Salon Archive

Issue: 257

The Queen’s Birthday Honours List

We congratulate the following Fellows on the honours bestowed upon them in the 2011 Queen’s Birthday Honours List.

Dame Commander of the Order of the British Empire (DBE): Professor Rosemary Jean Cramp CBE, Emeritus Research Professor of Archaeology, Durham University, for services to scholarship.

Commander of the Order of the British Empire (CBE): Dr Simon John Thurley, Chief Executive, English Heritage, for services to conservation.

Officers of the Order of the British Empire (OBE): Dr Nathaniel Warren Alcock, for voluntary service to vernacular architecture; Dr Barbara Elizabeth Crawford, President of the Society of Antiquaries of Scotland, for services to history and archaeology; Professor John Rotherham Hunter, Emeritus Professor of Ancient History and Archaeology, University of Birmingham, for services to scholarship; The Honourable Anna Gwenllian Somers Cocks, for services to the arts; Professor Peter Gregory Stone, Professor of Heritage Studies, International Centre for Cultural and Heritage Studies, Newcastle University, for services to heritage education; Dr David William Roger Thackray, Head of Archaeology, The National Trust, for services to heritage.

Member of the Order of the British Empire (MBE): Professor Thomas Beaumont James, Professor Emeritus of Regional Studies, University of Winchester, for services to Higher Education.

Commander of the Royal Victorian Order (CVO): Thomas Woodcock LVO DL, Garter Principal King of Arms and Genealogist of the Most Honourable Order of the Bath.

We also congratulate Alan James Baxter (founder of the Alan Baxter firm of conservation engineers, whose premises in London’s Cowcross Street provide affordable accommodation for scores of heritage charities), on being created a CBE for services to engineering and to conservation; and Desmond Philip Shawe-Taylor (formerly Director of the Dulwich Picture Gallery, now Surveyor of The Queen’s Pictures) on being appointed a Lieutenant of the Royal Victorian Order (LVO).

Ballot results

The following were elected as Ordinary Fellows of the Society at the ballots held on 9 and 16 June 2011 (short career summaries can be found on the Society’s website.

9 June 2011: Alistair James Barclay, Senior Post-excavation Manager, Wessex Archaeology; Joanna Katie Frances Bacon, archaeologist and archaeological illustrator; Gerard Arthur Damian McQuillan, MBE, Head of Acquisitions, Export and Loans Unit, Museums, Libraries and Archives Council; Susan Kay Harrington, Freelance archaeologist, Tarnya Cooper, Curator of Sixteenth Century Collections, National Portrait Gallery; Harwood A Johnson, ceramic specialist; Christophe Sand, Director of the Institute of Archaeology of New Caledonia and the Pacific, New Caledonia; Mark Wooldridge Merrony, Director, Mougins Museum of Classical Art, Cannes; Christopher William Sprague, solicitor; Martin Clayton, Deputy Curator, Print Room, Windsor Castle.

16 June 2011: David Michael Griffith, Senior Lecturer, Dept of English, University of Birmingham; Kerry Bristol, Senior Lecturer, Centre for Architecture and Material Culture, University of Leeds; Jon Clarke Bayliss, retired computer analyst; Michael Turner, MVO, retired Inspector of Ancient Monuments and Historic Buildings, English Heritage; Ian Bayley Curteis, author and playwright; Jeffrey James West, OBE, Buildings Conservation Manager and former Policy Director at English Heritage; Kenneth Martin Whittaker, archaeologist; David Livett Prior, Assistant Clerk of the Records at the Parliamentary Archives; Hugh M J Harrison, woodwork and furniture conservator; John Stuart Titford, genealogist and antiquarian bookseller.

The Society’s serial publications are now accessible online

On 1 June 1770, the first volume of Archaeologia was published in fulfilment of the Society’s long-standing plan to make available for public consumption the best of the papers and communications delivered at its weekly meetings since its formation in 1707. This week, 241 years later almost to the day, the Society’s summer soirée was used to mark the publication online of the first batch of the Society’s serial publications, going back to the first edition of Archaeologia.

Between now and October, some 237 volumes and nearly 120,000 pages of text — nearly 60 million words — not to mention nearly 5,000 plans, sections and drawings — will be made available on the Cambridge Online Journals website, consisting of 111 volumes of Archaeologia (published 1770 to present), four volumes of the first series of the Society’s Proceedings (1843—59), 32 volumes of the second series (1859—1920) and 91 volumes (so far) of the Antiquaries Journal (1921 to present). Together these serial publications tell the story of the history of the antiquarian disciplines, and they are going to be a very rich quarry for scholars for decades to come.

Fellows can access the archive for free by going to the Fellows’ side of the Society’s website, entering your username and password, then selecting ‘The Antiquaries Journal Online’ from the green menu box on the right-hand side of the page, and clicking on the link that is on that web page.

Society Library materials temporarily unavailable

Our Librarian, Heather Rowland, regrets that some library materials are not going to be available from now until Monday 4 September 2011 because of building works in the Society’s store rooms in the Royal Society of Chemistry. Items that will be unavailable are those with the following shelf marks on the library catalogue: RSC 1—55, B 1—34, 266, 270, 276, 281—4, 286—9, 292—6. Access to books and journals in the Library’s basements is unaffected.

Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Picasso sale contributes to Challenge Fund

The Andrew Lloyd Webber Foundation has announced that it will use the £32 million generated from last year’s sale of the composer’s Picasso portrait of Angel Fernandez de Soto to help fund a grant-giving programme targeted at supporting culture, heritage and the arts. Mark Wordsworth, Chairman of the Trustees of The Andrew Lloyd Webber Foundation, said: ‘Previously we have concentrated on fine art and arts education, but we have decided to help a broader scope of people and projects.’

One of the first fruits of that fund is a new £2 million Challenge Fund to help voluntary groups who rescue historic buildings at risk. The fund has been put together with a donation of £1 million from The Andrew Lloyd Webber Foundation matched by £1 million from English Heritage. The money will be administered by the Architectural Heritage Fund (AHF), which will disburse it in grants of up to £200,000 each over the next five years to voluntary sector groups such as Building Preservation Trusts, Civic Societies, Development and Groundwork Trusts who take on the rescue of historic buildings at risk.

Our Fellow Simon Thurley, Chief Executive of English Heritage, said: ‘This is a pioneering new venture for the heritage world between a public body with national expertise, a charity with a grass roots network and the charitable Foundation of a major philanthropist. It will specifically support rescues of Grade I and II* listed buildings at risk.’

Dr Thurley continued: ‘As well as providing a financial kick-start, the Challenge Fund will also help to spread skills and experience to more people at local level. We’re asking grant recipients to bring in an experienced project manager to work alongside existing trustees and also to involve and tutor a less experienced group of volunteers who can then go on to undertake another rescue.’

Andrew Lloyd Webber said: ‘I am delighted that my Foundation will be contributing to a solution for at least some of England’s 1,600 Grade I and II* buildings at risk and am proud of the fact that the Challenge Fund will create a wealth of new talent in the process. Philanthropy is well-established in other cultural fields but England’s very special heritage forms the backdrop to all our lives and the people who put countless voluntary hours and untold effort into saving it from neglect and decay deserve the strongest possible support.’

The English Heritage Angel Awards

In a separate but related initiative, English Heritage has announced an annual awards scheme to celebrate people who rescue heritage at risk, which is also being supported by Andrew Lloyd Webber, who will host the awards ceremony at The Palace Theatre in London’s West End in the autumn. The ceremony will coincide with the publication of the Heritage at Risk register and the intention is to give Heritage at Risk, and the people who succeed in rescuing endangered buildings, the public recognition they deserve.

The English Heritage Angel Awards (doubly appropriate as a name given the title of the Picasso painting and the fact that people who invest in new theatrical productions, like those from which Andrew Lloyd Webber has made his fortune, are known as angels) will be given in four categories: the best rescue or repair of a place of worship; the best rescue of an industrial building or site; the best craftsmanship employed on a heritage rescue project; the best rescue of any other entry on the Heritage at Risk register.

Sixteen projects will be shortlisted — four in each category — and the judges will be Lord Lloyd Webber, Lord Melvyn Bragg, Charles Moore of the Daily Telegraph and our Fellows Simon Thurley and Richard Chartres, Bishop of London (the latter has yet to be confirmed). The Daily Telegraph, the official media partner for the awards, has an article by Andrew Lloyd Webber in which he explains his admiration for volunteers who devote energy and passion to saving the heritage.

The closing date for entries is 12 August 2011; see the English Heritage website for details and application forms.

£8m funding for England’s places of worship

Our Fellow Dr Richard Chartres, the Bishop of London, hailed as ‘extremely welcome’ the announcement last week that sixty-seven of England’s most important Grade II listed churches, chapels and synagogues had been selected to receive £8 million of Heritage Lottery funding from the Repair Grants for Places of Worship scheme, which is funded by HLF and administered by English Heritage. ‘This vital investment from the Heritage Lottery Fund, delivered with the benefit of English Heritage’s conservation expertise, means that local people can continue to safeguard these precious places’, Dr Chartres said.

Among the churches to benefit are St Augustine, Honor Oak Park (left), a fine example of Early English Revival architecture built in 1873 by William Oakley and extended by Vincent John Grose in 1894 and 1900, which receives £199,000 for essential repairs to the stonework, drainpipes and guttering. £186,000 has been awarded to the Bolton Methodist Mission for urgent roof and guttering repairs to a building of 1935 with a 90-foot terracotta tower that gives the church the appearance of a music hall of the period.

The Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) says that it is committed to continuing the scheme in its current form until 2013. Listed places of worship in England of all denominations and faiths are eligible for grants. The deadline for applications for the next funding round is 30 June for Grade I and II* buildings and 30 September for Grade II. A consultation on how best to fund urgent repairs for places of worship closed on 26 April 2011, and the HLF is now reviewing the large volume of responses prior to announcing its new strategy. See the English Heritage website for further details.

£52m for five major HLF projects in Hastings, London and the Lake District

The British Museum’s World Conservation and Exhibition Centre is one of five major heritage projects to have been awarded funds in the latest round of Heritage Lottery Fund major grant decisions. The HLF confirmed in late May that it had awarded £10m to the north-western extension that will include space for temporary exhibitions, a loans management centre to facilitate partnership work with a range of museums across the UK, environmentally-controlled stores and study rooms, conservation and science studios and laboratories.

The Geffrye Museum, London, succeeded in its bid for £10.9m for a comprehensive redevelopment of its Museum of the Home, set in the former almshouses of the Ironmongers’ Company. At Kew, the Grade I listed glasshouse designed by Decimus Burton will be restored and the plant displays rejuvenated with £15m of HLF support, while another iron structure, the Grade II listed Hastings Pier, designed and built in 1872 by the foremost Victorian pier designer, Eugenius Birch, receives £8.75m towards an ambitious community-led restoration programme. Finally the Windermere Steamboat Museum, Cumbria, receives £7.4m in support of a plan to use the forty vintage vessels in its collection to explain the development of boatbuilding in the Lake District over the last 200 years and to create new apprenticeships in boat conservation.

St Paul’s Cathedral celebrates fifteen-year restoration

Scaffolding that has enshrouded parts of St Paul’s Cathedral since the end of the last century was finally taken down this week, marking the end of a fifteen-year, £40m restoration, overseen by our Fellow Martin Stancliffe, Surveyor to the Fabric, who said: ‘This great building is now in a sound state and probably looks better than at any time since its completion in 1711.’ A service will held on 21 June to celebrate the two events: the 300th anniversary and the end of the restoration, which has involved cleaning 150,000 blocks of the white Portland stone and using new lighting systems to pick out interior mosaics and sculpture.

Picture: Canon Mark Oakley looking at the restored ceiling of St Paul's Cathedral

Edinburgh’s Charles II now known to be a Grinling Gibbons

An equestrian statue of Charles II has been returned to its plinth in Edinburgh’s Parliament Square after conservation work that proved the truth of a long-held Edinburgh tradition — that the statue is the work of Grinling Gibbons, the Dutch-born artist best known for the intricate woodcarvings that he made for St Paul’s Cathedral, Blenheim Palace, Hampton Court Palace and the Wren Library, Trinity College, Cambridge.

Close examination has now revealed that the Edinburgh statue was cast from the same mould as Gibbons’ bronze statue of Charles II at Windsor Castle. However, as the Edinburgh version is made of lead, it had distorted over time, slumping forwards and downwards, and had lost details such as a scabbard and sword. Our Fellow Adam Wilkinson, Director of Edinburgh World Heritage, said: ‘This is hugely significant, not only for Edinburgh but also for our understanding of Gibbons and his abilities as a sculptor.’

Work carried out by Brian Hall of Hall Conservation included strengthening the statue’s internal supports with a new stainless steel frame, cleaning of the lead and replacement of the missing parts copied from the Windsor Castle statue. The statue depicts Charles II as a Roman general, and was unveiled on 16 April 1685.

William Morris carpet loaned to Mount Grace Priory

William Morris’s Redcar carpet has been loaned temporarily to Mount Grace Priory, North Yorkshire, and will go on display to the public for the first time in the Arts and Crafts room, marking the completion of English Heritage’s restoration of the property. The Carthusian Priory, founded in 1398, was bought by the wealthy steel magnate and patron of the arts, Sir Isaac Lowthian Bell, and the former monastic guest house was converted into a fashionable Arts and Crafts country house at the turn of the twentieth century. The carpet was made for Hugh Bell, Sir Isaac’s son, and has remained in the Bell family since it was made in the early 1880s.

English Heritage’s Head of Collections, Martin Allfrey, said the restoration involved commissioning new Morris wallpaper made from the original printing blocks and ‘finding furniture typical of the period from dealers, auctions and donations based on an inventory dating to 1945, along with the architect’s drawings from 1898 and photographs of Arts and Craft rooms at the now demolished Rounton Grange, near Northallerton, which was Sir Isaac’s primary residence’.

The London List

The London List is a ninety-six-page gazetteer of all the heritage assets in London that were added to The National Heritage List for England during 2010, or had their designation upgraded. The eighty historic sites include wartime huts that survive from RAF Northolt, Ruislip, Hillingdon, a frontline fighter station during the Battle of Britain, the tile-encrusted Moorish Room of 1896 at Grove House, 100 High Street, Hampton, Richmond upon Thames, inspired by Seville’s Alhambra Palace, and Dr Barnardo’s famous children’s village at Barkingside, Redbridge, designed by Ebenezer Gregg from 1879.

Not all of the places featured in the yearbook are buildings: newly designated assets include the paved stone surface of Charterhouse Square, a series of Napoleonic-era earthworks at Woolwich and the zebra crossing outside Abbey Road Studios in St John’s Wood.

Fellow Peter Beacham, Designation Director at English Heritage, says that in future years English Heritage hopes to publish a national compendium, with the aim of showing what is special about England’s history and architecture, how the criteria set out in the twenty Selection Guides for Listing are put into practice, and which of the 2,000-plus applications for designation in England are successful. New illustrated editions of the Selection Guides for Listing, covering a range of heritage assets, from agricultural buildings to street furniture, were launched at the end of May and can be downloaded from the English Heritage website. These excellent guides give a condensed history of the development of the building or asset type, and guidance on what features are of national significance and are used as criteria in making listing decisions.

Picture: Duke of York Public House, Camden, London. This Grade II building, designed in 1937, exemplifies trends in inter-war design and has a remarkably well-preserved interior, complete with original bar, panelling, seating booths and Jazz-Age lino in pink, cream and black. © English Heritage

The Marks & Spencer approach to heritage

Stella Creasy, the Labour MP for Walthamstow, initiated a debate on the protection of heritage assets on 7 June 2011 in Westminster Hall, which makes for interesting reading, not least for her pride in the heritage of her constituency, whence came William Morris, but also for her definition of the Marks & Spencer approach to heritage: ‘not just any old building, but buildings that have a special role in the community’. Expanding on this theme, she said that ‘we need to turn warm words on preservation into something more meaningful for the benefit of our local communities’, and quoted William Morris, who said: ‘I love art, and I love history, but it is living art and living history that I love’.

Tristram Hunt, Labour MP for Stoke on Trent, questioned the Coalition Government’s commitment to heritage, saying that ‘English Heritage has had a 32 per cent cut to its grant, which is higher than the cuts imposed on UK Sport, the Arts Council and Visit Britain. That leads Labour Members to question whether the Government share the enthusiasm and admiration that the Labour Party has always shown for heritage. The Heritage Lottery Fund thinks that if we combine the cuts to English Heritage with the front-loaded cuts to local authorities, which often trickle down to conservation officers and heritage officers, we will see upwards of £600 million in funding extracted from the heritage sector, which could be very damaging.’

Gloria De Piero, the Labour MP for Ashfield, continued that theme, saying that local authority cuts were putting a great strain on their ability to protect heritage sites, to offer grants to historic buildings at risk and to ensure that changes to listed buildings take place with the advice of expert conservation staff.

The burden of the response from Tourism and Heritage Minister, John Penrose, was that conservation was dependent on finding economically sustainable solutions for buildings that were redundant or at risk. He drew a distinction between the roles of the heritage and the planning sectors, saying that it was the role of the planning system to decide what was a permissible new use for any building and that of ‘the heritage world to ensure that planning policy is applied where necessary in a heritage-sensitive and heritage-sympathetic way’.

He pointed to the perverse incentive of setting up a heritage-at-risk system that rewarded owners for allowing historic assets to fall into disrepair so that ‘the state will come galloping to the rescue with a large wodge of public cash’, and said that his department was working on ways to give local authorities a range of powers ‘to advance the cause of at-risk heritage assets and sites within their area’, and to ‘raise the worst-performing authorities … at least to the standard of the average-performing authorities’ in this regard.

On the Department for Communities and Local Government’s plan to produce ‘shorter, simpler and generally less burdensome planning guidelines’, he said that ‘we absolutely want to make sure that the principles behind PPS5 are maintained and truly and faithfully carried across’. ‘There is a great deal of admiration and affection for PPS5’, he added; ‘It sounds rather strange to say that people like planning guidelines, but … the heritage world feels that PPS5 contains some important protections and wants them preserved for the future. We are working closely with the Department for Communities and Local Government to ensure that that happens … the draft has not yet been published, but no doubt there will be plenty of comment from the many experts in the heritage world when it is … there is still a great deal to do to ensure that the details are done properly. I want to reassure both the Hon Lady and those in the wider heritage world that that is an ongoing process and that we are taking it very seriously indeed.’

The Art Fund Prize and the Clore Award for Museum Learning

The judges of the £100,000 Art Fund prize have bestowed Britain’s most valuable museum prize on the biggest museum of them all — the British Museum, for its one hundred 15-minute programmes on BBC Radio 4 called A History of the World in 100 Objects.

Michael Portillo, chair of the judging panel (whose members included our Fellow Lars Tharp), said the BBC/British Museum project was ‘truly global in scope, combined intellectual rigour and open heartedness and went far beyond the boundaries of the museum’s walls … Above all, we felt that this project has led the way for museums to interact with their audiences in new and different ways. Without changing the core of the British Museum’s purpose, people have and are continuing to engage with objects in an innovative way as a consequence of this project.’

Accepting the prize, our Fellow Neil MacGregor said the series was a result of working with an ‘extraordinary coalition of UK museums … involving 550 heritage partners, from Shetland to the Scilly Isles’. He also said that the prize money would be spent on a series of ‘spotlight tours’ to enable museums around the country to display highlights from A History of the World.

Also on the Art Prize shortlist were the renovated Polar Museum in Cambridge, the new Robert Burns Birthplace Museum in Alloway and the Roman Baths museum in Bath.

A new prize, the Clore Award for Museum Learning, was also awarded at the same ceremony: the joint winners, who each receive £10,000, were the South London Gallery and the Pitt Rivers Museum and Oxford University Museum of Natural History.

The Telegraph asks ‘What are museums for?’

The Daily Telegraph, in reporting the award of this year’s Art Fund Prize to the British Museum, published a commentary that could have been culled from the pages of Salon, asking ‘what are museums for?’ — a question, it said, that museum directors, teachers and archivists ask themselves all the time. Pointing to this year’s spate of new museums (including the Turner Contemporary in Margate, the Hepworth-Wakefield in Yorkshire, the Holburne Museum extension in Bath and Bristol’s M Shed), the newspaper commented that all were being praised for their shiny new architecture. ‘But’, asked the report, ‘beautiful as these new spaces may be, what is a museum without its contents? We don’t visit a museum to be impressed by the light, or the high-spec finishes, the sliding doors, dramatic concrete corners, loos or cafes. We visit museums to behold their contents, to be absorbed by an object’s unique beauty or learn from its story, or both.’

That is why, the newspaper, argued, we should hail the award of the Art Fund Prize to the British Museum, because it recognises the importance of objects and the stories they are capable of yielding. The piece concluded: ‘Unlike the current fad for shiny new buildings, this project drew people into the museum by captivating us purely on the merit of an object. And all credit to MacGregor’s warm, humanising, guiding voice — a force that is so often missing from museum culture.’

Kendal: an unreconstructed museum

If we were ever to decide to protect just one museum from modernisation and keep it as a memorial to the way museums used to be — surely an important aspect of pre-HLF heritage — then the gloriously unreconstructed Kendal Museum (left) would be high on the list of candidates. This is the sort of museum that has mantraps mixed up with Victorian bottles and stuffed fish, and where many of the labels bear the crisply distinctive handwriting of Alfred Wainwright (1907—91), best known for his Pictorial Guides to the Lakeland Fells, published between 1952 and 1966, but who was also the museum’s Honorary Curator from 1945 to 1974. Amongst the displays in this junk-shop of a museum are cases full of jadeite hand axes from Langdale Pikes and many a fine Mesolithic flint tool (see picture). Ominously, a notice warns ‘Kendal Museum is currently carrying out enhancements to improve the visitor experience. We therefore apologise for any areas and displays which are being refurbished.’ Who will join Salon’s editor in a ‘Save Kendal Museum’ campaign?

More from Fellows on modern museum practice

Two further contributions from Fellows to the Salon debate about modern museum practice both emanate from Oxford. Our Fellow Professor Nick Mayhew, of the Winton Institute for Monetary History at the Ashmolean Museum, offers the following in response to Fellow Stephanie Dalley’s comments on the Ashmolean in the last issue.

‘Stephanie is correct to say that some galleries contain fewer objects than their predecessors. This reflects our recognition that many of our visitors found very densely displayed objects, with very little explanatory text, rather indigestible. The public response to the new galleries, which has seen our visitor numbers treble to some 1.2 million a year, would seem to endorse this view. Nevertheless, the needs of scholars have not been neglected, since they can study unexhibited items, hands on, in our Study Rooms. Moreover, in some cases, such as textiles or coins, there can be no question that more objects are now displayed than ever before.

‘However, Stephanie’s assertion that Assistant Keeper posts have been abolished is not correct. While it is true that some academic posts have been filled at the moment on a three- or five-year basis, this is the result of the unfavourable financial situation, which afflicts faculty positions in universities across the country as much as museums. In the current uncertain financial climate three- and five-year appointments allow us to maintain the academic character of the Ashmolean’s teaching, research and exhibitions, while retaining the flexibility necessary to enable us to balance the books.

‘Stephanie will, however, be glad to hear that nobody in the Ashmolean believes that education specialists or designers can fill the academic role of the curatorial staff. The intellectual content of the galleries remains in the hands of the curators. For example, our current temporary exhibition, Heracles to Alexander the Great, illustrates our continuing commitment to the academic needs of the University — Professor Robin Lane Fox called it “the most stunning loan exhibition ever to have come from Greece to Britain” (Financial Times, 7 April 2011) — while at the same time presenting this extraordinary material accessibly to a wider public.

‘I have absolutely no doubt that the Ashmolean’s determination to present our collections to the widest possible audience provides a much sounder financial foundation for the rigorous research and teaching we have always conducted here than would have been achievable under the old model. As our faculty colleagues grapple with the “impact agenda” of the research councils, I hope they will come to understand how museums and the wider public can contribute ever more importantly to the success of their scholarly research.’

Our Fellow John Boardman feels, however, that the Salon debate has highlighted serious issues to do with the decline of academic and display standards in museums that demand ministerial attention, and he hopes that the Society and others ‘can make representations in the right quarters, as no one else will’. He says that whereas the Government seems determined to reverse the decline in general literacy that has been the result of Government education policy over the last twenty years, there does not seem to be any political recognition of the comparable dumbing-down of museums and the demotion of their academic staff and content.

‘Contributors to Salon have defined many of the problems’, John says. ‘One derives from the USA where there is a view that it is not a museum’s prime duty to demonstrate what they have, to the point that permanent collections are stored or sold, and the public offered only “shows”. A collection stored is a collection forgotten, especially once the academic staff who know it are axed. The BM is suffering also. The Near Eastern display has been nearly halved to give way to plaster casts of Persian reliefs, while the labelling of favourite objects, exciting for any age of viewer, has in some cases been demoted to irrelevant gibberish. This is an insult to the public (the vast majority of whom are not children).

‘Another symptom of decline, only apparent in the BM for some of its special exhibitions, is the reluctance to light objects properly. Out-of-case lighting is barely existent and with in-case lighting only at best one half of any object is visible (and often barely so, as in the much-reduced displays in the “new” Ashmolean). And the electronic obsession has meant that many visitors spend their time listening not looking. The education aspect is, indeed, important but is best managed off-gallery (as indeed now in the “new” Ashmolean).’

Middle East or Near East (or south-west Asia)?

John’s reference to the Near Eastern displays in the British Museum provides the cue to correct an error that occurred in the last issue of Salon where the ‘Vacancies’ section announced that the British Museum was seeking to recruit a successor to our Fellow John Curtis as ‘Keeper of the Department of the Ancient Middle East’. Anyone who followed the link, as our Fellow Robert Merrillees did, will have discovered that the correct title is ‘The Department of the Middle East’. Robert comments that this is an odd title, as ‘Middle East’ is usually taken to refer to the contemporary political and diplomatic situation, while ‘Near East’ or ‘Ancient Near East’ refers to the region in antiquity. ‘This department’, he says, ‘was once “the Department of Western Asiatic Antiquities” before morphing into “the Department of the Ancient Near East” and its mutation to the present title came about because of the responsibility it acquired for Islamic art. Absurdly “the Near East” and “the Middle East” (which, in any case, demonstrate a decidedly Eurocentric point of view) now cover the same (undefined) territory but at different times. The Louvre, wisely, has decided to stay with the name “Département des Antiquités Orientales” to designate the range of its collections from the “Proche Orient”.’

Is Leptis Magna safe?

Worrying reports have appeared in the US and UK media suggesting that the World Heritage Site of Leptis Magna might be bombed as part of the Nato response to Colonel Gaddafi’s war on Libyan rebels. Susan Kane, a professor of archaeology at Oberlin College in Ohio, who has done extensive work in Libya, was quoted as saying that there are credible reports that Gaddafi and his supporters are using museums and ruins as munitions stores in the belief that they are safe from Nato bombing. Irina Bokova, Director-General of UNESCO, has called for all parties in the conflict to protect heritage sites, but both The Times and the Washington Post reported Nato officials as saying that they ‘could not rule out bombing in the area if Gaddafi’s troops are found to be using it as a military staging ground’.

Commenting on these reports, our Fellow Martin Brown, who works for the Ministry of Defence in the UK, says that the Fellows who are employed within the MoD (Ian Barnes who heads the Environmental Advisory Service within the Defence Infrastructure Organisation at the MoD, and Martin himself who, along with Richard Osgood and Philip Abramson, work as Archaeological Advisers) would ensure that there will be no lack of awareness within the MoD of the importance of Libya’s archaeology and heritage. ‘While our roles are primarily concerned with protecting the archaeology on our estates, we have recently been increasingly involved in operational support’, he says.

Fellow David Gill to receive Outstanding Public Service Award from the AIA

Our Fellow Dr David Gill, Reader in Mediterranean Archaeology at Swansea University, has been selected as the 2012 recipient of the Archaeological Institute of America’s prestigious Outstanding Public Service Award. The award, which honours those whose work promotes the public understanding of archaeology and the preservation of the archaeological record, will be presented at the AIA’s Annual Meeting, to be held in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, in January 2012.

Elizabeth Bartman, President of the AIA, said: ‘On behalf of the Institute, I offer Dr Gill my warmest congratulations. This nomination has been greeted with enthusiastic approval by the AIA’s Governing Board and I am delighted to recognize his ongoing efforts to educate both professional archaeologists and the public at large on the threats posed by the international antiquities trade.’

Dr Gill said: ‘I am extremely honoured to be the recipient of this distinguished award from such an international organisation. My research has contributed to the debate about the scale of the international antiquities trade and the damage sustained to the archaeological record.’

Working with our Fellow Dr Christopher Chippindale, Curator of World Archaeology at the Cambridge University Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology, David Gill first drew attention to the scale and impact of the looting of Cycladic marble figurines from archaeological contexts in the southern Aegean. A subsequent study of private collections of classical antiquities, published by the Archaeological Institute of America, was placed in the Times Higher Educational Supplement’s top ten most cited international articles in classical studies.

In recent years Dr Gill has focused on the sale of antiquities in London and in New York, working with Christos Tsirogiannis of Cambridge University. Using photographic archives seized in Switzerland during police raids on the warehouses, offices and homes of antiquities smugglers, he has assisted in the recovery and return of well over 100 antiquities from public and private collections and has helped identify a number of items seized by police authorities in Greece and Switzerland.

Dr Gill is contributing editor of the Journal of Art Crime published by ARCA Association for Research into Crimes against Art and writes a regular column, Context Matters, that provides a biannual survey of the market and important news stories. Dr Sebastian Heath, Vice-President for Professional Responsibilities at the Archaeological Institute of America, paid tribute to David Gill’s Looting Matters blog, saying that it ‘represents an important step forward in how scholars can bring their work to the attention of the general public … Looting Matters is helping to shine a light on the antiquities market and is one of the “go to” sources for information about the real-world consequences of the trade in undocumented antiquities.’

Fellows in the Media

Fellows are, quite literally, almost a daily presence in the media so it was inevitable that Salon’s snapshots of recent TV and radio appearances should have missed one or two. Fellow David Gill points out that not only did BBC One broadcast a documentary — ‘Egypt’s Lost Cities’ — on the work of Fellow Sarah Parcak at peak viewing time (8.30pm) on Bank Holiday Monday (30 May 2011), but that she was also the subject of a double-page spread in the Radio Times. The programme, which was also shown on the Discovery Channel in the US, featured Sarah’s work in using infrared satellite images to identify archaeological sites in Egypt; so far seventeen lost pyramids, more than 1,000 tombs and 3,000 ancient settlements have been mapped as a result of her work. You can see a short news report about this research on the BBC iPlayer website.

Sarah now teaches Anthropology at the University of Alabama, Birmingham, but prior to that she taught Egyptian art and history at the University of Wales, Swansea, where Fellow Kasia Szpakowska is now Senior Lecturer in Egyptology, and Kasia herself is one of two Egyptologists who feature in a programme called ‘The Egyptian Job’, broadcast on National Geographic TV in the UK (catch it on Monday 20 June at 12 noon and Tuesday 21 June at 7pm), having already been shown in Australia and Canada. The programme concerns ancient tomb robbing, and the evidence that, despite elaborate precautions, a band of villains managed to break into and rob the pyramid tomb of Amenemhat III some 3,700 years ago.

And Fellows who missed the lecture given by our Fellow Matthew Spriggs in November 2010 on the excavation of the 3,000 year old Teouma Lapita cemetery in Vanuatu can see the highlights of Matthew’s work by watching the Australian Broadcasting Corporation’s ‘Catalyst’ science programme, first broadcast on 2 June 2011, and viewable online via the ABC’s ‘Catalyst’ website. There will be a second instalment on 21 July 2011, in a segment to be called ‘Eaten to Extinction’ about the findings at the Teouma site of the remains of extinct giant horned tortoises; that too will be available to view online via the ‘Catalyst’ website once it has been screened on ABC TV.

The Archaeologist: Fellow Alison Taylor’s valedictory edition

Fellow Alison Taylor has just retired from her post as editor of the Institute for Archaeologists’ quarterly magazine, The Archaeologist, and here she reflects on the contents of her final issue, which celebrates a decade of unparalleled growth in the quantity and quality of archaeological work in Britain.

‘The latest issue of The Archaeologist has been themed to include the best projects of the twenty-first century. Prehistoric sites include well-known investigations at Silbury and at Marden henge, and less familiar ones, such as the Iron Age iron, bronze, glass and lead industries at Culduthel, near Inverness, and the Iron Age ritual focus at Hallaton, Leicestershire. For the Roman period, Colchester’s Roman circus, the first in Britain, and research excavations at Roman forts at Richborough and Birdoswald, and the Chester amphitheatre, produced spectacular results. Extraordinary discoveries of a later period were made at Inchmarnock in the Firth of Clyde, where detritus from a seventh-century school included slate fragments inscribed with scribbled script and sketches by children of primary school age — an amazing insight into the organisation behind art and literature of this period.

‘This issue also illustrates the increasing range of archaeological projects, beyond traditional excavation and survey, achieved in this period. One great success has been community archaeology, now used across the archaeological sector. Hungate, York, for example, has had 20,000 visitors over the last four years, and 1,300 people became involved in practical work there. Management of rural archaeological sites, too, has at last been taken seriously in the twenty-first century, and there are now over 8,500 Environmental Stewardship agreements in effect that include historic environment options.

‘Another major growth area has been underwater. Archaeology is now a regular requirement of Environmental Impact Assessment for marine developments and in Doggerland archaeologists even found a whole new country beneath the sea. Battlefield archaeology, exemplified by work at Culloden, was another new discipline ten years ago. Meanwhile, the Museum of London’s LAARC project transformed the way that archaeological artefacts and archives have been made accessible.

‘I, too, have had a good decade with IfA and it is now time to retire. I am proud that many archaeologists had their first taste of publication in The Archaeologist, and that many famous names also trusted us with their stories. IfA will of course be involved in yet more growth and development of the archaeological profession for decades yet to come, and I’m sure these will be reflected in the future pages of the magazine.’

Online Bibliography for National Trust properties

Fellow David Adshead writes to say that 400 new entries and details for twenty additional properties have been added to the National Trust’s Properties Bibliography. He also thanks those many Fellows who contributed corrections and additions to the first list after it was mentioned in Salon 240 and hopes that ‘in due course, they might help us to improve and enrich this second edition. We have added html links to articles published in the NT’s online quarterly ABC: Arts, Buildings and Collections Bulletin and to various downloadable pdf guides, such as the illustrated picture lists for Cragside and Blickling, the guides to the carriages at Arlington Court and to the Green Closet at Ham.’

Lives Remembered: Philip Rahtz

Salon’s editor is very grateful to Fellow Norman Hammond for forwarding a copy of the following obituary, first published in The Times on 14 June 2011, describing Philip Rahtz as a ‘famously hands-on archaeologist and excavator whose innovative teaching at York inspired and challenged a generation of students’.

‘Young people starting out in archaeology in the second half of the twentieth century would be lucky to find a more inspiring excavation director than Philip Rahtz. Most likely they would first encounter him down on the ground digging next to them, clad in a decrepit pair of khaki shorts and wielding a shovel — occasionally stopping to hold instant on-site seminars on what was happening. If excavation is theatre, this was not so much directed theatre as devised theatre. Everyone was expected to work, contribute and express an opinion. There was a buzz of expectation from morning to night, a sense of mission, of resolving the past’s great riddles, discovering people and revealing events. Things were not there just to be found and recorded, but to be unleashed back into life.

‘Now that inclusivity and multivocality are being urged on an overheated profession, it is easy to forget that such things were once considered routine, agreeable and essential by all successful practitioners. Philip Arthur Rahtz was one of the great archaeological excavators of the twentieth century. He was born in Bristol on 11 March 1921. After Bristol Grammar School he was called up and served in the RAF until 1946. He then worked briefly as a teacher and photographer before being taken on with Ernest Greenfield by the Ministry of Public Buildings and Works to record archaeology ahead of the construction of Chew Valley reservoir.

‘Then, aged thirty-two, he went on to excavate in Spain, Greece and Ghana, as well completing fifty-three excavations in England, thirteen of them in Somerset. His excavations opened windows on Bronze Age burials, Roman villas and temples, Anglo-Saxon palaces and cemeteries, medieval houses, abbeys, churches and a hunting lodge. The post-Roman cemetery at Cannington with its young female “saint”, the “Arthurian” fort at Congresbury, King Alfred’s palace at Cheddar and the great Cistercian landscape of Bordesley Abbey are household names in the profession, sites where history was revealed with exceptional clarity, proficiency and common sense.

‘Rahtz had a near perfect record of reporting and deserves to be as renowned for finishing and publishing his excavations as others are for failing to do so. He achieved it by toiling at home, day after day, turning field records into clear simple narratives supported by strong graphics. During these marathon indoor campaigns, which took up most of his life when he was not digging or teaching, a network of wires blasted waves of classical music into every room. His was a house where a visit to the lavatory was met by the Ride of the Valkyries.

‘The harvest of all this work was twofold: first, he was instrumental in forging the application of archaeology to the Middle Ages. While others theorised the role of medieval material culture, he went out and dug it up, creating a legacy on which modern medieval archaeologists will long continue to draw. Second, when in 1963 he became a lecturer at the University of Birmingham, he imported the mud and dust of archaeological exploration deep into the academy. Creating the department of archaeology at York, where he became professor in 1978, he extended his principle of on-site empowerment to students. They were not there just to listen to lectures, but also to speak, lecture and intervene. They had to cover all periods, in all places, linked by a chain of themes — settlement and economy, urbanism, death and burial.

‘His gift to teaching was not so much this innovative degree, with its rather controvertible syllabus, as the development of education as interaction: York courses were interactive before there was an internet. Out of term each student had to undertake twelve weeks of residential fieldwork, because that is where the love of archaeology took hold. In term, they were loaded into a minibus and when it stopped each had to deliver a ten-minute introductory talk about a place they may never have seen before. Seminar contributions were expected of students from Day One. By the time they graduated each had been recorded chairing a seminar, and videoed giving a public lecture — unusual forms of examination but great preparations for real work.

‘As an academic Rahtz performed two counter-intuitive conjuring tricks: he made medieval archaeology matter, and he made archaeological theory fun. He leaves a large and affectionate following. In a profession well known for its earthy character — in every sense — he relished his reputation as a Lothario, and attributed it somewhat eccentrically in his autobiography, Living Archaeology (2001), to evolutionary forces. His close friends included some of the most intelligent and influential women working in archaeology.

‘Philip Rahtz died on 2 June 2011, aged ninety, and was buried at the Anglo-Scandinavian church at Kirkdale, North Yorkshire, the subject of his last field project. His first wife, Wendy, died in 1977. They had three sons and two daughters. He and his second wife, [Fellow] Lorna Rosemary Jane Watts, had a son.’

Lives Remembered: Merle Robertson

Fellow Norman Hammond also commends to those Salon readers who have access to the Times Online the obituary that appeared on 13 June 2011 for Merle Greene Roberston, who died on 22 April 2011, aged ninety-seven. Merle Robertson was a leading scholar of the Maya culture who wrote a magisterial study of the ancient city of Palenque in southern Mexico. In 1961, while working on the University of Pennsylvania’s project in Tikal, Guatemala she developed a technique of recording Maya stone sculptures by making rubbings using sumi ink and rice paper. She went on to make more than 4,000 rubbings at well over 100 Maya sites, a collection that is now housed in the Latin American Library of Tulane University, New Orleans. The rubbings are widely published and comprise an invaluable source of documentation of Classic Maya culture (c AD200-900), especially since many of the original monuments are now destroyed or have been looted.

In the 1970s, she embarked on a major study to document the numerous exquisite stucco reliefs that adorn the ancient city of Palenque, in southern Mexico. This work was published, in four sumptuous volumes, by Princeton University Press. In it Robertson not only documented the sculptures in great detail but also analysed how the sculptures were prepared, modelled and decorated. In 1973 she and her husband organised the first Palenque Round Table conference; these ‘Mesas Redondas’ have become an institution, responsible for many a research collaboration and breakthrough in the understanding of ancient Maya culture.

In 1982 she founded the Pre-Columbian Art Research Institute, based in San
Francisco. She received many honours, including the Decoration of the Aztec Eagle from Mexico in 1994, and an honorary doctorate from Tulane University.

Lives Remembered: Judith Dorothea Guillum Scott OBE FSA FSA Scot

Salon’s editor is very grateful to our Fellow Peter Burman for permission to reproduce the following obituary for our Fellow Judith Scott, who died on 22 May 2011, aged 94. Judith was a noted authority on Anglican churches and cathedrals, who served as Secretary of the Church of England’s Council for the Care of Churches and the Cathedrals’ Advisory Committee from 1957 to 1971.

‘Judith Scott was born on 6 March 1917 at 4 Battersea Park Road, in the parish of St George’s Battersea, London. Her father, Guy Harden Guillum Scott, was one of the founders of the Battersea Dogs’ Home. In recent years Judith, who was a woman of immense dignity and presence, used to say to newcomers to her circle “I was born in a dogs’ home”, and watch with delight the surprised expression on their faces. Her mother was Anne Dorothea, born Fitzjohn. The family lived in comfortable circumstances and her father, a barrister-at-law, later became a judge and in due course first Secretary of the Church Assembly. Judith’s elder sibling, Sir John Guillum Scott, followed in his father’s footsteps and became Secretary of the Church Assembly, then first Secretary-General of the General Synod of the Church of England.

‘Joining the Central Council for the Care of Churches on 13 June 1936 was an important step in Judith’s life. The Council was run by Dr Francis Eeles, her great mentor, from a small suite of rooms in the Victoria and Albert Museum, close to the office of the then Director, Sir Eric MacClagan, who also became a close ally. At first she was a volunteer as Dr Eeles’s assistant but she became Acting Assistant Secretary in 1939 and was paid a modest salary by the Central Board of Finance of the Church of England. In 1957 she became Secretary by which time — and in no small way thanks to her advocacy and leadership — the Central Council for the Care of Churches and later the Cathedrals Advisory Committee had become well-established bodies that were proving their worth.

‘During the second World War the office moved to Dr Eeles’s country home in Dunster, Somerset, and one of their more ambitious projects was to find secure homes where the treasures from City of London churches could be safely stored during the war. The journey to Dunster became a regular pilgrimage for lovers of ancient churches and just after the war one such visitor was John Betjeman, researching for the Collins Guide to English Parish Churches.

‘After the war there was much debate about the extent to which the City of London churches should be repaired or rebuilt. On a Saturday afternoon, on the telephone, she took the courageous decision to assure the Archdeacon of London that she would somehow and personally raise the money for the restoration of All Hallows’, London Wall, a most delightful building by George Dance the Younger (to whom Sir John Soane was apprenticed as a very young man) in 1768. Not only was the church superbly put back together again but it and the adjoining church rooms of 1901 were sensitively remodelled so that the Council for the Care of Churches and its sister body could establish their offices there, along with a library which became, and remains, one of real distinction. The chancel could, however, still be used for worship and the church became a “Guild Church” governed by a special Act of Parliament. Here Judith reigned until ill health forced her to retire early in 1971.

‘Meanwhile she had made a signal contribution to the evolution of Church legislation and policy with regard to the care and supervision of churches, through the Inspection of Churches Measure 1955, the Faculty Jurisdiction Measure 1964 and the Pastoral Measure 1968. She had an uncanny knack for discerning what would be the impact of new legislation and policy, and knew well how to challenge and to ask the right penetrating questions. Judith believed, following William Morris, that it was better to ‘stave off decay by daily care’ and that regular inspection by a suitably qualified architect or surveyor, followed by a careful and continuing programme of maintenance and repairs, and ceaseless vigilance would mean — and she was right — that churches would survive much better into the future, and with more of their integrity intact.

‘She was nevertheless by no means hostile to courageous liturgical experiment. Moreover, she did her utmost to encourage churches and cathedrals to commission innovative artists and artist-craftsmen in many fields. It is regarded as an opportunity and a privilege to be invited on to the Council’s Register of Artists and Craftsmen, which she established. She welcomed and encouraged the establishment of treasuries in a good number of cathedrals. She maintained excellent relationships with the Worshipful Company of Carpenters, for whom All Hallows’ London Wall was their “Guild Church”. She sat on committees for major exhibitions of church art including the epoch-making Victorian Church Art exhibition at the Victoria and Albert Museum.

‘In her retirement, following her return to reasonably good health, she was appointed a member of the Advisory Board for Redundant Churches which had the weighty responsibility of advising the Church Commissioners on the fate of churches which had been declared redundant under the Pastoral Measure 1968. Settling in north-east Scotland with her long-term companion, Philippa Buckton, Judith became Secretary of the Banffshire Coast Conservation Society, aptly demonstrating that it is possible to act locally as well as nationally. They converted a former railway station and cottages into a most attractive and imaginative home and guest wing, and created a beautiful garden. When later on they came back to England and established a home in Wymondham, Judith became a very active member of the local community and a faithful member of the Parochial Church Council of Wymondham Abbey.

‘Her advice was sought by many organizations and individuals. She first attended a committee meeting of the Society for the Protection of Ancient Buildings, as an observer, on 17 September 1936. For many years thereafter she was an influential member of that committee and later a member of its august Council. She worked closely and in several contexts with its chairman, the Duke of Grafton, and with its long-time Secretary, Mrs Monica Dance.

‘She became a Fellow of the Society of Antiquaries of Scotland on 14 February 1938 and a Fellow of our Society on 9 January 1958, later serving as a member of Council. Her scholarship informed the innumerable advisory reports she wrote on behalf of both organizations and enabled her to take part in strenuous debates with confidence and skill. As was said by Duncan Wilkinson at the Service of Thanksgiving for her at Wymondham Abbey on 10 June: “Her sharpness of mind easily dissected the subject to which it was applied and she could always be relied upon for a unique perspective.”

‘Service on other committees (and there were many) included the UK committee of the International Council on Monuments & Sites (ICOMOS), the Standing Joint Committee on Natural Stone, trusteeship of the Historic Churches Preservation Trust, the Council of the National Trust for Scotland, the Council of the Architectural Heritage Society of Scotland — the list seems endless, her energy and enthusiasm boundless. She kept the faith in which she was brought up and had a deep spiritual life. The word “service” really meant something to her, and she gave her energy and time freely to all who asked it of her.’

Events

27 June 2011: ‘Visualising the history of UK energy use: archive imagery and 4D digital modelling in public education about climate change’, the Herbert Lane Lecture to be delivered by Polly Hudson, Visiting Fellow, Kellogg College at the Centre for the Historic Environment at Kellogg College, Oxford OX2 6PN. Tea 5pm; lecture 5.30pm; reception 6.30pm. RSVP: Jitka Fort.

13 July 2011: Special Choral Evensong at Westminster Abbey to mark the 200th birthday of the great Sir Gilbert Scott, who was a Fellow of our Society as well as Surveyor of the Fabric at the Abbey from 1849 to 1878. The service will be followed by the laying of a wreath on his tomb in the nave.

22 to 28 July 2011: Coast and Overland, an exhibition of pictures by Fellow Peter Fowler at the Cinema Gallery, Aldeburgh, daily 10am to 6pm. Peter extends a warm invitation to all Fellows to attend the preview of his summer solo exhibition from 2pm to 8pm on 22 July. If you wish to attend, please let Peter know ‘since the gallery, a wonderfully top-lit room, is actually above the cinema auditorium and limited on Health and Safety grounds to forty persons at any one time. I hope that, by spreading the availability of liquid refreshment over six hours, rather than the conventional 6pm to 8pm, the integrity of the floor will not, in fact, be put to the test.’

6 July 2011: Drawing the Bank of England, by Madeleine Helmer. This Soane Museum Study Group lecture will take place at 6pm for 6.30pm in Sir John Soane’s Museum’s Seminar Room, Number 14, Lincoln’s Inn Fields, London. Madeleine Helmer, who has just completed a one-year project to catalogue over 1,300 drawings for the Bank of England, which Soane described as ‘the pride and boast of my life’, will explain what the drawings reveal about Soane’s office practice, his powers of negotiation and his creative response to his brief. Places must be booked in advance by contacting Beth Walker, Head of Education.

23 July 2011: Ride and Stride for London Churches. Get your walking boots or saddle up your Boris bike for the first ever London ‘Ride and Stride’ fundraising event, which is being organised by Fellows Diana Beattie and Tara Draper-Stumm of the Heritage of London Trust. ‘Ride and Stride’ is a popular annual event in the rest of the country, where people raise sponsorship money by visiting as many churches as they can on a single day, but this is the first time that the capital, with its rich diversity of historic churches, has taken part in the event. A route is being devised that will take in such churches as St Lawrence, Little Stanmore, rebuilt under the patronage of James Brydges, Duke of Chandos, with interior wood carving attributed to Grinling Gibbons, and St Anne’s, Limehouse, one of Hawskmoor’s masterpieces, as well as Nunhead Cemetery, with its elegant lime avenues and stone sculpture.

Diana and Tara would like to hear from churches willing to open for this year’s event (or register for next year’s), and who will help advertise the event. Further information is available on the HoLT website and sponsorship forms can be downloaded from the Ride and Stride site. ‘This is a wonderful chance for a family day out where you can also raise money for your local church’, says Diana.

26 and 27 October 2011: Medieval Archaeology, an international conference to celebrate forty years of medieval archaeology as a university discipline in Denmark, to be held at Aarhus University, organised by our Fellow Professor Else Roesdahl and with a number of our Fellows as speakers; further information and registration at the conference homepage.

Books by Fellows: Iron Age Mirrors

Fellow Jody Joy’s book on Iron Age Mirrors: a biographical approach (ISBN: 9781407307039; BAR British Series 518>) gives us a comprehensive account of the fifty-eight British mirrors that have survived from an unknown quantity that were made and used from 400 BC to AD 100, and mostly in the last and first centuries BC and AD. Of these there are even fewer complete examples: Birdlip (now in Gloucester Museum), Desborough and Holcombe (the British Museum), Old Warden (Higgins Museum, Bedford), Pegsdon (Luton Museum) and Nijmegan (the Nijmegan Museum, granted ‘British’ status because of its design, found in a cemetery outside the legionary fortress at Noviomagus).

The biographical approach of the subtitle refers to the way that Jody Joy examines their entire (and unfinished) life cycle, from birth (the raw materials used to make the mirrors, where they came from and how they were processed), through to the making of each mirror, its use in its lifetime, its burial context, its rediscovery and subsequent commentaries on the mirror and its display history. It is no criticism of the book to say that even this degree of comprehensiveness leaves much unsaid, because it is unknowable: were these stunning works of geometric design and complexity simply commodities, the trophies of successful women of the world, like today’s Mulberry handbags, or were they magical, ritualistic, the possessions that marked out a very special type of owner?

Books by Fellows: A Global History of History and The Oxford History of Historical Writing

Our Fellow Daniel Woolf, Professor of History at Queen’s University, Kingston, Ontario, modestly present his new book, A Global History of History (ISBN: 9780521699082; Cambridge University Press), as a student text book, but it is far more: nothing less, in fact, than a treasury of just about every important thought that has ever been recorded on the subject of thinking about the past — historiography, to use the academic term, though Woolf’s masterful summaries encompass far more than just writing about the past — the text is also studded with pictures, such as Albrecht Aldorfer’s The Battle of Alexander at Issus 333 BC (painted in 1529) that also tell us so much about the ways in which people have perceived the past, and he acknowledges that music, singing, poetry, oral traditions, novels, sculpture, artefacts and inscriptions can also be forms of historical thought or responses to ideas about the past: ‘history comes in many shapes and forms’, he says, not necessarily in a vessel marked ‘history’.

Well aware, too, that one person’s account of past events might seem like blatant bias to another, Daniel Woolf sets out to give equal credit to different global versions of history (as his title states) and his introduction makes it clear that he does not mean by this ‘a homogenised agglomerate vision of a single world historiography … a large lake seen only from its Western beaches’. He is sceptical of attempts to tease something universal out of different modes of historical thinking and make one universal history — a Long March, a triumphalist narrative — because this so often means making other modes of seeing the past enmesh with the Western historical traditions: ‘we do no service to Mixtec painted histories’, he writes, ‘to claim that they are Western histories in embryo’. On the other hand, he acknowledges a ‘kaleidoscope of different coloured histories’ might be beautiful and dazzling, but is ‘ultimately meaningless’. He therefore sets out to show how history as seen from the very different social and political contexts of, say, Italy or Scotland, pre-colonial or post-colonial America, or different parts of Africa, China or Japan at different times in history ‘runs along parallel tracks for much of the time, but also criss-crosses and intersects’. That so many differing perspectives can be mastered and written about with such analytical clarity and sympathy by one person is an astonishing feat.

And if carrying it off once isn’t enough, Daniel Woolf is also general editor (for the rival university press) of The Oxford History of Historical Writing, of which Volume 1: Beginnings to AD 600, edited by Andrew Feldherr and Grant Hardy, has just been published (ISBN: 9780199218158; Oxford University Press). This is the first of five planned volumes containing essays by leading scholars on the major traditions of historical writing from the beginning of writing to the present day and from all over the world (in this volume, mainly from the ancient Near East, Classical Greece and Rome, and East and South Asia) designed to provide an authoritative survey of the field and to provoke cross-cultural comparisons.

Books by Fellows: The Blandys of Madeira 1811—2011

Salon’s editor admits to being distinctly jealous of Fellow Marcus Binney because of the privileged access he has had to the archives and the personal memories of the Blandy family in writing The Blandys of Madeira 1811—2011 (ISBN: 9780711230774; Frances Lincoln. Madeira is a stunningly beautiful island, studded with historic town and country estates with fine houses and luxuriant gardens that are all but inaccessible to anyone who is not a friend of the owning family. Marcus was fortunate to be invited to visit the biggest estate on the island, the Quinta do Palheiro Ferreiro (literally ‘the estate of the blacksmith’s hut’), to write the history of the family whose name is virtually synonymous with the Madeira wine trade. Though that story begins with the arrival in 1811 of Dorset-born farmer’s son John Blandy, aged twenty-four, seeking his fortune on the island, Marcus is able to interweave a great deal of the island’s earlier history into the tale of John Blandy’s founding of one of the island’s leading dynasties.

Marcus can do this because John Blandy’s story is emblematic of so many Madeiran lives. From the start, Madeira was an island of adventurers, claimed by Portugal in 1419 and therefore heading for a 600th anniversary in eight years’ time) and settled by the younger landless sons of Portuguese aristocracy or refugees from war in Europe. One of those was Henry the German, otherwise known as King Wladislaw III of Poland, killed, according to conventional history, by the Turks in the Battle of Warna in 1444 but who, according to Madeiran history, escaped and fled in shame to Madeira where, according to the latest theory, he fathered Christopher Columbus. Columbus did in fact live for several years on Madeira as a young man as an agent for Flemish sugar merchants, and just as those fifteenth- and sixteenth-century adventurers grew rich on the white gold of Madeira’s sugar trade, so Blandy and his peers in the Napoleonic era grew rich on the commodity that replaced sugar as a staple of the island’s economy, Madeira wine.

There is never a dull moment in Marcus Binney’s well-illustrated tale of the ups and downs of the family enterprise that Blandy founded; if you know someone who is a connoisseur of Madeira wine, this is the perfect book to give them to read as they sit and sip a wine that is as rich in history as it is in character and complexity.

Books by Fellows: Sifting the Soil of Greece

In between hunting down illicitly traded antiquities as the scourge of rogue dealers over the last few years, our Fellow David Gill has been writing a history of the early years of the British School at Athens, from its founding in 1886 to the end of the First World War. Now published by the Institute of Classical Studies, School of Advanced Study, University of London, Sifting the Soil of Greece (ISBN 9781905670321) takes its title from the words of Ernest Gardener (1862—1939), the first student to be admitted to the School in 1886, in describing his excavations at Megalopolis.

Gardener is one of some 130 gifted individuals who took part in the School’s archaeological activities up to 1919 and who laid the firm foundations for the study of classical antiquity, in part as a conscious response to the high-profile French and German excavations at Delos, Olympia and Troy and to the founding of the American School of Classical Studies in 1879. Britain was in danger of slipping behind, and British museums were in danger of losing out to Continental rivals, without a permanent base in the Greek world from which to conduct fieldwork and excavation.

David’s book interweaves the story of the institution and its founding directors and students, a very high proportion of whom were Fellows of our Society, against the background of trends in classical archaeology in the UK and the rest of Europe, and a sense of their scholarly achievement can be gauged from the 130 pages of the 474-page book that consist of potted biographies and lists of projects and publications of the key players. But their activities were not limited to archaeology: as well as proving an important international training ground for archaeologists, with former students going on to run archaeological services for Egypt, India, the Sudan and Transjordan, and to fill senior posts in many universities, many of the School’s students were also recruited for intelligence work during the First World War. The book’s final chapter, ‘Students at war’, details the way that the likes of a certain T E Lawrence as well as Harry Pirie-Gordon and others used their knowledge of the region to help in a number of critical Allied campaigns that have since gone down in history like the wars of ancient Greece before.

Books by Fellows: Henkilö- ja sukuvaakunat Suomessa

Our Fellow Antti Matikkala, Research Fellow at the Helsinki Collegium for Advanced Studies in Finland, is the joint editor with Wilhelm Brummer of a work on personal and family coats of arms in Finland called Henkilö- ja sukuvaakunat Suomessa (ISBN 9789522222831). Antti says that the book is in Finnish, but includes an English summary, and that it consists of nineteen scholarly essays amounting to the first chronologically comprehensive survey of the use and development of personal and family coats of arms in Finland in their broad social context, from the thirteenth-century seals to modern non-noble armorial bearings. His own paper concerns Finnish motifs in Swedish and Finnish noble arms, and a second paper of possible interest to Fellows is about Scottish connections with the Finnish House of Nobility.

Books by Fellows: Corpus of Anglo-Saxon Stone Sculpture in Cheshire and Lancashire

Fellow Dame Rosemary Cramp writes to draw attention to the fact that our Fellow Richard Bailey’s new contribution to the British Academy’s Corpus of Anglo-Saxon Stone Sculpture — Volume IX: Cheshire and Lancashire — has now been published by Oxford University Press (ISBN 9780197264621). ‘This volume completes the coverage of Northumbria and includes such outstanding crosses as Sandbach, Halton and Hornby’, says Rosemary; ‘it encapsulates also the author’s long-term research into the relationships between settlements around the Irish Sea and offers new insights into the Viking period in the region.’ A copy can be found in the Society’s Library. Further news about the progress of the corpus can be found on the Durham University website.

Books by Fellows: The Big House Library in Ireland

Fellow Mark Purcell, Libraries Curator at the National Trust, has a new and lavishly illustrated book out on the rise and fall of country house libraries in Ireland: The Big House Library in Ireland: books in Ulster country houses (ISBN: 9780707804163; National Trust Books).

The National Trust is now responsible for most of the surviving libraries out of the 2,000 or so that were once an integral feature of every Big House in what is now Northern Ireland — country houses standing at the heart of its demesne and each dominating its locality. These collections, says Mark, ‘have survived almost like time capsules, never subject to atmospheric pollution or the attentions of reforming librarians, and not heavily used in modern times. Many of their books contain the bookplates and ownership inscriptions of their long-dead owners, as well as instructions to binders, hand-written marginal notes and prices, and even the odd pressed flower; most are also in their original bindings. Together these features tell us a good deal about the tastes and interests of the people who owned them, and about the use, abuse and circulation of print across the whole of Ireland over a period of more than 400 years.’

Books by Fellows: British Archaeological Association Conference Transactions

Two new titles in the renowned British Archaeological Association Conference Transactions Series have just been published, devoted to Munster and Coventry. Volume 34 in the series, Limerick and South-West Ireland: (ISBN: 9781907625084; Maney), edited by our Fellow Roger Stalley, consists of papers given at the 2008 BAA conference, devoted to the art and architecture of Munster, one of the four ancient provinces of Ireland, and include essays (mainly by Fellows) on round towers, funerary sculpture, tower houses, castles, crosiers, mitres and misericords. An underlying theme is the degree to which Irish craftsmen and builders engaged with the rest of Europe, and the extent to which Ireland developed its own identity in architecture and sculpture in the later Middle Ages. While travellers from abroad regarded Ireland as one of the most remote regions of the western world, ‘situated at the end of the earth’, these essays make it clear that the province of Munster was still very much an integral part of Christian Europe.

Coventry (ISBN: 9781906540623; Maney), edited by Fellows Linda Monckton and Richard K Morris, resulting from the 2007 BAA conference, celebrates the material culture of the fourth wealthiest English city of the later Middle Ages and includes papers investigating Coventry’s building boom and economic conditions in the city in the later Middle Ages, on the Cathedral Priory of St Mary — bringing together new insights into the Romanesque cathedral church, the monastic buildings and the post-Dissolution history of the precinct — and on the architectural histories of the spectacular former parish church of St Michael, the fine Guildhall of St Mary and the remarkable surviving west range of the Coventry Charterhouse.

The high-quality monumental art of the later medieval city is represented by papers on wall-painting (featuring the recently conserved Doom in Holy Trinity Church), on the little-known Crucifixion mural at the Charterhouse, and on a reassessment of the working practices of the famous master-glazier, John Thornton. Two papers on a guild seal and on the glazing at Stanford on Avon parish church consider the evidence for Coventry as a regional workshop centre for high-quality metalwork and glass-painting.

Beyond the city, papers deal with the development of Combe Abbey from Cistercian monastery to country house, with the Beauchamp family’s hermitage at Guy’s Cliffe, with a newly identified stonemasons’ workshop in the ‘barn’ at Kenilworth Abbey and on the architectural patronage of the earls and dukes of Lancaster in the fourteenth century at Kenilworth Castle and in the Newarke at Leicester Castle.

Vacancies

Selling Museum Collections: Fellowship opportunity to research and influence policy and practice with the Museums Association; closing date 28 June 2011
As part of their Placement Fellowship Scheme the AHRC and ESRC are seeking applications from academics interested in working in a research capacity with the Museums Association on a one-year Fellowship to research the ethical and legal aspects of sales from museum collections. Further information can be downloaded from the Bournemouth University website.