British Islanders: Drawing

Joan Smith (Artist)

Research output: Non-textual formArtefact


This drawing was made in the University of Edinburgh’s skull room, a collection which is typical of those in many institutions across the world and which represents a period in our history when questions of race and ethnicity were bound up in scientific research and the gathering of skeletal specimens.
Current questions about what constitutes British and Scottish nationality and who are the so-called ‘indigenous’ people of these islands, Brexit and Scottish independence seem irrelevant in the context of the skull room. Variations in skull colour relate to their treatment post mortem, not racial variation. There are more similarities than differences in the shapes of skulls from all around the world, though within subgroups no two skulls are exactly the same.
In the drawing it is the text which points to the meaning of the work. The skulls have been categorised and labelled and lined up by nationality to help make comparisons between them. Though often seen as contentious, with difficult past histories, such collections can help to highlight all that is similar and that connects us as human beings. I have chosen to focus on a section which is relevant to me: ‘British Islanders’, drawn as a point of reference while pondering my own position within the UK, Europe and the world.
Original languageEnglish
Size57cm x 76cm
Publication statusPublished - 21 Mar 2018
EventSkeletons, Stories and Social Bodies - University of Southampton, Southampton, United Kingdom
Duration: 20 Mar 201822 Mar 2018


  • Drawing
  • artefact


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