Equity, Diversity & Inclusion

Equity, Diversity & Inclusion and the Society

Here at the Society of Antiquaries, we welcome anyone who would like to know more about us and our goals as a charity.

One of our core values is diversity and we aim to promote diversity of opinion, specialism and background among our Fellowship, Affiliate Membership, audiences and across the sector, regardless of gender, sexuality, race or [dis]ability.

To this end, we have an Equity, Diversity and Inclusion Steering Group whose purpose it is is to see where we can improve and build in this area. The Group is currently made up of:

  • Ms Natasha McEnroe, General Secretary
  • Ms Shahina Farid FSA, Trustee
  • Dr Tim Schroder FSA, Trustee
  • Ms Dunia Garcia-Ontiveros, Head of Library and Museum Collection
  • Mr Lance Stewart, Head of Finance and Resources
  • Dr Linda Grant FSA, Governance Manager
  • Dr Hannah Britton, Learning and Outreach Officer at Kelmscott Manor

Dr Tim Schroder FSA and Ms Shahina Farid FSA are Fellows who are championing our ED&I agenda, and have both contributed their thoughts on what this means for the Society. Originally published in Salon, below you can read these pieces and see how they’re using their own experiences and ideas to shape the future of our ED&I values.

  • Dr Tim Schroder FSA: Equity, Diversity and Inclusion and the Society of Antiquaries - Membership [1/3]

    Equity, Diversity and Inclusion. It is one of those mantras that we come across in all walks of life and is so much a part of our social direction of travel that it might almost be said to define the spirit of the age. But what does it really mean?

    Many look at ED&I through the prism of the ‘nine protected characteristics’ of the 2010 Equality Act (race, sex, religion and so on). That is a big part of it for us too, to be sure, and we work to make ourselves as welcoming as possible. But ED&I encompasses more, especially for an organisation like the Society of Antiquaries. For us, it means looking at as many areas as possible where we can change and improve ourselves for the benefit of others. In part, that is about opening our doors. But doors are as much about going out as coming in and, in our case, so is ED&I. ‘What comes in’ is partly about membership and partly about public access, but the traffic in the other direction is at least as important. It concerns outreach and what we do.

    This is the first of three short pieces in which I will explore what ED&I means for us. They will appear in the next few editions of Salon and I hope they might provoke a conversation about the ways in which the Society of Antiquaries (the ‘Ants’, as it is affectionately known) might continue the journey that is already under way.

    To start with, then, membership and the implications that ED&I might have for that.

    Fellowship of the Society, until recently the only form of membership, has always been a mark of professional distinction and Fellows take pride in the post-nominal, FSA. But there is a sense in which we might be accused of a certain narrowness within our ranks. The way our organisation works is that existing Fellows nominate new ones, and the tendency is for them to propose others working in a similar field to themselves. The dominant strand in the Fellowship today is archaeology and that won’t change unless those from other disciplines reach out to their colleagues: antiquarianism is much wider than that and is about the study of history through materials and documents. Equally, most of our Fellows’ reputations stem from their publications. But this is not the only measure of distinction and teachers, curators and collectors have a natural place in the Society of Antiquaries too, even if they haven’t published. This is a way in which we might come, in time, to broaden the base of our fellowship without in any way diluting its quality.

    So, dear Fellows, think more widely about colleagues in your own fields and ask yourselves if some of them might be candidates for the Fellowship. They need not work in a dig (so long as their field of interest is material history); they need not have a string of publications to their name (so long as they have a passion for their subject and pass that on to others); and they need not even be based in the UK (so long as they seek to engage with the academic community here). Indeed, it’s worth pointing out that we have Fellows all over the world, and not only the English-speaking world either, so, we are already a global community and expanding the overseas Fellowship is a way in which we could seek to broaden and enrich our academic network.

    Thanks to a recent initiative, Fellowship is no longer the only form of membership of the Society. You will have read about our new Affiliate Membership scheme and now, for a small annual fee, it is possible for members of the public to access our Library. It is already proving very popular. Just six months after its launch, Affiliate Members already number over 250 and more are registering all the time. This scheme is an excellent way of opening our doors without losing our identity and of demystifying the Society and making it more Equal, Diverse and Inclusive.

  • Dr Tim Schroder FSA: Equity, Diversity and Inclusion and the Society of Antiquaries - Collecting [2/3]

    This is the second in my series of three short articles looking at the Society through the prism of ED&I – Equity, Diversity and Inclusion. In the first I considered the implications of ED&I for who we are and in this one and the next I will think about it in terms of what we do. For ED&I is as much about our resources and making them more available as it is about our membership.

    One of our most important activities, since the very beginning, has been collecting, and this remains as key today as it was when we were founded in 1707. Our mission – no less so today than then – was to collect, study and disseminate knowledge of the past. But in the beginning we were operating in a very different world from today’s. This, we must remember, was a time before universities considered British history (as opposed to classical Greek and Roman) a proper field of study; it was before any national museums existed to collect physical evidence of the past; and it was before photography was available as a means of recording material culture. All of this had profound implications for what we did.

    As part of our accumulation of knowledge we started to form a library which today numbers many thousands of volumes and is acknowledged as one of the most significant specialised libraries in the world. It is an enviable accolade and one we do our best to retain by continuing to acquire as many relevant new publications as possible, by purchase or by gift.

    But in the early days the acquisition of old artifacts and works of art was an important endeavour too. The results of those activities are an impressive monument to those early years and were set out for all the world to see in the 2007 exhibition, Making History, held in our neighbour’s galleries at the Royal Academy. They comprise works on paper, early manuscripts, ancient archaeological finds, medieval sculpture and works of art and, of course, the important collection of early royal portraits, the most sensational of which is Hans Eworth’s portrait of Mary Tudor, bequeathed to the Society in 1828.

    The reason that we became such a magnet for acquisitions was obvious at the time, even if it is less so today: when most of these objects were received the Society had the field virtually to itself and there were no national museums to leave them to. The National Gallery was only founded in 1831 and the National Portrait Gallery did not open its doors until 1896. In 1707 the nation had another half century to wait before the British Museum would come into being. For anyone wanting to ensure the long-term preservation of a work of art in the public domain, apart from Oxford’s brand new Ashmolean Museum, the Society was literally the only choice.

    Finally, in a pre-photographic age, we had the role in recording ancient buildings and artefacts. So, we commissioned drawings of monuments, especially those that were considered at risk. That risk was often very real and sometimes these drawings are the only surviving record of things that have since been lost to the world. All of this was ahead of the curve and we were doing things that nobody else was doing.

    If having and preserving are important, so is making available. The Society has done a wonderful job over the centuries in preserving its collections but has done less well at sharing them. While the Library has always been open to Fellows and other accredited users, our great works of art are hardly freely available; a treasure like the Hans Eworth portrait deserves to be seen by the world.

    This is something we can do better today. Sharing our collections is a major plank in our ED&I strategy. The gradual realisation of a programme of high-resolution digital photography, uploaded onto our website, will take time and money. But it is an essential process if we are to retain a real relevance as an outward-looking cultural and educational institution. It will ‘put the collections out there’ and result in the transformation of their public perception.

  • Dr Tim Schroder FSA: Equity, Diversity and Inclusion and the Society of Antiquaries - Activities [3/3]

    This is the last in my series of three short articles about ED&I and what it means for the Antiquaries. In the first I looked at what we, as a Society and as individual members, can contribute to ED&I by making the Fellowship more inclusive and more reflective of the broad world of antiquarianism without diluting its excellence. In the second I considered our hugely important collections and what we can do to make them more accessible.

    In this final one I want to think not about who we are or what we have but at what we do and what we plan to do. This is about our activities and, as far as ED&I is concerned, they can be summed up in a single word, ‘outreach’. Our aim is very simple: to evolve from ‘Antiquaries Burlington’ to ‘Antiquaries Global’, because this is the very best way in which we can become more Equal, Diverse and Inclusive, and it means not only having and holding but, to a greater degree than has been possible before, sharing.

    As every reader of Salon will know, the Society has been living through a period of great uncertainty. Over several years we – along with the other courtyard societies – have been engaged in a protracted negotiation with our landlords, the UK government, over nothing less than our continued occupancy of the premises that were built specially for us at Burlington House and that have always been our home. This is not the place for a detailed account of the issues and the negotiations around them, but the good news is that we are hopeful that this process is nearing the end and that it will have a sensible outcome that will serve the interests of the societies themselves, together with the wider public.

    This has been a difficult process, but it has been one from which we have benefitted too. Not least, because it has made us re-examine our raison d’être and make us think anew about our role in the twenty-first century.

    The Society was founded to serve the interests of scholarship, but implied around that was serving the interests of society in a wider sense too. We have always done that through our publications, which date back to the earliest days: in 1718 we started to put out the snappily titled Vetusta Monumenta, and 1770 marked the inauguration of Archaeologia, followed in the nineteenth and early twentieth century by the Proceedings and the Antiquaries Journal. These were the means by which we published lectures, occasional papers and unusual or interesting objects that had come to the notice of the Society. We have also long served the scholarly community, whether members or not, through our research grants. But, in the digital age, there is more that we can do and should do.

    I have mentioned some of this already, in the context of the Affiliates programme (which is physically opening our doors to a wider section of the public), and in our plans to digitise our collections (which will make them accessible to a global audience). Beyond this, we already we have in place a programme of lectures which are open to all comers and as time goes on it has become increasingly normal for our lectures and conferences to be live-streamed, in order to reach an audience across the world.

    But with visibility comes influence and responsibility. At any given time, there is a chatter of debate in the public arena around issues relating, to a greater or lesser extent, to the world of antiquarianism: the looming crisis confronting our parish churches; the pros and cons of museums accumulating objects they can’t display; the dispute about antique ivory; and many more. These are important debates and ones which the Society should be at the centre of. And as a charity – in fact, one of the oldest charities in the country – part of our duty of serving the public involves acting as a pressure group over issues in the national interest.

    ED&I means different things to different organisations. For employers it can centre around recruitment and being blind to race, creed, gender, physical ability and so on; for service businesses it is often to do with ensuring that your offer is not aimed at an artificially narrow demographic. But for a public institution like a university, a museum or the Society of Antiquaries, it is about all of those things and more, ensuring we are sharing and reaching out to the world, making ourselves as accessible and welcoming as possible, and providing opportunities where available to those who have a desire to seek us out, and to reach those who may not even be aware of us yet. That is what we are doing and what we intend to do more.

  • Dr Tim Schroder FSA: The Meaning of Distinction

    This short piece picks up on one of the themes I discussed in my series of articles for Salon in the autumn. In the first of these, I mentioned the fact that the Fellowship has always been seen as a mark of professional ‘distinction’ and, quite rightly, prospective Fellows have usually been measured against that benchmark. But there has been a tendency to view distinction too narrowly and largely through the prism of publications and background.

    The Salon article was about membership and what it means for us. On this occasion I’d like to take a different angle and dig a little deeper, specifically, into what we mean by distinction.
    If in doubt, it’s never a bad idea to start with the Oxford English Dictionary. It clears the decks and focuses the mind. And, in turning to its pages, we learn, unsurprisingly, that ‘distinction’ is ‘the state of being distinguished’ (q.v.); turning again, we then discover that ‘distinguished’ (in the sense that applies to us) is that quality of ‘possessing distinction; marked by conspicuous excellence or eminence; remarkable, eminent; famous, renowned, celebrated’. The lexicologists meant here that you needed to tick one or more of these boxes rather than all of them and we can safely set aside the last three, especially given the value now attached to ‘celeb[rity]’ in the world of social media. But to be ‘marked by conspicuous excellence or eminence’ has a very different ring. That is a quality I associate with some of the most modest and quietly significant people it has been my privilege to know.

    I’m thinking of certain teachers – in my case, two in particular– who have remained ‘a star to steer me by’ through much of my life. Many of us are fortunate enough to have had such teachers; they may or may not have published significant works, but they have changed lives and, in many cases, nurtured the generations of scholars who have gone on to write the great works.

    I’m thinking of certain curators, too. Again, they may or may not have written imposing catalogues, but they have nonetheless devoted their lives to the care of their collections and to instilling a love and understanding of them in others too. ‘Curator’, after all, comes from the Latin ‘curare’, meaning to take care of and of which scholarship and publication is a part but not the only part.

    And finally (perhaps less predictably) I’m thinking of certain art and antique dealers, people who make a living through buying and selling but who, at their best, devote their lives to opening people’s eyes to objects and to helping them shine a light on the world that created them. This is a community that, in times past (and not so very long past either), regardless of their scholarship and experience, used not to be allowed to darken the doors of the Society of Antiquaries. How very wrong we were. For one of the special qualities that they hone and that enables them to stand out is connoisseurship, an ability to distinguish between ‘right’ and ‘wrong’ objects, to rank between ‘best, ‘average’ and ‘poor’ and pass that sensitivity on to their clients and
    successors – ironically, often the private connoisseurs and collectors who, in those times past, formed the backbone of the Fellowship.

    Distinction – ‘the state of being distinguished’ – can take many forms and there are people from all these walks of life who could make ideal Fellows. So, we encourage all our members to take a look at the list of Fellows on the website and ask themselves if they have colleagues who ought to be on that list but who, for one reason or another, are not. One of the most common reasons for this is that we assume they are Fellows already because, why would they not be? Just last week I realised that I myself had committed exactly that ‘sin of assumption’ in the case of a, yes, highly distinguished colleague. Having got over the shock and embarrassment, I have taken steps to put that right and take out a ‘blue paper’ for my distinguished friend!

  • Ms Shahina Farid FSA: Equity, Diversity and Inclusion and the Society of Antiquaries

    I became a Fellow before Equity, Diversity, and Inclusivity (EDI) had entered our daily lexicon, but the concept was very much at the forefront of my mind when I was put forward for nomination. At the time of my election in 2012, as a person of Asian heritage who grew up in very ordinary circumstances, I was aware that people who look like me, from my social and economic background, and my professional discipline of commercial archaeology, were under-represented in the Society. The fact that I am now a Trustee of the Society of Antiquaries suggests that the achievements of Fellows who have travelled different paths can now be recognised.

    My interest in the past started as a child, greatly encouraged by the 1972 Tutankhamun exhibition at the British Museum. I was in awe and wonder at such ancient marvels, so I decided to be an archaeologist. I did my undergraduate degree in Archaeology of the Eastern Mediterranean and the Ancient Near East at Liverpool University between 1982 and 1986. When working on excavations in the UK and abroad I was drawn especially to the moment of discovery, the excitement of finding something in the ground and working out how and why it got there. But I also learnt the importance of recording the finds in their context when it came to establishing a site interpretation and a narrative of development, as opposed to the study of artefacts, for their beauty and value, out of context. In my career as an archaeologist, I have had the good fortune and privilege of working in both the commercial sector and on research excavations. This has enabled me to develop a professional expertise in stratigraphic excavation and methods that led to my appointment in my job as Field Director at the internationally renowned Neolithic site of Çatalhöyük in Turkey. Dating to c.7000 BC and occupied for nearly 1000 years, the site marked the transition of a community from a hunter-gatherer lifestyle to one of living in permanent dwellings of mud brick. The people of Çatalhöyük were amongst the first to manage crops and animals. They also created wall art of plastered relief sculpture and geometric and figural paintings and buried their dead under their floors. My Fellowship was granted in recognition of my work on this large, complex and deeply stratified site.

    When I was a student, I was largely unaware of The Society of Antiquaries, and in my early career it was not an association I aspired to, or thought I would be allowed to, join. But now, as a person from a very different background to most of the Fellows, I am working to promote diversity within the Society. Britain has become a fundamentally multi-cultural society with diverse values and interests. Membership organisations such as the Antiquaries need to adapt and adjust to this reality. Around the country and across many different disciplines and subject areas, discussions are being had about how to stay relevant and focused. For our Society, I feel strongly that we must embrace change while staying true to our traditions.

    There can be many facets to EDI and not all will be relevant to every organisation. For me, EDI means everyone. That is, not just people of different gender, ethnicity, and colour, which is the usual, somewhat restricted interpretation, but also those with different levels of achievements in education, from a range of socio-economic backgrounds and different cultures and faith. People are even beginning to recognise that the places we grow up and live in geographically, will also determine what you can achieve.

    At the Society we are in a strong position to reach out to all, to share our knowledge and collections because of the nature of our work. History, archaeology, and heritage are all around us and, in many ways, belong to all of us. Learning about our past allows us to understand who we are today, where our values have come from as well as the problems and injustices that shape our society. And, if we are wise, we can learn from the past so as not to repeat the same mistakes. This is why I am passionate about the work of the Society, which I take to be archaeology, history and heritage in their widest sense, and why I want to share it with others

    When I started, it was unusual for someone like me to be an archaeological excavator and, later in my career, to be a field director. Thankfully this is changing. Similarly, it was once less common for someone who hadn’t followed an academic path as an archaeologist, like me, to be elected a Fellow in the Antiquaries. This is also no longer the case. I may be seen as setting an example, and I am proud to do so if it encourages others to explore possibilities and question received expectations.

If you have ideas that will help us progress this agenda, or thoughts on this area you’d like to share with us, please contact General Secretary & Chief Executive, Natasha McEnroe.