Thursday 12 May: Wise virgins and princely artisans at Londons second Royal Exchange (166772), by Christine Stevenson, FSA
Londons second Royal Exchange building, a post-Fire replacement for that built by Thomas Gresham (15668), was itself burned down in 1838. Taking as its points of departure two ceremonies Charles IIs laying of the first stone on 23 October 1667, and the Lord Mayor Sir William Turners reopening of the quadrangle for trading almost two years later this lecture explores the surprisingly lively role played by the construction of the Exchange in the political relationship between City and Crown.
Thursday 19 May: Clickhimin, Shetland and the oldest brochs: a potential revolution in Iron Age studies in the north, by Euan Mackie, FSA
The Scottish Iron Age brochs those remarkable dry-stone towers with a hollow, galleried wall containing a stair are mainly found in the maritime zone of the far west and north of the country. Accumulating radiocarbon dates and analyses of broch architecture have for long made it seem likely that they appeared first in the Hebridean islands in the first century BC in the Middle Iron Age and spread northwards from there. A handful of older ones have been claimed but the evidence has not been convincing. Now however the broch at Old Scatness in Shetland the islands of which one might easily assume to have been the last places reached by broch builders has been securely dated to the fourth or even the fifth centuries BC.
Does the Iron Age material culture of the Northern Isles provide any clues to this completely unexpected development? Of crucial importance is the multi-period fortified site of Clickhimin, just outside Lerwick, which was excavated in the 1950s, before carbon dating was easily available. The significance of the site has tended to be overlooked because of doubts about the reliability of the dating and stratigraphy, even though the excavator believed that the blockhouse on the site, datable to the Early Iron Age, could be a prototype broch. Likewise claimed to be equally early on the site was Everted Rim ware, a pottery style found on many later brochs.
A new study of the site records and of the pottery makes it quite clear that the Early Iron Age occupation of the site started in the 7th century BC and that the blockhouse was equally early. No other known site has such a well documented Early Iron Age occupation. Moreover the two kinds of early pottery (the second being a carinated ware) have close parallels in the Hallstatt period of Brittany. It is thus conceivable that the Shetland site originally included colonists from Armorica and that this hybrid culture resulted in the genesis of the broch culture and the complete transformation of Iron Age society in Atlantic Scotland.
Thursday 26 May: New light on medieval English archdeacons seals, by Brian Kemp, FSA
After bishops, archdeacons were the second most important figures in the hierarchy of the English Church in the Middle Ages. Despite this, relatively little work has been done on the seals by which they authenticated their written acts or confirmed those of others. After the pioneering paper read to the Society by W H St John Hope more than a hundred years ago, and subsequently published in the Societys Proceedings, virtually nothing has appeared in print. Archdeacons seals do not survive in the same numbers as bishops seals of the period, but Professor Kemps work on archdeacons charters and acta has brought to light enough hitherto unknown or little-known seals to warrant a return to the subject. This lecture deals only with the twelfth and thirteenth centuries, and focuses mainly on the iconography of archdeacons seals, including their personal seals (secreta) which they also employed as counterseals. It reveals a more varied picture than previously thought, and includes several illustrations of seals not previously published.
Thursday 2 June: Palace House, Newmarket: the Home of Horseracing project, by Chris Garibaldi, Director of the National Horseracing Museum
This paper will look at the project to redevelop the National Horseracing Museum in Newmarket and its proposed move to a new site at Palace House, the last element of Charles IIs palace in the town. It will look at the history of Newmarket's Stuart royal palaces and explore the challenges of finding a sustainable use for an important range of heritage buildings linked to the history of horseracing.
Our Royal Correspondent, Professor Warwick Rodwell, spotted at least eight Fellows at the Royal Wedding in Westminster Abbey on 29 April, namely, HRH The Duke of Gloucester, HM The Queen, HRH The Prince of Wales, The Rt Revd Dr Richard Chartres, Bishop of London, Sir Roy Strong, Warwick Rodwell himself, Dr Richard Mortimer and Dr Tony Trowles. Warwick adds that, with just under 2,000 people in the Abbey, he could have missed somebody off the list (Ed: perhaps Royal Collection Director Jonathan Marsden?).
It was, says Warwick, the most impressive service that I have ever attended, or am likely to attend. As many remarked afterwards, nowhere else in the world could such an event have been staged: it showcased Britain and Westminster Abbey at their best. No wonder 160 countries applied for permission to broadcast it live. Although the service was superbly televised, and showed some glorious views taken by cameras mounted inside the unfinished lantern tower, nothing could fully convey the magnificent ambience of the occasion.
Making a major contribution to that ambience was our Fellow Richard Chartres, Bishop of London, who gave an inspiring address, notable for its treatment of the newly married couple as absolute equals in the partnership of marriage and thus compensating for what our Fellow Mary Beard described in her blog as that terrible stuff about what man gives away this woman?
Marriage is intended to be a way in which man and woman help each other to become what God meant each one to be, their deepest and their truest selves, the Bishop said, quoting Chaucer as an authority on what happens if marriage becomes oppressive or lacks mutual forgiveness: Whan maistrie [mastery] comth, the God of Love anon, Beteth his wynges, and farewell, he is gon.
In marriage we are seeking to bring one another into fuller life, he said, even implying that a good marriage might well qualify for the Turner Prize: Marriage should transform, as husband and wife make one another their work of art (arguably Gilbert and George have already proved the truth of this).
His words were well matched by the concluding prayer, composed by HRH Prince William of Wales and Miss Catherine Middleton in preparation for their marriage: In the busyness of each day keep our eyes fixed on what is real and important in life and help us to be generous with our time and love and energy.
It was also very good news that Ben Sheward, the verger who performed cartwheels in Westminster Abbey long after the wedding guest had all departed, is not going to be disciplined for his exuberance. Press reports suggested that he would be given a severe dressing down, but abbey staff denied the reports, saying For all those wondering about the cartwheeling verger, there is absolutely no question of Ben being disciplined. He was reflecting the abbeys exuberance at a very successful royal wedding; Ben the Verger will not be disciplined.
One cannot imagine the Queen wanting Ben to be ticked off for expressing the nations mood in such a spontaneous and unexpected way; at least, not the Queen who is the heroine of Alan Bennetts comic masterpiece, The Uncommon Reader. Salons editor has been waiting for an opportunity to commend this delightful book: not least for the scene in which the Queen decides to give the Prime Minister a few history lessons.
This was not a good idea, writes Bennett: The Prime Minister did not wholly believe in the past or in any of the lessons that might be drawn from it. One evening he was addressing her on the subject of the Middle East when she ventured to say It is the cradle of civilisation, you know. And shall be again, maam, provided we are allowed to persist, before bolting off down a side alley about the mileage of new sewage pipes laid. She interrupted again One hopes this isnt to the detriment of the archaeological remains. Do you know about Ur? He didnt, so as he was leaving she found him a few books that might help. (Not long afterwards the Prime Ministers special adviser rings The Queens special adviser accusing her of giving him a hard time by expecting him to read books!)
We can all learn much from the Heracles to Alexander the Great exhibition at Oxford's Ashmolean Museum, which has been garnering high praise: it is the show of the summer, according to the Sunday Telegraph, while one London-centric critic stated that this should have been mounted at the British Museum, implying that a provincial museum had no right to host such a rich display of ancient Macedonian artefacts.
But such discrimination is not new: our Fellow Susan Walker, Keeper of Antiquities at the Ashmolean, says that we are so focused on the history of Athens that we completely underestimate the Macedonians. The exhibition of more than 500 objects, many of them never before seen outside Greece, is designed to serve as a corrective and to raise awareness of the civilisation that claimed descent from Heracles and brought forth Alexander the Great (356323 BC), the man who built an empire that stretched from Greece to India in the fourth century BC. For the first time we will be able to see where the Macedonians were coming from, put the archaeology against the history, look at how they dressed and how they died, Susan Walker says.
The exhibits include finds from recent excavations in Aegae, the ancient capital of Macedon (modernday Vergina in northern Greece), showcasing the riches of the royal court, and reconstructions of royal burials, including a set of twenty-six life-size terracotta heads from the grave of a Macedonian queen, dating from about 500 BC, that are striking for their realism: The Macedon of Philip II is the birthplace of realistic portraiture, says Angeliki Kottaridi, Director of Excavations at Aegae and the exhibitions lead curator; the bust of Philip II (382336 BC), father of Alexander the Great, is a prime example, with a remarkably lived-in face and crinkly eyes.
Other star exhibits include golden crowns from Philip IIs tomb; Angeliki Kottaridi believes that one of them belonged to the Thracian princess Meda of Odessa, one of Philips wives, who may have committed suicide, according to Thracian practice, so as to be with her husband in death.
The exhibition continues until 29 August 2011.
The latest issue of the Museums Journal reports that the Museum of London is planning to split off its archaeology arm, Museum of London Archaeology (MOLA), which would operate as a stand-alone charity, like several of the other big contracting units in England, such as Wessex, Oxford and Cotswold Archaeology. The Journal quotes a Museum of London spokesman as saying that setting MOLA up as an independent charity would give it greater commercial potential. Meanwhile, said the Journal, the museum is also reviewing the London Archaeological Archive and Research Centre (LAARC), which is a free-of-charge repository for archaeological finds from the Greater London area. Although there are not currently any plans to break-up LAARC, it may introduce a charge for holding material.
The Museum has also announced eleven redundancies, made up of the three senior curator posts of prehistory, Roman history and photography, two collections care experts and six front-of-house hosts. Further posts that are currently vacant have been cut, including senior curators posts in social and working history, medieval archaeology and oral history.
Prehistory and Roman history will be merged into one post, which is to be advertised externally.
Our Fellow Mary Beard, who first raised her fears about the impact of these cuts in her Times blog Its a Dons Life, returned to the theme in a recent posting. Here she drew attention to a recruitment advert for a new governor of the Museum of London, which stressed the need for strong business and entrepreneurial skills and a track record in running a commercial business … a commitment to promoting diversity … experience and understanding of strategic decision-making and the principle of corporate governance in the public sector, but, in Marys words, contained nothing about actually KNOWING something about the history of London.
Fellow John Blairs thoughts in the last issue of Salon on new museum displays and the regrettable sidelining of people with real knowledge in their planning and execution, struck a chord with many Fellows.
Fellow Lucilla Burn (whose own much-lauded reorganisation of the Fitzwilliams collection of Greek and Roman antiquities was a model of how such things should be done) responded to say: My impression is that a lively debate about museum displays, including many of the issues that exercise John Blair, is already in existence. But maybe it takes place too much amongst members of the museum community and within the pages of the Museums Journal, and not everyone who would like to voice an opinion feels he or she has a place to do so.
May I draw Fellows' attention to a conference we are holding in Cambridge on 23 September 2011, called The Past on Display, where academics and interested members of the public will be joining curators, designers and conservators to air their views? Details will be announced in mid-May, but meanwhile anyone interested in seeing the programme is most welcome to email me. (Salon will include further details of the conference in the next issue.)
Fellow Catherine Johns responded to say: As I read through John Blair's comments about museum display, I found myself nodding and murmuring hear, hear at almost every line. No museum display is going to be perfect for everyone, from the primary-school pupil to the international scholar, but the people who can best create excellent exhibitions that interest and inform a wide range of museum visitors are the curators, who know their own collections and their own typical visitors well.
These days, people can find information on and illustrations of museum objects in many different sources: books, TV programmes and internet sites. These sources vary from good to appalling. Only in a museum can people see the actual objects in the flesh, and communicate with the curators who know that material and carry out the original research on it, and whose views on the artefacts are based on sound, up-to-date knowledge and experience. Inserting woolly, distorting layers of interpretation between curators and the public is a hugely retrograde step.
I have it on good authority that in one major museum, some website content has recently been written by individuals who obtained their information from Wikipedia rather than from the curators. Whats the point? Some Wikipedia articles are good, and some are not; but even the best articles MUST (by Wikipedias own rules) be based on reliable published information, which must be cited, and therefore MUST NOT incorporate original, unpublished research. Visitors to museums expect the information they are given to be authoritative and based on first-hand scholarship. The best and most up-to-date museum labelling contains new, original research, by authoritative scholars, often long before it is published.
Fellow Martin Henig continues in the same vein: Far too often one is spoon-fed with one view, one story about the evidence to the exclusion of others. We do indeed have biased and dumbed-down views of the Middle Ages, as John Blair says, but Roman Britain is not exempt by any means. It is impossible to take a party of engaged students to Bath for example and discuss with them different options concerning the development of the sanctuary; I far prefer taking them to Lydney Park with a site free from modern clutter and an old-fashioned but excellent site museum.
When I started to lecture on Greek art in Oxford early in my career, I could take students to the Ashmolean to see a magnificent assemblage of Greek vases chronologically arranged, and an accessible reserve collection. Now there are very few vases on display and the labelling is too often geared to modern (sometimes quirky) prejudice. From the Medieval display, one would not have supposed that Oxford has one of the finest collections of medieval pots, some of them excavated by Lawrence before Arabia was added to his name!
My conclusion is that museums increasingly discount scholarship and serious research in favour of entertainment or half-baked educational theories. It is sad and this decline in standards stretches far beyond museums touching every aspect of our cultural life. What do we expect in a country where culture is so seriously devalued in favour of football and other spectator sports?
There can be no complaints on the labelling front in respect of the Victoria and Albert Museums superb exhibition on The Cult of Beauty: the Aesthetic Movement 18601900 (to 17 July 2011). The labels are packed with essential information, and written in an eloquent and vivid epigrammatical style that sometimes verges on the poetic and that is entirely appropriate to the subject matter.
How better to sum the exhibition up than through phrases taken from the displays: Art that offers visual and tactile delight and dares to hint at sensual pleasures … transformed the banal and pretentious furnishings of the Victorian middle-class home … the numinous atmosphere of Rossettis rooms … decorated with a precociously original, eclectic and idiosyncratic mix of furniture … aesthetic artists and designers looked eagerly to examples from long ago and far away for inspiration … but many saw the movement as the preserve of self-regarding and possibly immoral cliques … with dangerously French ideas about modern painting … ridiculed for their super-subtle sensitivity, passionate response to poetry, pictures and interior decoration … their stained-glass attitudes and over-precious speech … not merely figures of fun but quite possibly a threat to civilisation .. many deplored the absence of manliness, religious piety and social purpose in their work.
Full marks to our Fellow Stephen Calloway (left), the exhibitions lead curator, for appealing to our intelligence and for daring to use words like hieratic, numinous, effete and magisterial, instead of dumbing the language down. One does, after all, come to exhibitions to learn something rather than to see a reflection of ones own limited knowledge, and if some people dont know what some words mean, they can enhance their vocabulary and add new concepts to their mental toolbox by looking them up it really doesnt hurt to do so.
Well done, too, for an exhibition that looks as exquisite as its subject, with exhibits grouped in a series of stage sets. The opening scene is typical in its use of three contrasting images that all share the same sinuous shape: Leightons languid sculpture of The Sluggard, Beardsleys graphic of a decadent and possibly poisonous lily flower and stem, and the arc of a peacocks tail in a memorial tablet designed by Burne-Jones for his friend Laura Lyttelton (died 1886) from the church of St Andrew in Mells.
The exhibition includes a great range of objects and materials, from furniture and paintings to book bindings, ceramics, textiles and wallpapers, and a large central display of aesthetic clothing that reminds us just how dull is modern dress. Not that anybody could accuse Stephen Calloway of lacking style in dress and appearance: every inch the aesthete, his passion for the period and subject is evident in the fact that quite a few of the objects on display come from his personal collection.
One such consists of Du Mauriers cartoon for Punch of 30 October 1880, in which an aesthetic bridegroom declares of a teapot: It is quite consummate, is it not? His burning-eyed bride with her pre-Raphaelite locks replies: It is indeed. Oh Algernon, let us live up to it.
Such parody eventually overwhelmed the credibility of the movement, to the point that Royal Worcester even brought out a novelty teapot the following year here displayed alongside the Punch cartoon of an aesthete in a greenery-yallery jerkin decorated with sunflowers and lilies, one arm with hand on hip forming the handle and the other in a limp-wristed gesture forming the spout. Humorous enough as a visual image, the punchline is inscribed on the base: Fearful consequences through the laws of Natural Selection and Evolution of living up to ones teapot.
And yet, there is a sense in which the Aesthetic movement has left a permanent legacy in our obsession with turning our homes into expressions of our personality and individuality, and in our fondness for visiting houses that embody the creativity of their owners, like Kelmscott Manor.
For video footage, an interview with Stephen Calloway and photographs of the exhibition, see Stephens blog.
The slogan of the Aesthetic movement was art for art's sake (meaning that art does not need to tell stories or point up morals; it should aspire towards the condition of music, in Walter Paters famous phrase). Younger Salon readers will recognise that Art for Arts Sake is also the title of a song by 10CC, and that the second line of the song is Money for gods sake.
Salon mentions this only because, if it were not mildly blasphemous, Money for gods sake' would make an appropriate rallying cry for the museum movement as it struggles to raise the funds to keep the show on the road. The V&A in particular now faces the challenge of raising £35m for the construction of a new public plaza designed by the London-based architect Amanda Levete that is a considerable improvement on the previous controversial design by Daniel Libeskind and is considerably cheaper than the £80m estimated for his now-shelved Spiral design. This design involves creating a new entrance to the museum on Exhibition Road, but then neatly avoids the pitfalls involved in trying to combine a modern design with historic architecture by diving underground.
Our Fellow Paul Ruddock, Chairman of the V&A board of trustees, said that the design, selected from over 100 entries, will transform the way the V&A is able to present its major exhibitions and will enable us to reveal and restore the magnificent south courts.
The task of leading the V&A down that road now passes to Martin Roth, currently Director General of the Dresden State Art Collections, who has been appointed as the museums new Director with effect from 1 September 2011, taking over from our Fellow Mark Jones, who leaves, after ten years at the V&A, to become Master of St Cross College, Oxford.
Prior to his current post, Roth spent nine years as director of the German Hygiene-Museum in Dresden. He was president of the German Museums Association between 1996 and 2003, and is currently a member of the advisory boards for the Deutsches Museum, Munich, the Institute for Foreign Cultural Relations, Stuttgart, the Prussian Cultural Heritage Foundation/National Museums Berlin and the German Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Berlin.
Announcing the appointment, our Fellow Paul Ruddock, Chairman of the board of V&A trustees, said that Martin Roth has a strong record of leading and managing complex arts organisations and brings experience of working in museums and cultural organisations around the world. We feel he is the ideal person to build on the recent successes of the V&A to enhance its position as the leading international museum of art and design.
Before departing the V&A our Fellow Mark Jones had the pleasurable task of announcing the acquisition by the museum of a rare jade tankard inlaid with gold and studded with rubies and emeralds, originally made in the imperial capital of Istanbul for an Ottoman sultan in the late sixteenth century.
The tankard is described as a spectacular example of how the Ottoman court borrowed forms from everyday life and turned them into luxury items. Its shape is based on the indigenous drinking vessels made of wood or leather used for a variety of beverages, including boza, the fermented millet drink still popular in Anatolia and the Balkans.
This particular tankard has a distinctive swelling form, pot-bellied in front and flat at the back, which suggests it had a leather prototype. It is decorated with a gold wire inlay and gemstone settings, arranged in a pattern of floral sprays, with a vase motif on the front. It was the custom to set objects of all kinds with rubies and other gemstones to mark them out as court objects. Around 1800, the tankard was further embellished with gold fittings in the Rococo style, consisting of gem-set gold mounts around the foot, the rim and the lid and the distinctive curved handle.
Sir Mark Jones said: This tankard is a splendid example of Ottoman art. There is nothing like it in the V&A or any other national collection in Britain. It is a great addition to our Middle Eastern collection, which is one of the most important in the world and will help us illustrate the story of the Ottoman Empire in the late sixteenth century.
The jade tankard has gone on display in the Jameel Gallery of Islamic Art. It was acquired in part through the acceptance in lieu scheme with support from The Art Fund (£220,000, with a contribution from the Wolfson Foundation), The Geoffrey Akerman Bequest, the Friends of the V&A and The Salomon Oppenheimer Philanthropic Foundation.
Aided and abetted by the Guardian, Fellows have been giving new life to the 200-year-old debate about whether historic ruins should be conserved as found or done up.
Simon Jenkins started it all off by accusing Country Lifes present Architectural Editor, our Fellow John Goodall, and his predecessor in the post, Jeremy Musson, of being the high priests of the cult of the ruin.
Mussons new book, English Ruins, celebrates and exults such shrines as Glastonbury, Fountains, Dunstanburgh, Bodiam, Cowdray and even Battersea power station. England to him is a landscape of ruins, Simon writes. As for John Goodall, he has produced a majestic survey, The English Castle (see Books by Fellows in Salon 253), with page after page of gaunt and gutted structures, ready for the Romantics to swoon over and the ministry of works to grasp to its bosom and timidly surround with nationalised grass. Why, Simon asks, if old cathedrals and churches were vigorously restored by the Victorians, to be repaired and updated ever since, were most abbeys and castles frozen in time? Was it, he asks, to keep archaeologists in work explaining the arcane mysteries of Englands ancient ruins to the public?
Simon deplores the state of Witley Court in Worcestershire, gutted by fire in 1937 and left as a ruin, and praises Uppark, gutted likewise in 1989 but fully restored (ditto Windsor Castle, Hampton Court and Castle Howard). He refers to Westminster Abbey, Sainte Chapelle, the Kremlin and Carcassonne as brave examples of restoration (and could have added the palaces of St Petersburg and any number of townscapes in the war-torn parts of continental Europe). While admitting that some national icons derive their character from their ruined state (Fountains Abbey, Tintern and Chepstow Castle), he applauds English Heritage for its bold reconstruction of the Dover Castle interiors and calls for more of the same.
How did the high priests respond? Writing to the Guardian, Fellow John Goodall denied that his book was evidence of the cult of ruins, pointing out the deliberate juxtaposition on the cover of a ruin (Bodiam Castle) and a living monument (the great hall of Berkeley, an occupied and privately owned castle). It is a question of funds, John argued, saying he doubts whether the money or the determination really exists to re-create an entire Roman fort on Hadrians Wall or a villa in Kent, as Simon Jenkins has so delightfully proposed.
Fellow Ian Leith also contributed to the debate, saying that architects or developers are not allowed to muse over new ways of using old buildings, so we get the theme park we deserve, and that this confirms a national conflict between imaginative designers and mythical remains, which seems to have been better handled on the continent, where we can wonder at modern interventions to old buildings which do not alter the original fabric and add new interpretations to such old sites.
Jeremy Musson is unapologetic: ruins, he says in Country Life (27 April 2011), convey an important message about mutability, the rise and fall of dynasties, the waxing and waning power of Church and State, the tides of industry and war. Ruins evoke different emotions and thoughts than complete buildings, and offer a different aesthetic experience. He quotes the seventeenth-century antiquary, John Aubrey, to the effect that ruins breed in generous mindes a kind of pittie; and set the thoughts aworke to make out their magnificence as they were in perfection. Food for the imagination, in other words.
Here is one example of how a ruin can be brought back into beneficial use. The Boswell Museum and Mausoleum Trust is a new charity registered in Scotland that has been established for the promotion of heritage, literary arts and education and specifically for the restoration of the Boswell mausoleum, in Auchinleck churchyard, a handsome neo-classical building of c 1754 that houses the remains of James Boswell (174095) and members of his family.
The Trust also intends to restore the seventeenth-century Boswell family aisle adjoining the mausoleum, all that now remains of the original pre-Reformation Auchinleck church. Once ruined, the aisle was re-roofed in the 1970s; the derelict interior will be used to house a museum about James Boswell, Laird of Auchinleck, and his world.
To fund the work, the Trust is hosting the inaugural Boswell Book Festival on 20 to 22 May 2011, in the glorious setting of Auchinleck House, the splendid house built by Boswells father in 1760, in Ayrshire, south-west Scotland (of which Boswells friend, Dr Johnson, said, I was less delighted with the elegance of the modern mansion than with the sullen dignity of the old castle, proving, perhaps, that Johnson was one of Simon Jenkins romantic ruin devotees).
Given that Boswell is best known for his Life of Johnson and for his diaries, the festival will focus on biographical writing and memoirs, with such speakers as Diana Athill, Kate Adie, Lynne Truss and Gordon Turnbull, General Editor of the Private Papers of James Boswell. For more information, see the Boswell Book Festival website.
Quite by coincidence, but perfectly timed for the festival, comes the news that Susan Rennie, an expert on the Scots language, has just discovered the lost and unsigned manuscript of Boswell's unfinished dictionary of Scots dialect, wrongly catalogued at the Bodleian Library in Oxford almost a century ago. Reporting on some of its choicer words in the Guardian, our Fellow Maev Kennedy cites bubbly-jock (a turkey), dabberlock (an edible seaweed), and gardyloo (the warning cry given before the contents of a chamber pot were thrown from an upper window).
Still with the Guardian and Fellows engaged in public debate, our Fellow Yvette Staelens has been defending the reputation of folk music pioneer Cecil Sharp (18591924).
The world of folk-song scholarship is deeply divided over the question of whether Sharp is a saint or a sinner. Not only does he stand accused of stealing the culture of the working class and profiting as a result, he is also deemed to be guilty of censoring the songs he collected, and of prettifying them up for polite consumption; worse still, it is said that he invented the whole idea of folk song, created false distinctions between folk and commercial music (often behaving as if only he could tell the difference), and was vehement and vindictive in seeking to silence other collectors and interpreters with whose views he disagreed.
Treading unwarily into this heated debate steps a small group of contemporary musicians who have been commissioned by the organisers of the Shrewsbury Folk Festival to create new songs inspired by Sharps life and work. In an interview previewing the result, published in the Guardian one of those musicians, Steve Knightley, said he was writing a song based on darker images of Sharp on his deathbed, haunted by the ghosts of the singers from whom hes collected music demanding the return of their songs a clear reference to what might be called the Marxist tendency in the folk song world.
Yvette, who knows a thing or two about Sharp, having spent several years following in his footsteps in the south west of England interviewing the descendants of those from whom Sharp collected folk songs in order to find out more about the context for the songs, weighed in to argue that we would have lost the entire rich resource of English folk song, music and dance that now fills the archives of Camdens Cecil Sharp House (and that is gradually being made accessible online through an Heritage Lottery Fund grant) but for his determined collecting activity. You can read Yvettes article, and the volume of comment that it engendered, on the Comment section of the Guardians website.
Good news for all folkies, and lovers of live music of all kinds: the Government has announced that it will support the Live Music Bill, a private members bill sponsored by Tim Clement-Jones, MP, which aims to address many of the concerns raised about the 2003 Licensing Act, in particular the extra bureaucracy it creates for anyone wishing to stage small live music events. Salon readers will perhaps remember that our Fellow Rupert Redesdale managed to secure an exemption for Morris dancers, allowing them to go on doing what they have been doing for centuries, without the need for any bureaucrats permission, but the 2003 Licensing Act has nevertheless had a powerful deterrent effect on the organisers of small-scale community events, who now no longer include live music for fear of prosecution (so ludicrous is the situation that in Cirencester, the home town of Salons editor, bandstand concerts organised by the Town Council in the Abbey Grounds were halted in 2004 by an official from the District Council just as the conductor raised his baton to begin the first of the summer seasons concerts because the Town Council had not applied for a licence from its District counterpart).
Tim Clement-Jones said the aim of the bill is to benefit hundreds of small pubs, restaurants and church and community halls who want live music at their venue by generally removing the need to apply for a complicated licence. Lord Grade of Yarmouth, speaking when the bill received its second reading on 4 March 2011, said the bill would repair the unforeseen damage caused by the Licensing Act 2003 that threatens musical life in our nations at its most fragile point grass-roots level.
Mention of live music provides an excuse for Salons editor to include the plug he promised to Fellow Edward Chaney and his daughter Olivia who are both appearing in the Guernsey Literary Festival on 12 to 15 May 2011.
Edward is now Professor of Fine and Decorative Arts at Southampton Solent University but as an art student in 1972 he befriended the reclusive Guernseyman Gerald Edwards, and encouraged him to complete the book that he was writing, which we now know as The Book of Ebenezer le Page, the critically acclaimed fictional biography of an archetypal Guernseyman from the late nineteenth century through to the 1960s. Edward will be talking about his friendship with the elderly author, once tipped as the successor to D H Lawrence, and how Edwards, having failed to find a publisher, entrusted the completed manuscript to him; and of Edwards ultimate success in persuading Hamish Hamilton to bring it out in 1981, albeit five years after the authors death in 1976.
Olivia Chaney, Edwards daughter, is a rising talent in the folk world, with a rich alto voice and a repertoire of traditional and self-penned songs who accompanies herself on Indian harmonium and steel-string guitar. She has performed at the Festival Hall and the Royal Opera House, and her next big appearance, after Guernsey, will be at the Ventnor festival, on the Isle of Wight, from 17 to 20 August 2011.
Fellow Christine Finns Ghost Music programme, broadcast on Radio 4 on 19 April, brought back memories for Fellow Jeremy Montagu who remembers that first historic broadcast in 1939 when Bandsman Tappern, of the 11th Hussars, played the trumpet found in Tutankhamuns tomb. Tappern used his own trumpet mouthpiece and played a fanfare loosely based on the Posthorn Gallop, so the sound would have borne no resemblance to what Tutankhamun would have heard, says Jeremy, who wrote a detailed description, with a drawing of the bronze trumpet, in the Galpin Society Journal, 29 (1976), 11517, reprinted in the Journal of Egyptian Archaeology, 64 (1978), 1334.
Fellow Vincent Megaw recalls taking part in a programme on music archaeology for The Archaeologist series on Radio Three in the 1960s, with, if memory serves me, James MacGillivray, musicologist Joan Rimmer and Fellows Jeremy Montagu and one-time jazz trumpeter now Emeritus Professor, John Coles. They too broadcast the BBCs 1939 recording, made in the Cairo Museum, of Bandsman Tappern playing instruments from Tutankhamuns tomb, using a modern mouthpiece. This laid the foundation for the belief that such trumpets were capable of producing the main notes of the harmonic series, Vincent says, whereas the true range is effectively limited to two notes, a rather poorly sounding fundamental and a clearer note between a ninth and a tenth above.
Vincent refers to the rumour that Tappern damaged the ancient trumpet in inserting the mouthpiece, a part of the story that Fellow Robert Merrillees picks up: the whole story of the broadcast of Tutankhamun's trumpet being played in 1939 has been told in graphic and entertaining detail by Rex Keating in his appropriately entitled autobiography, The Trumpets of Tutankhamun: adventures of a radio pioneer in the Middle East (Basingstoke 1999), Robert writes, adding that there were two trumpets found in the tomb of Tutankhamun. One was made of bronze or copper, and one of silver trumpet embellished with gold. Keating records that the first bandsmans attempts to blow the bronze or copper instrument failed to elicit even three notes. When he tried to play the silver trumpet at a second rehearsal, in the presence of King Farouk, it disintegrated. Everyone was sworn to silence, the silver instrument was swiftly restored and Tappern was brought in to play it without further misadventure.
For the last word on the subject, we turn to Egyptologist Margaret Maitland, who says, on her blog, that the trumpets were actually first played several years before the famous BBC recording, by a Professor Kirby, head of the Music department at Johannesburg, when he visited the Egyptian Museum in Cairo. Kirby was able to produce three notes but said he doubted whether the highest note was ever used as it required considerable effort, while the bottom note was poor in quality. It is possible that only the middle note was ever used. The trumpet was a military instrument, presumably used not only to rally troops but also communicate. Playing rhythmic patterns on a single note could have served as a military signal. These signals could have been further diversified by using two trumpets of different pitches, which could be why Tutankhamun was equipped with two different trumpets. Trumpeters were referred to using titles such as trumpet speaker and caller on the trumpet.
Kirby suggested that the 1939 recording misled listeners and music critics: What was infinitely worse was that for the broadcast the military trumpeter, finding as I had done that he could get only one good note out of each instrument, fitted his own modern trumpet mouth-piece into each of the ancient instruments in turn, thus completely altering their nature, and enabling him to blow brilliant fanfares quite alien to the sounds heard by the Egyptian soldiery of antiquity, and thus misleading listeners-in, including one of the leading London music critics.
Tutankhamuns two trumpets are the only ones that have survived from ancient Egypt. Previously, there was also thought to be a trumpet in the Louvre Museum. It too was played by a scholar investigating ancient Egyptian trumpets and subjected to various tests, such as an oscilloscope; however, it was later revealed actually to be the lower part of a stand or incense burner!
Fellow Julian Litten reminds Salon readers that our late Fellow Hugh Fitzroy, Duke of Grafton, felt that the Cathedrals Advisory Committee (not Commission, as stated in Salon 253) should have been consulted by Hereford Cathedral regarding its proposed sale of the Mappa Mundi. Julian says: I recall the incident, as I was a member of the Committee at the time. Indeed, it was this very issue which led to the establishment of the Committees successor, the Cathedrals Fabric Commission, a body with more bite and teeth than its predecessor. On a personal note, when I established the Friends of Kensal Green Cemetery in 1991, Hugh Fitzroy generously agreed to be its Patron, a post he filled until his death, with Sir Edward Ford (died 2006) as his representative on its Advisory Committee.
The last issue of Salon left readers on a knife edge, reporting that Dr Zawi Hawass, now Egypts Minister of State for Antiquities, had been sentenced to a year in prison with hard labour for contempt of court. We must all be relieved therefore to learn from Beth Asbury (whom many Salon readers will remember as Membership Administrator at the Institute for Archaeologists until she left to work for Dr Hawass) that her employer is not in prison and has not lost his job.
Dr Hawass explains on his website that this case was filed against the Secretary General of the Supreme Council of Antiquities (SCA), not against me personally, but against the role I was holding at that time … it is not an uncommon thing that the head of an organisation gets sentenced like this. When a ruling like this is made, the defendant (in this case myself as Secretary General of the Supreme Council of Antiquities at that time) has a certain amount of time to appeal the decision of the court.
This has now been done and Dr Hawass says: I have every confidence that this matter will be cleared up very soon, so I want to tell everyone not to worry. I respect the laws of my country very highly, and the rulings of our courts. I intend to handle this matter entirely within our legal system. Nothing will cause me to lose focus from my goal of protecting the sites of Egypt.
Our Fellow Dr Patrick Greene OBE, Chief Executive of Museum Victoria, has been appointed as Chair of the National Cultural Heritage Committee in Australia by Arts Minister Simon Crean, who said that: Dr Greene brings to the role of Chair a depth of expertise in national and international collections management. The ten-member committee advises the government on the operation of the Protection of Movable Cultural Heritage Act 1986. Its functions include making recommendations on export permits for Australian cultural objects and on funding from the National Cultural Heritage Account, which helps Australian cultural organisations buy important Australian protected objects.
Fellow Roland Smith is joining Cotswold Archaeology as Regional Manager for their soon-to-be-opened office in the south Midlands. Roland has worked for Wessex Archaeology for many years, most recently as Operations Director. He will be responsible for running Cotswolds new regional operation, with particular emphasis on business development and quality assurance; he will also be heavily involved in building up the new office team. Roland says: I am looking forward to the challenges ahead and achieving success for the organisation.
The Society has been informed of the deaths of our Fellows Professor David Irwin (on 15 January 2011) and Professor Sydney W Jackman, known as Toby, on 27 February 2011.
The death of Lewis Binford (left) on 11 April 2011, aged seventy-nine, was announced in the last issue of Salon: Fellow Norman Hammond has kindly supplied a copy of the obituary that appeared in The Times on 28 April 2011. This hails Binford as the champion of an ethno-historical approach to archaeology, leavened with the theoretical rigour of anthropology, and continues as follows.
Lewis R Binford, father of the New Archaeology, was the most influential archaeologist of the past half-century. His classes at the University of Chicago from 1961 to 1965, at the University of California, and at the University of New Mexico at Albuquerque, from 1968 to 1991, inspired a new generation of North American archaeologists. His writings, his ethnoarchaeological fieldwork among the Nunamiut Eskimo of Alaska, and his charismatic presence at conferences, changed the perception of archaeology at a worldwide level.
He promoted the message that archaeology is not simply concerned with the reconstruction of the narratives of local culture history. Instead it has the potential to become a more rigorous discipline concerned with the reconstruction and explanation of the processes of culture change at a worldwide level. To do that it needs to develop explicit theory, to formulate hypotheses, and to set about testing these in the field. While Binford was not a leading excavator, his positive influence upon the practice of archaeology worldwide was considerable, although this impact was not achieved without controversy.
Lewis Roberts Binford was born in Norfolk, Virginia, in 1931 in the aftermath of the Depression. After high school he went into the US Army to fund his way through college, and during military service in Japan became keenly interested in anthropology. When studying at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, in 19546, he became preoccupied by problems in archaeology. He undertook graduate study at the University of Michigan at Ann Arbor, in 195660, where he was inspired, and sometimes provoked, by some of the leading figures in American archaeology: his questioning mind did not make him an easy student.
There, and in his first teaching position at the University of Chicago, in 19615, he called into question many of the conventions of academic archaeology, advocating the more explicit formulation of problems, and (influenced by the philosophy of science) the testing of hypotheses. His teaching contract at Chicago was not renewed. His seminal paper at this time, Archaeology as Anthropology, published in American Antiquity (1962), was the first of several that redefined the nature of archaeology, and his edited volume (with Sally Binford, his second wife), New Perspectives in Archaeology, became the defining text of the New Archaeology, of which he was the acknowledged standard bearer.
From 1991 he taught at the Southern Methodist University at Dallas, Texas. Binfords time at Chicago brought him into contact with the archaeology of the Old World, and he became interested in the problems of interpreting the different assemblages of stone tools of the French Upper Palaeolithic. This prompted him to visit the distinguished French archaeologist François Bordes at his excavations in the Dordogne in 1965. Although they did not agree on matters of interpretation they remained good friends and intellectual sparring partners.
Binford was for the rest of his career preoccupied with hunter-gatherer archaeology and with formulating the appropriate methodology to understand the societies of the Old Stone Age. This led him inevitably to South Africa and to China, and to the present-day hunter-gatherers of Alaska and Australia. There he asked fundamental questions that succeeding scholars have striven to answer. Of the eighteen books and numerous articles he published, the most recent volume, Constructing Frames of Reference (2001, written with the assistance of his fourth wife, Nancy Medaris Stone), is an important contribution to hunter-gatherer archaeology.
His first visit to Britain was to a conference in Sheffield in 1971 on The Explanation of Culture Change, where his polemical confrontation with the distinguished anthropologist Sir Edmund Leach, like Binford a tall and robust figure, is still remembered.
The directness of Binfords attack upon traditional modes of reasoning led to a variety of responses: he was not elected to the National Academy of Sciences of the USA until 2001, long after many of his former students. However, his work did not go unrecognised: he became a Corresponding Fellow of the British Academy in 1997, received an honorary doctorate of letters from the University of Southampton in 1983, an honorary doctorate in Leiden in 2000, the Huxley Memorial Medal from the Royal Anthropological Institute of Great Britain, the Montelius Medal of the Swedish Archaeological Society and in 2008 the Society for American Archaeologys Lifetime Achievement Award. The International Aeronautical Union named an asteroid after Binford in 2010 in honour of his contributions to archaeology.
The New Archaeology of the 1960s and 1970s became the processual archaeology of the 1980s. The post-modernism of the 1980s and 1990s led to a hermeneutic or interpretationist turn in archaeological theory, in which the processual approach of Binford was sometimes criticised as positivist and scientistic. But his influence survives in the scientific approach followed world-wide in most universities today, and indeed in the notable development of archaeological theory itself, of which he was a pioneer.
Our Fellow Bryan Sitch, Deputy Head of Collections at The Manchester Museum, is seeking a photograph of our late Fellow W J (Bill) Varley, who taught Geography at Liverpool University and excavated a number of Iron Age hill-forts in the north west and elsewhere in England from the late 1930s.
Despite what the latest issue of VCH News describes as challenging times, there is no evidence of any let up in the energy and creativity of the VCH editorial team, under the guidance of the Executive Editor, our Fellow Elizabeth Williamson.
Three new volumes in the Red Book series are in production and are due to be published this summer: Oxfordshire 16: Henley-on-Thames & Environs, Essex 11: Clacton, Frinton and Walton: North-East Essex Seaside Resorts, and Wiltshire 18: Cricklade and Environs. In addition, the new improved website is now up and running.
The 112-year-old VCH (founded in 1899) is an integral part of the younger Institute for Historical Research (IHR), which this year celebrates its ninetieth anniversary. The IHR intends to mark its birthday with a year-long celebration of other notable milestones of 1921: in that year the first PhDs in history were awarded in the UK, and Asa Briggs, one of the UKs most distinguished historians, was born (as was the Duke of Edinburgh).
When it was founded in 1921 as the first such institute of its kind in the world, the IHR was housed in temporary timber buildings (not unlike a glorified garden shed) on Malet Street; in 1938, it moved into the Senate House building, from where it is about to be relocated at least temporarily from July 2011. As part of the Senate House refurbishment the IHR and the VCH will move from the North Block to the already refurbished South Block until 2013.
The IHR will continue to organise a huge range of seminars and events that Fellows are very welcome to attend (for example, the forthcoming Locality and Region. In addition, the annual Marc Fitch Lecture takes place at the Senate House, at 6pm, on 12 July 2011, when Professor Jeremy Black, of the University of Exeter, will give a paper on Eighteenth-century London: the pulse of a world city (followed by a wine and canapé reception). If you would like to attend, please send an email to VCH Events by 14 June 2011.
Finally, the IHR is launching an inaugural summer school in research methods for local historians, to take place from 11 to 13 July 2011. Under the broad headings of Sources, Techniques and Themes there will be sessions on: What is local history?, Palaeography and Diplomatic, Interpreting Records, Computers for Local History, Family and Neighbourhood, Parish and Urban Histories, and many others. For further information, see the IHR IHR website.
Salon readers will know that the Governments decision last October to abolish the Museums, Libraries and Archives Council (MLA) led to the transfer of its responsibilities for Museums and Libraries to the Arts Council, but left Archives in limbo. Now Culture Minister Ed Vaizey has announced that support for Englands archives sector will transfer to The National Archives (TNA).
Vaizey said: The UKs 2,000 archives are the gateway to our national heritage and The National Archives is perfectly placed to take on this leadership role, acting as an advocate for the sector and strengthening and reinforcing our network of archive provision.
Oliver Morley, Chief Executive and Keeper, The National Archives, said: being at the forefront of archive sector development we will be looking to share technologies and business processes; provide advice on archival best practice and help broaden archives access to funding pools. Even in tough financial circumstances, our focus will continue to be on sustaining and preserving the record, and making it more accessible to the public and volunteers than it ever has been before.
19 and 20 May 2011: Neighbours and Successors of Rome, a conference hosted by the Association for the History of Glass (AHG) at Kings Manor, University of York, in which speakers from a dozen countries will talk about new work on the traditions of glass production and use in Europe and the Middle East in the later first millennium AD. The programme, many of the abstracts and a registration form are available from the AHG website.
24 to 30 May 2011: News from everywhere. As part of their effort to raise money to keep the SPAB Lethaby Scholarship going, a number of past beneficiaries are undertaking a sponsored row from Kelmscott Manor to Kelmscott House, in Hammersmith. The details can be found on the Dance Scholarship Trust website and as well as welcoming financial contributions, the team hopes that people living along the Thames will turn out to cheer and support them on their way.
13 and 14 August 2011: Monuments and Monumentality in Later Medieval and Early Modern Europe, a conference to be held at the University of Stirling.
Twenty-eight speakers will deliver papers on themes including tomb style and setting, changing patterns of lay and ecclesiastical patronage, motive and meaning, family mausoleums, chantries, collegiate churches and urban tomb burial, European artistic, architectural and spiritual influences and connections, ecclesiastical provision, liturgy and ritual, post-Reformation antiquarianism and modern conservation with case studies from Denmark, England, France, Ireland, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Scotland and Wales.
For full details and registration see the Monuments Conference website.
12 to 13 December 2011: Royal Manuscripts, a conference to be held at the British Library, London. The focus of this conference is the collection of around 2,000 manuscripts presented to the newly founded British Museum by George II in 1757, some 150 of which will feature in a major exhibition at the British Library from 11 November 2011 to 11 March 2012. Scholars from all disciplines are invited to submit proposals for twenty-minute papers on the historical context and formation of this collection, but also on royal manuscripts generally, buildings and royal palaces, inventories and medieval libraries, and conservation and preservation issues. The conference proceedings will be published by British Library Publications. If you would like to take part, please send a short abstract and a concise CV by 31 May 2011 to Dr Kathleen Doyle, Curator of Illuminated Manuscripts.
2 to 5 April 2012: For the King has in him two bodies a Body natural and a Body politic, Centre for the Study of Bodies and Material Culture, Royal Holloway, University of London. The idea of the kings two bodies, the body natural and the body politic, founded on the distinction between the personal and mortal king and the perpetual and corporate crown, has long been of interest to scholars of medieval and early modern kingship. This conference will explore the bodies of monarchs across Europe from the medieval period to the present. By considering how the monarchs body has been washed, dressed, used, anointed, hidden, attacked and put on display, it will investigate how ideas of kingship/queenship have developed over time.
Abstracts of 300 words, for papers of approximately twenty minutes in length, should be submitted by 15 September 2011 to Dr Anna Whitelock. Topics might include: body service (dining, dressing, washing), rituals and ceremony, bodyservants and bodyguards, royal sleep, dreams and nightmares, assassination attempts, age, health and pregnancy, deformity and disability, royal births and deaths, regicide, the royal touch, divine bodies, christenings, coronations, weddings and funerals, sexuality, fertility, chastity, virility, royal doctors, effigies and monuments, royal dress, sex and scandal, historiography, iconography and representation, drama and literature, and political theory.
There will be a full Books by Fellows section in the next issue of Salon, but there is one item of book-related news that cannot wait: Fellow Gillian Darleys latest book, Vesuvius: the most famous volcano in the world, is to be BBC Radio 4s Book of the Week, to be broadcast from 16 May onwards (broadcast at 9.45am and on iPlayer for seven days afterwards).
Published by Profile Books in the UK (ISBN: 9781846683176) and Harvard University Press in the US, this is the latest book in the Wonders of the World series, edited by our Fellow Mary Beard, that has already produced best-sellers for Mary herself (Pompeii) and for Fellow Rosemary Hill (Stonehenge) by looking at the influence of the place or monument on human history and culture.
In the case of Vesuvius, Gillian considers its influence on Greek and Roman religious beliefs, its place in the study of volcanism from the Enlightenment, at popular iconography and serious art (from Wright of Derby to Andy Warhol) and its place in the history of tourism, through the reactions of such famous visitors as Goethe and Mozart, Byron and the Shelleys, Madame de Stael and Lady Hamilton. Ominously, Gillian warns that millions could be at risk when Vesuvius next erupts because of rampant development around the slopes of the volcano, which Dickens described as biding its terrible time.
Cotswold Archaeology: trustees
Cotswold Archaeology (CA) is a top five provider of professional archaeological services in the UK and is a registered charity. It has a head office in Cirencester and will be opening a regional office in the south Midlands in the summer. CAs Chairman, our Fellow Timothy Darvill, invites expressions of interest from individuals who wish to be considered as potential new trustees. Short-listed candidates will be invited to attend an informal interview in the summer and successful applicants will join the Board in the autumn.
Tim is looking for people with general experience at Board level, although expertise and experience in the following areas are specifically sought to broaden and consolidate the range of skills available to the charity: corporate finance and financial oversight; commercial experience in a competitive contracting business environment, possibly in the construction sector; planning and land development; regional/economic development; communications/marketing; community engagement; mergers and acquisitions.
Anyone interested in this opportunity is invited to contact Sarah Balchin for further details.
University of York, Lectureships in Archaeology (2 posts)
Salary in the range: £35,788 to £44,016 per annum; closing date 6 June 2011
Successful candidates will contribute to research and teaching in one or more of the following areas: early prehistory (Palaeolithic and/or Mesolithic archaeology), biomolecular archaeology (including osteoarchaeology) and cultural heritage management (including museum studies and professional practice). Informal enquiries may be made to the Head of Department, our Fellow Professor Julian Richards. For details of how to apply, see the York University website.
University of Aberdeen, Lectureship in Archaeology
Salary £36,862 per annum; closing date 5 June 2011
This three-year appointment will temporarily replace Professor Neil Price, who has been awarded a Leverhulme Trust Major Research Fellowship and will be on sabbatical for the duration of the post. Applicants working with prehistoric and/or historic periods in any region of the global North are invited to apply; applicants with expertise in the archaeology of the Viking Age are of particular interest as are applicants working in any area of archaeological science. The primary duty of the successful applicant will be to run the first-year undergraduate programme, co-ordinating the courses and teaching a substantial part of them. These introductory courses are wide-ranging in scope and therefore require a broad base of archaeological knowledge in addition to the specialisms noted above.