Changing Practice in the Presentation and Interpretation of the Scottish Diaspora

Submitting Institution

Northumbria University Newcastle

Unit of Assessment


Summary Impact Type


Research Subject Area(s)

Studies In Human Society: Other Studies In Human Society
History and Archaeology: Historical Studies

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Summary of the impact

Dr Tanja Bueltmann's research on the Scots in New Zealand has enhanced Scottish ethnic groups' understanding of their own history and heritage as a community in New Zealand. Through public talks and direct research user engagement, Bueltmann has been able to change their perceptions of the role the Scots played in the making of New Zealand society, as well as of their cultural legacies. Secondly, her research has increased awareness in Scotland, among museum curators, heritage sector stakeholders, and policymakers, of the central role of Scottish ethnic associationalism in the diaspora, directly informing, shaping and changing their practice of presenting the diaspora to the Scottish public.

Underpinning research

The underpinning research reported in this case study is Bueltmann's work on the Scots in New Zealand and the resulting impact on the public and Scottish heritage stakeholders. The main body of the work contributing to this impact case study was conducted at Northumbria, where, since her appointment as an RA in 2009 and full-time lecturer in February 2010, Bueltmann has been provided with the support and resources needed to develop further her analysis of the Scots in New Zealand. After publication of the underpinning research, she commenced working with Scots community groups in New Zealand, as well as museum curators, heritage sector stakeholders and policymakers in Scotland.

Bueltmann's research forms part of the growing scholarship on the Scottish diaspora, exploring its farthest outpost in New Zealand. The Scots there have only been accorded scant attention because they were seen as adaptable, integrating relatively quickly compared to other ethnic migrant groups in New Zealand. Their presence has also been obscured by a fixation on the romanticised shortbread-tin façade of Scottish identity overseas. Recovering Scottish ethnicity from the verges of nostalgia, the research documents the notable imprint Scots left on New Zealand, focusing in particular on Scottish associations. Bueltmann's monograph, Scottish Ethnicity and the Making of New Zealand Society, 1850-1930, thus traces the development of Scottish associations in the country, exploring how they came to reflect a wider and deeper Scottish contribution to New Zealand life and culture. The book was completed and published in 2011 and is the first scholarly monograph on the Scots in New Zealand. Unlike earlier popular accounts that celebrate and simply attest to the existence of Scottishness in New Zealand, Bueltmann investigates the nature and role of Scottish ethnicity within and beyond the Scottish migrant community.

Bueltmann has also published several journal articles and book chapters about the Scots in New Zealand. Her article on Highland Games was published in the Scottish Historical Review in 2010 and explores the Games' role in making New Year rather than Christmas the foremost holiday in New Zealand, reflecting the Scots' contribution to New Zealand holiday culture. The article also documents the degree to which Highland Games were crucial precursors to the development of organised sport, revealing how the Scots shaped its early development in New Zealand. On a smaller scale, Burns anniversaries, investigated in a journal article published in 2012, served a dual purpose as sites of memory for the Scots and sites of civic engagement in wider New Zealand society.

Another area of Bueltmann's research has focused on the continued connections between Scots in New Zealand and Scotland as `the old homeland'. Her chapter on early roots-tourists published in 2012 emphasises the fluid character of the conceptions of `home' within the Scottish diaspora. The chapter challenges the idea that roots-tourism is a late-20thcentury phenomenon.

References to the research

Bueltmann, Tanja, `"No Colonists are more Imbued with their National Sympathies than Scotchmen": The Nation as an Analytical Tool in the Study of Migrant Communities', New Zealand Journal of History 43, 2 (2009), pp. 169-181.

Bueltmann, Tanja, `Ethnic Identity, Sporting Caledonia and Respectability: Scottish Associational Life in New Zealand to 1910', in Tanja Bueltmann, Andrew Hinson and Graeme Morton (eds), Ties of Bluid, Kin and Countrie: Scottish Associational Culture in the Diaspora (Guelph: Guelph Series in Scottish Studies, 2009). — available from HEI on request

Bueltmann, Tanja, `Manly Games, Athletic Sports and the Commodification of Scottish Identity: Caledonian Gatherings in New Zealand to 1915', Scottish Historical Review 89, 2 (2010), pp. 224- 47. DOI: 10.3366/shr.2010.0206


Bueltmann, Tanja, Scottish Ethnicity and the Making of New Zealand Society, 1850 to 1930 (Scottish Historical Review Monograph Series, Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 2011). — output listed in REF2


Bueltmann, Tanja, "The Image of Scotland which We Cherish in Our Hearts": Burns Anniversary Celebrations in Colonial Otago', in J. MacKenzie and B. Patterson (eds), Immigrants & Minorities, special issue, 30, 1 (2012), pp. 78-97. DOI: 10.1080/02619288.2011.651333


Bueltmann, Tanja, `"Gentlemen, I am going to the Old Country": Scottish Roots-Tourists in the Late 19th and Early 20th Centuries', in Mario Varricchio (ed.), Back to Caledonia: Scottish Return Migration from the 16th Century to the Present (Edinburgh: John Donald. 2012). — available from HEI on request

Details of the impact

Bueltmann's research has had an impact on both sides of the globe. Her research has provided New Zealanders of Scottish descent with new evidence of how Scots have influenced aspects of New Zealand culture and has also enhanced the understanding, interpretation and presentation of the Scottish diaspora by museum curators, heritage stakeholders and policymakers in Scotland. Bueltmann has engaged directly with the most immediate user group, namely Scots in New Zealand and their descendants. Engagement activities took place in New Zealand in early 2012:

  • New Zealand Society of Genealogists Scottish Interest Group meeting, 25 January 2012: This meeting, held on Burns Night 2012, served to inform participants of the relevance of Burns clubs in New Zealand. Evidence gathered via questionnaires (Source 4) reveals that the event strongly influenced the participants' views of the role of Scottish cultural traditions. Participants had previously not been aware of the inclusiveness of Burns celebrations and the event also changed genealogical research practice, introducing, to quote a participant, society membership as a new resource' for doing genealogy.
  • Talk and engagement activities, Turakina Highland Games, 28 January 2012: The Turakina Highland Games are New Zealand's longest-running Scottish games. As reported in the local press, `60 people enjoyed Tanja Bueltmann's' lunchtime talk (Fielding Herald, 2 February 2012). As one attendee said, the talk `drew my attention to the impact of Scots on NZ holiday culture', an aspect he had not `previously been aware of.' Other participants agreed, noting that they had not thought about the Games' significance to their heritage and culture before (Sources 4 & 5)

Bueltmann has continued to engage these research users online through her Scottish Diaspora Blog and Twitter @scotsdiaspora. The Blog features tailored stories about the Scots in New Zealand and the wider diaspora based on her research, as well as offering educational resources, such as a timeline on Burns in New Zealand. To the end of June 2013, the Blog has had over 13,000 visits.

The second impact, enhancing Scottish understanding of its diaspora, has been achieved by collaborating with museum curators, heritage stakeholders and policymakers in Scotland.

  • National Museum of Scotland: Curators of an exhibition on the Scottish military diaspora, planned as part of Homecoming 2014, want to reframe military culture as an aspect of associational culture, and, aware of Bueltmann's strong publication record in the field asked her in 2012 to act as an expert advisor. She attended a number of meetings on the exhibition in 2012 and early 2013 with Museum staff to help them understand the importance of interpreting diaspora and altering their practice accordingly (Source 1). As the Senior Curator notes, Bueltmann `has helped to place military associational culture in its correct context namely as a key element of the wider matrix of Scottish associational culture.' In so doing, her research `has been critical in changing attitudes to military history and collections, making it more relevant in the wider appraisal of Scottish diasporic identity.' More broadly, Bueltmann's `innovative work on Scottish associational culture ... has greatly changed the way in which we consider the Diaspora here at the National Museum'. Her monograph Scottish Ethnicity and the Making of New Zealand Society has led him to reassess `the importance of Scottish associational culture', and the `work has fed directly into the way in which we present and interpret the material culture of Scottish associational culture' at the Museum.
  • The Scottish Diaspora Tapestry Project: This project is designed to engage with Scottish diaspora communities overseas, getting them to tell their stories in a set of tapestry panels that will be assembled and displayed in Scotland for Homecoming 2014. Through MSP Kenny McCaskill's knowledge of Bueltmann's research, she connected with the Diaspora Policy Advisor, Scottish Government and the Ancestral Marketing Manager, Visit Scotland, in early 2013, who asked if she would use her research to support the project. Dr Bueltmann has since become an advisor to the project and has been key in developing the idea of a thematic panel on Scottish associations. Specifically, Bueltmann's research has changed the tapestry makers' practice by demonstrating the importance of associations in the Scottish Diaspora (Source 2). As the Diaspora Tapestry Project Co-ordinator notes, Dr Bueltmann advises `on the project as a result of [her] work on the Scots in New Zealand.' In particular, her `explanation of their [associations] role and importance has led to the introduction of a themed panel on associations on the tapestry.' Dr Bueltmann has also used her Scottish community connections in New Zealand to help the Tapestry team engage with these groups.
  • Scottish Government — International Division (Migration and International Connections): Understanding Diaspora communities is of growing significance to Scottish policy makers. Drawing on her research on the Scots in New Zealand, Bueltmann has been working with the Scottish Government's Diaspora Policy Adviser, to discuss how to develop the links between her work and the Scottish Government's policy objectives, `helping to engage and inform' as Steed points out, `the Diaspora through use of social networks and websites such as KILTR, a Scottish Diaspora social network.' (Source 3). Moreover, the Advisor notes, Bueltmann's work has enabled his team `learn more about different aspects of Scotland's Diaspora,' and her work aids policy fulfilment by helping `to deliver the Scottish Government Diaspora engagement objectives,' particularly in relation to the plans for Homecoming 2014.

Sources to corroborate the impact


  1. Senior Curator, National Museum of Scotland [corroborates impact on military exhibition at National Museum]
  2. Diaspora Policy Advisor to the Scottish Government [corroborates impact on policy for Homecoming 2014]
  3. Scottish Diaspora Tapestry Co-ordinator [corroborates impact on Scottish Tapestry project]

Other Sources:

  1. Scottish Diaspora Blog The Blog has had over 13,000 visitors since its launch in November 2011 and includes testimonials from those impacted by the research as well as the results from completed questionnaires [corroborates feedback from events in New Zealand] Questionnaires collected from those present at the various impact events listed above; an online survey was also set up on the blog
  2. newspaper coverage [corroborating impact events in New Zealand]