Salon Archive

Issue: 49

Weekly meeting report

Fellows heard two very practical papers at this week�s meeting, when Dr Julian Richards, FSA, gave a live demonstration (a first for the Society) of the rich seams of information to be mined from the 180 million sites linked to the internet. That very richness poses a challenge to users in finding the information they want. Portals have therefore been developed to provide one simple access route to large numbers of distributed databases. Fellows were shown how one such portal works with a demonstration of HEIRPORT (Historic Environment Information Resources Portal) to be found at .

Ortrun Peyne, the Society�s Library Cataloguer, then took Fellows to several on-line library catalogues, including that of the Society, to show that different catalogues use different subject headings for the same books. This is a drawback, but using digital catalogues is still faster and more accurate by far than using the card catalogues of old.

Forthcoming meetings

3 April: �The Tudor Naval Gunnery Project et pompa et usa?�, by Nicholas Hall, FSA, and Alexzandra Hildred

10 April: �A �vanished� sixteenth-century elite landscape and the creation of the Dukeries of Nottinghamshire�, by Margaret Bennett

Fellows� news

The Times has reported the sad news of the death last week of our Fellow Annette Dorothy Bagot, of Levens in Cumbria, at the age of 85. Julian Munby, FSA, has promised to write an appreciation for next week�s Salon.

Kelmscott reopens

Kelmscott Manor is to reopen for the 2003 season on Wednesday 2 April. The Manor is open every Wednesday from 11am to 5pm, on the third Saturday in April, May, June and September from 2 to 5pm, and on the first and third Saturday in July and August from 2 to 5pm. Fellows are entitled to free admission. Further details on the new Kelmscott website.

BT Tower listed Grade II*

The BT Tower (aka the Telecom Tower and the Post Office Tower) is one of eight communications structures to be newly listed by the Department of Culture, Media and Sport. Making the announcement on 25 March, Arts Minister Baroness Blackstone said: �Structures like the BT Tower are cultural and architectural icons of Harold Wilson�s �White Heat of Technology� era�. When it opened in July 1964, the tower was London�s tallest structure (at 620 feet), and it cost �2.5 million to build � a tiny sum by today�s standards. However a meal in the Tower restaurant then cost �11 � a sum that still buys a square meal today, indicating just how much of a premium the restaurant could command by offering the novelty of a circular panorama. Such luxury came to an abrupt end in 1971 when an IRA bomb exploded in the viewing galleries.

The other structures listed this week are:

 the Equatorial Telescopes, Herstmonceux, East Sussex (Grade II*), built 1953-8 to take over the work of the Greenwich Observatory
 the Lighthouse, Dungeness, Kent (Grade II*), built in 1959-60 by Ronald Ward and Partners as the first twentieth-century lighthouse
 the British Telecom Earth/Satellite Station Antenna No 1, Goonhilly Downs, Cornwall (Grade II), designed by Husband and Company and the GPO as the reception and transmission station for Telstar, the first active telecommunications satellite
 ntl Broadcasting Tower, Emley Moor, Yorkshire (Grade II), built by Ove Arup and Associates in 1969-71
 the Radar Training Station, Fleetwood, Lancashire (Grade II), designed by Roger Booth of the Lancashire County Council Architect's Department and built 1961-2
 the County Police Communication Tower, Aykley Heads, Durham (Grade II), built by Ove Arup and Partners in 1965-8.

Further information is on the DCMS website under �Press Releases�.

Internet kleptomania

On a topic related to the subject of this week�s meeting, Chris Mole, MP for Ipswich, has tabled a private member�s bill bringing the law on the legal deposit of printed material up to date. Under the existing law of 1911, publishers of books, pamphlets, maps, printed journals and newspapers in Britain and Ireland are required to deposit a copy with the British Library within a month of publication. Five other legal deposit libraries, in Oxford, Cambridge, Scotland, Wales and Ireland, are entitled to claim copies within twelve months of publication. The new bill is designed to bring digital media within the scope of the same law: including online websites, databases, bulletins, briefings, documents and e-journals that are only published as web, Word or Acrobat files, including material on CD-ROM and DVD.

At present a voluntary deposit scheme exists. France, Norway, Finland and Denmark already have such schemes and Germany is drafting legislation. British and Irish librarians fully support a legal scheme, but with the proviso that the financial resources are made available for a robust and comprehensive archive.

National Archives

Wednesday 2 October 2003 will see the long-awaited merger of the Public Record Office and the Historical Manuscripts Commission to form the new body known as National Archives, under the leadership of Fellow Sarah Tyacke, currently Chief Executive of the PRO and Keeper of Public Records, who will work closely with HMC Secretary, our Fellow Christopher Kitching. An immediate priority will be to integrate the HMC�s databases of archive repositories and manorial documents with those of PRO. The aim is for all records to appear on line in due course. Within three years the PRO anticipates that a high proportion of all its user services will be delivered via the internet, and that income from online orders for the most popular documents (census returns, wills and military service records) will be ploughed back into further digitisation projects.

Over-worked Conservation Officers forced to neglect heritage

Local authority conservation officers, whose responsibility is to protect and promote England�s historic environment at a local level, are over-stretched, under-resourced and undervalued. The majority have neither the time nor resources to check on works in progress and carry out simple enforcement procedures, rendering conservation legislation an empty threat and contributing to the decline of historic streets, towns and villages across the country.

These are the conclusions of Local Authority Conservation Provision in England, the first ever survey of all the country�s conservation officers, published on 28 March 2003. The survey was commissioned jointly by English Heritage and the Institute of Historic Building Conservation (IHBC) and prepared by Philip Grover of Oxford Brookes University.

The survey found that there were fewer than two conservation officers per local authority. Many struggle to keep up with responding to the effects of new developments on the historic environment. This leaves little or no time for important tasks such as tackling buildings at risk and more than 80 per cent of respondents to the survey admitted that they have no time to enforce repairs or prosecute illegal alterations. Conservation Officers need to be multi-skilled, and more than two-thirds have post-graduate qualifications, yet some are paid less than �15,000. Only 25 per cent of Conservation Officers are permitted to attend committees regularly or sit on departmental management boards.

Simon Thurley, Chief Executive of English Heritage, said: �Local authorities are at the frontline of planning decisions and recent research reveals that 30 per cent of planning applications involve the historic environment in some way. This is the first time anyone has asked Conservation Officers what their problems are and what they need. Today�s report makes particularly alarming reading. It shows that many local authorities do not have the skills or capacity to manage this properly. We need to help them and together with the Department for Culture, Media and Sport and the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister, we are now working urgently to put in place practical measures to improve the working lives of Conservation Officers throughout the country. Among these measures will be a significant investment in partnership training to raise professional standards that will enable local authorities to deliver a more prompt, fair and consistent service to their clients�.

For copies of a summary leaflet, for the full report and for further information, go to the English Heritage website and click on �News� then �Latest News Stories�.

Reynolds� Portrait of Omai saved by anonymous donor

An anonymous donor has offered �12.5 million to help Tate Britain buy the celebrated Portrait of Omai by Sir Joshua Reynolds, which shows the young Tahitian brought to England by Captain Cook in 1774. The donation will enable the Tate to buy the painting without Lottery support, making it more likely that the Heritage Lottery Fund will be able to contribute to the National Gallery�s �29.5 million campaign to buy Raphael�s Madonna of the Pinks.

Omai is one of the masterpieces of eighteenth-century British art and until recently was part of the Collection at Castle Howard in Yorkshire. It secured a world auction record for the artist when the Howard family sold it at auction in 2001.

The first Polynesian to visit London, Omai travelled to England as a member of the crew of Captain Cook's second voyage in 1774 and became an overnight sensation. Immediately upon his arrival, he had an audience with George III, who awarded him an annual allowance. Omai lived in New Burlington Street, attended the State Opening of Parliament and was a regular attendee at Dr Johnson�s literary circle. Held up as a living example of the noble savage, he was discussed by scientists and philosophers, celebrated in high society and written about in everything from poetry to popular theatre. Homesick, Omai returned to Tahiti in 1777 and is thought to have died not long after.

Is �Saving Art for the Nation� a relevant concept?

The whole notion of Saving Art for the Nation is to be the focus of a major two-day international conference on 11 and 12 November 2003 to mark the centenary celebrations of the National Art Collections Fund. At a time when museums are attempting to meet the enormous fundraising challenges posed by saving great works of art at risk, a distinguished panel of speakers will debate whether Saving Art for the Nation is still a valid approach to public collecting in the twenty-first century.

The conference has been timed to commemorate the launch of the National Art Collections Fund on 11 November 1903, and to coincide with the Art Fund's exhibition Saved!, which opens at the Hayward Gallery on 23 October 2003. The exhibition will feature over 300 of the greatest works of art acquired with the Art Fund's support, including Vel�zquez's Rokeby Venus, Botticelli's Virgin Adoring the Christ Child, Canova's Three Graces and the Becket Casket.

Confirmed participants include Sir Nicholas Serota, of the Tate, Ronald de Leeuw, of the Rijksmuseum, Peter-Klaus Schuster, of the State Museums in Berlin, Charles Saumarez Smith, FSA, of the National Gallery, Sir Timothy Clifford, of the National Galleries of Scotland, Mikhail Piotrovsky, of the Hermitage; David Starkey, FSA; Jeremy Paxman; Andrew Marr; John Tusa, of the Barbican Centre, and Anna Somers Cocks, FSA, of The Art Newspaper.

For further information from Alison Cole or Vicky Dyer, tel: 020 7225 4820/4819). For booking details contact: Hugo Tagholm, Brunswick Arts, tel: 020 7936 1294, email: htagholm@brunswickgroup.com.

The Rhind Lectures 2003

This year�s Rhind Lectures, hosted by the Society of Antiquaries of Scotland, will be given by Professor Tim Ingold, FBA FRSE FSA Scot, on the subject of �Lines From the Past: towards an anthropological archaeology of inscriptive practices�. This series of six lectures has been delivered annually on a subject pertaining to history or archaeology since 1876. It commemorates Alexander Henry Rhind of Sibster who bequeathed money to the Society of Antiquaries of Scotland to endow the lectures which perpetuate his name.

All the lectures take place over the weekend of 2 to 4 May 2003 in the Lecture Theatre, Royal Museum, Chambers Street, Edinburgh, and are free to all without ticket or reservation. Further information from The Society of Antiquaries of Scotland, tel: 0131 247 4115/4133.

Maritime Affairs Group

The highly proactive Maritime Affairs Group of the Institute of Field Archaeologists has revamped its excellent email bulletin, which is published every two months. The March/April edition contains worrying news of a contractual dispute between Newport City Council and the Glamorgan Gwent Archaeological Trust, which was the authority's archaeological contractor for the Newport Ship project, that recently resulted in the Council suspending payments to the Trust for the project. Although �31,000 - out of a total of �130,000 - will now be paid, the Trust has had to suspend all post-excavation work on the ship.

Copies of the bulletin are available from Mark Dunkley of Wessex Archaeology, email: m.dunkley@wessexarch.co.uk.

ICOMOS-UK seminar on London�s skyline

ICOMOS-UK, in collaboration with the RIBA, is celebrating International Sites and Monuments Day 2003 with a seminar on �London�s Dynamic Skyline�, to be held on 10 April 2003, at the RIBA, Portland Place, London, from 6 to 9.30pm.

London's dynamic skyline is one of its chief assets and this seminar will look at ways to manage change so that the cultural heritage is a key driver of sustainable development. The seminar is timely given that much attention is being focused on London�s skyline in the current �Examination In Public� of the Mayor's London Plan, and for the consultations into the proposed London Bridge Tower, by architect Renzo Piano. Speakers will include Fellow Tom Hassall, President of ICOMOS-UK, and Paul Hyett, President, RIBA, and George Ferguson, President-Elect, RIBA. Tickets cost �12.50 (to include a wine reception) and are available from ICOMOS-UK at 10 Barley Mow Passage, London W4 4PH, tel: 020 8994 6477, fax: 020 8747 8464, email: katepugh@icomos-uk.org.

War not the only threat to Iraqi treasures

Professor Lord Renfrew, FSA, has questioned publicly the activities of a wealthy and influential coalition of American collectors and curators who are seeking to acquire Iraqi antiquities after the fall of Saddam Hussein. Calling themselves the American Council for Cultural Policy, the group argues that �legitimate dispersal of cultural material� is the best way of protecting it. To the alarm of archaeologists, the Council seems to have secured the ear of the US State and Defence Departments. Lord Renfrew commented: �These collectors and curators want to be free to buy antiquities ... and want the antiquities legislation of Iraq to be relaxed in the aftermath of war.� The Council has defended its position by saying that there is a serious risk of looting in Iraq after the war and that its sole aim is to save the country�s archaeological wealth from further loss or destruction.

�Mendips�: a shrine to a twentieth-century hero

Heritage took on a new dimension this week with the opening by the National Trust of �Mendips�, John Lennon�s childhood home. Along with last year�s opening of Paul McCartney�s family home (at 20 Forthlin Road, Liverpool), this amounts to an explicit endorsement on the part of Britain�s leading conservation charity of the concept of �associative heritage� - the recognition that some places can have significance because of their associations rather than as exemplars of art or architecture. Even so, the house can be still be experienced as an artefact: the National Trust has done its best to evoke an era in its refurbishment of the pebble-dashed mock Tudor semi where Lennon lived with his Aunt Mimi from the age of five, from 1945 to 1963. Formica, Izal toilet paper and Horlicks mugs, pink eiderdowns and Anaglypta wallpaper, The Goon Show on the radio � these norms of English middle-lass life in the 1950s contrast poignantly with the brightly coloured psychedelic world that Lennon and McCartney did so much to foster.

The Trust has received plaudits for its recreation of the appearance of the house � except for the pictures of Rita Hayworth and Brigitte Bardot on the walls of Lennon�s bedroom. Relatives have questioned whether the redoubtable Mimi would have allowed John to have women on the walls.

Celebrating corrugated iron

Common Ground � the organisation that gave us Apple Day (21 October this year) - has done much to open our eyes to the richness of everyday places, popular culture, common wildlife, ordinary buildings and landscapes. Now it has added a further dimension to the definition of heritage by launching the Corrugated Iron Club to celebrate this often overlooked (and even derided) building material.

The corrugating of iron was invented by Henry Robinson Palmer (1795�1844, the founder of the Institute of Civil Engineers) as a way of strengthening sheets for use in building construction and the first known use occurs in London, in 1828. A further refinement � galvanisation by dipping the iron sheets in zinc to protect the surface from oxidisation � prevents rusting for up to fifty years or more.

Used to build garages and chapels, railway stations and farm buildings, sheds, industrial buildings and homes, corrugated iron has proved popular because it is cheap and enduring. Common Ground now aims to build an inventory of corrugated iron structures: further details at www.corrugated-iron-club.info.

Vacancy

Project Officer, Council for British Archaeology
Salary: �17,399 - �25,011 plus �2,134 London Weighting, deadline for applications 14 April

The Council for British Archaeology has been awarded grants by The British Academy and English Heritage for a project to develop a searchable, comprehensive Online Guide to Archaeological Research in Progress.

Initial funding is for one year to define the scope and demonstrate the value of an online guide through identifying user needs, developing and testing a working pilot service, and exploring the practicalities of further development as an ongoing service.

The Project Officer will be responsible for masterminding the project and carrying it through. It is envisaged that the project will be based in the CBA's office at the British Academy in central London, though other arrangements might be considered for the right candidate.

Further information from Mike Heyworth, tel: 01904 671417, email: mikeheyworth@britarch.ac.uk.