world. Since 1970, over 1,250 Fellows have stepped through our doors. Up to 30 researchers are in residence at any one time in our amazing – and eclectic – nineteenth-century building just on the edge of the University’s central campus, boasting views of the Meadows. From more than 65 countries, IASH Fellows form a global alumni community, and many career-long connections begin at the Institute.

The collections

There are several areas of potential focus. At this time, we encourage applications focused on one of the following:

1. Ethiopian Collections, Resilience and Diaspora

Ethiopian musical performance often constitutes a medium for transmission of knowledge and experience, as well as being a source of inspiration and guidance.  The Museum has sound recordings made over 50 years ago in Ethiopia by Jean Jenkins, as well as a collection of Ethiopian musical instruments. Could participatory research and innovative engagement with these collections by Ethiopians living in Scotland, create new insights into Ethiopian cultural heritage? Can these collections be used to build creative exchanges with other cultures in Scotland and enhance resilience within this context? This postdoctoral project will suit a music or ethnomusicology graduate (potentially with African heritage) to address and research these questions through participatory work and facilitating collaborative and creative partnerships among Ethiopian diaspora groups in Scotland around the audio archive and musical instruments in the Jean Jenkins collection.  

Contact: Zachary Kingdo


2. Crafting Scotland

The Scottish Development Agency Scottish Craft Collection was gifted to the Museum in 1991. The collection is an important capsule that reflects the diversity of makers, in terms of material practice, who were based in Scotland between the late 1970s to the late 1980s. It is the tangible legacy of an important period in the development of British Contemporary Craft, when artists and makers were both continuing traditional forms of expression whilst also challenging those perceptions of their chosen medium beyond traditional functional applications, celebrating the artistry of Craft. This post-doctoral project would suit a history or arts/design graduate, who would explore why the collection was created, who was selected, and why, its economic impact upon the sector, the demographic of makers and links to the Scottish art schools that were working in Scotland during this period. 

Contact: Sarah Rothwell


3. Culture and Exchange in Design: Scandinavia, Eastern Europe, the Balkans and Scotland, 1750-1950

National Museums Scotland holds significant collections of decorative arts, dress and textiles that represent regional cultures from Scandinavia, Eastern Europe, and the Balkans, c.1750-1950. Most of the pieces were added to the collections before 1970 and have not received concerted research. Viewed together these collections offer rich potential for greater understanding of cultural exchange through migration, trade, travel, conflict and shifting Imperial governance.

Historically, Scotland’s seafaring and merchant economics led to significant interaction between Scotland and the Scandi-Balkan corridor. Collections within National Museums Scotland offer a unique opportunity to use everyday decorative objects, such as clothes and homewares, to study how population movement led to cultural exchange in visual styles, techniques and – critically – shifting expressions of material identity, as Empires moved national boundaries and imposed new values.

Supported by curatorial surveying, the underexplored collections offer a platform for researchers with appropriate language skills and a background in history and/or decorative arts to reconnect objects to their context. Complementing research in the Scottish History and Archaeology department to establish pre-1750 foundations of Scotland’s cultural exchange with Northern Europe, investigation will:

  • Engage with the role of collections in knowledge development
  • Create a deeper understanding of how migration has influenced regional cultures
  • Reanimate the folk and vernacular arts collections in a postcolonial framework.

Contact: Emily Taylor


What does the IASH-National Museums Scotland Fellowship offer?

IASH hosts a lively scholarly community of visiting fellows. It is a supportive environment for postdoctoral researchers, while also offering networking opportunities with successful mid-career and eminent senior scholars. The Institute occupies a historic building with private courtyard and leafy views – perfect for uninterrupted thinking, reading and writing. Yet there is also plenty of opportunity to socialise and share ideas.

In short, a 2024-2025 IASH-National Museums Scotland Fellowship provides:

  • Research visit at the University of Edinburgh for three to ten months
  • Bursary of £1,500 per month
  • Travel allowance of up to £500
  • Dedicated office space at IASH, University e-mail and library access
  • Library workspace with privileged access to collections, support from curatorial and technical staff, and access to the facilities of the Digital Scholarship Centre
  • An allocated University mentor from a relevant School within the College of Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences
  • Curatorial support from NMS staff
  • Weekly Fellows’ Lunch to build community
  • Collegial work-in-progress seminar series for testing new ideas
  • Calendar of engaging events at the Institute and College

Who can apply?

We warmly welcome applications from independent researchers, employees of Universities and other organisations engaged in research from around the world. Selection will be subject to the immigration rules governing the UK. Applicants should be employed for purposes including investigative research (or be an independent researcher) and have a suitable project or study to undertake using a specific collection.

Applicants must have been awarded a doctorate at the time of application, and normally within the last three years; if you have not yet graduated, you must be able to produce a transcript, testamur, or a letter of completion/eligibility to graduate as part of your application. You should not have held a previous Fellowship at the Institute for Advanced Studies in the Humanities. Those who have held temporary and/or short-term appointments are eligible to apply.

Application procedure

The closing date

The closing date for the receipt of the next round of applications (for visits from August 2024 to July 2025) is 17:00 GMT on 26 April 2024. Applications received after that date will not be considered. Decisions will be communicated in July. Please ensure that you supply a valid email address so that you can be contacted quickly after decisions are made.

The application form

Please complete the online application form here.
Any additional supporting documents connected with an application should be emailed to iash@ed.ac.uk.

References and supporting documents

  • In addition to the application form, two confidential references are required.
  • Applicants should ask their referees to email their reference to the Director at iash@ed.ac.uk by 26 April 2024.
  • Referees should comment on the nature and quality of the research proposal, as well as on the qualifications of the applicant. One referee should certify the successful viva (defence) and final examination of the candidate’s PhD thesis.
  • A letter of support from an NMS staff member listed as the collections contact above must also be included. Applications without letters of support or references cannot be considered.


  • Consideration will be given to the academic record and the publications of all applicants and their capacity to disseminate their views among a community of like-minded people. As well as providing evidence of contact with NMS staff, candidates must give evidence of any contact they have made with researchers at the University of Edinburgh, are required to make such contact before submitting their applications, and those who can evidence the relevance of their proposed project to the University of Edinburgh research community will be regarded favourably.  Particular weight will be placed on the quality and timeliness of the project proposed, and we encourage innovative and interdisciplinary topics and approaches.
  • Applications must detail the specific collection with which they plan to engage while at IASH. Fellows are expected to contribute to NMS collections information, and potentially activities such as seminars.
  • Only fully completed formal applications will be considered. It is the responsibility of each applicant to ensure that all documentation is complete, and that referees submit their reports to IASH by the closing date. Candidates may like to submit a copy of any one article or publication that is thought to be especially relevant to the research proposal and Fellowship submission. It must be emphasised, however, that no such submitted publication will be returned to the candidate.
  • The Institute was established in 1969 by the then Faculty of Arts to promote enquiry of the highest standards in the Humanities, broadly conceived. It began to receive Fellows in 1970, and is now located as an independent institute within the College of Arts, Humanities and Social Science. Inter-departmental and inter-disciplinary study has always been encouraged.
  • Fellows must make the Institute their main place of work for the duration of the Fellowship on a 0.6FTE basis (3 days per week minimum).  It is expected that Fellows will be in residence throughout the tenure of their Fellowship and will contribute fully to the life of the Institute during that time. Fellows give at least one seminar presentation during their tenure, and submit a report on their research at the end of their Fellowship. No regular teaching is required.
  • For information about the scope of work undertaken at the University of Edinburgh, see Edinburgh Research Explorer, or browse through the staff pages of the College of Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences.
  • Applicants looking for suitable accommodation in Edinburgh may find these links useful.

In order to take full advantage of the seminars and lectures which take place during the semesters and to meet with staff in the College of Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences, applicants are encouraged to apply for periods that will include at least part of one of the semesters.

Date de candidature
3-10 months
Humanités : Anthropologie & Ethnologie, Art et histoire de l'art, Histoire