Salon Archive

Issue: 50

Apologies

As Salon reaches its half century, we start with two apologies: first to Ortrun Peyn for misspelling her name in last week�s edition, and secondly to National Archives, the new body formed from the merger of the Public Record Office (PRO) and the Historical Manuscripts Commission (HMC), which was launched on 2 April 2003 and not, as Salon said last week, on 2 October. National Archives has its own brand new website, where visitors can sign up to receive National Archives News, a free e-newsletter that keeps subscribers informed of the latest document releases, online services, publications and events.

Weekly meeting report

This week�s meeting began with a bang (albeit silent) when Nicholas Hall, FSA, and Alexzandra Hildred showed video footage of the firing of a replica of the bronze muzzle-loading guns found on the Mary Rose. The speakers emphasised what a monumental task it was to cast such a gun, but proved that the range and fire power made it worth the effort � one reason why this type of gun remained in service from the 1540s to the 1860s.

A summary of this week�s paper can be found on the Fellows� side of the Society of Antiquaries� website, as can a summary of last week�s paper on Online Research and Publication.

Forthcoming meetings

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

8 May: The President�s Anniversary Address

Fellows� news

Clerical Fellows have suggested that the death of a Fellow should not always be announced in Salon as if it were a matter for sadness and regret, since death is inevitable and - leaving aside any theological considerations � many Fellows seem to enjoy a particularly long and rich life. The point is well made in the case of the Very Revd Robert Holtby, FSA, who died on 13 March, aged 82. His obituary in The Daily Telegraph (19 March 2003) described him as a scholar, a musician, a fine preacher and a highly competent administrator. It paid tribute to his ten years spent at Church House, Westminster, in charge of the Church of England's educational work, followed by his twelve years as Dean of Chichester (from 1977 to 1989) where, as a retirement gift, his head was carved above the west porch of the cathedral.

In 1980 Holtby wrote a popular history of Chichester Cathedral, and in 1988 a biography of Bishop Stopford. This was followed in 1989 and 1991 with biographies of Bishop William Otter, a noted Bishop of Chichester in the 1830s, and Eric Milner-White, a distinguished Dean of King's College, Cambridge, who later became Dean of York. His History of the Minster School, York, came out in 1994. He became an FSA in 1990 and from 1990 to 1993 was a Visiting Fellow of the West Sussex Institute of Higher Education and a lecturer on Swan Hellenic cruises.

We have also learned this week that our Honorary Fellow, Professor Jacques Nenquin of the D�partement d'Arch�ologie et d'Histoire Ancienne de l'Europe, Universit� de Gent, died some time ago, though we have no further information.

From Roger Ling, FSA, comes a reminder that ASPRoM, the Association for the Study and Preservation of Roman Mosaics, has recently launched its updated website. The site currently includes notes on recording and reproducing Roman mosaics, articles, information about forthcoming events, and details of how to join. Plans are underway to expand the content to meet the needs of enquirers who approach the Association for help with queries about mosaics.

Taryn Nixon, FSA, writes to remind Fellows that Channel 4 will be screening the second of two documentaries to do with �the incredibly well-preserved remains of London's Roman water works, discovered during our excavations for Land Securities' 30 Gresham Street development�. The programme broadcast last Thursday looked at the excavation in progress, and next week�s programme, on 10 April presents the research and experiments undertaken to reconstruct the water-lifting machinery found in the Gresham Street well.

Antiquities in Iraq

The efforts by Professor Lord Renfrew, FSA, to highlight the proposed American looting of Iraq�s cultural treasures has produced a strong reaction from a number of sources. Several newspapers carried features during last week explaining just how much was at risk and pointing out that the Hague Convention of 1954 on the Protection of Cultural Property in the Event of Armed Conflict recommends specific measures to protect �heritage items� against theft, pillage and misappropriation during �events of international armed conflict�. The US appears never to have signed this convention because it does not agree with the convention�s fundamental premise that �heritage belongs to all people�, preferring a much more legalistic view of the ownership of heritage items, which neatly justifies their current position.

Antiquities in the UK

Meanwhile in London, important steps were taken on Friday 4 April to ensure that the UK does not contribute to the plundering of monuments and sites when Richard Allan�s Illicit Trade Bill successfully passed its second reading in the Commons with solid cross-bench support. Introducing his private member�s bill, Richard Allan (Liberal Democrat MP for Sheffield Hallam) said the aim was to make it an offence to traffic in unlawfully removed cultural objects and, thereby, to assist in maintaining the integrity of buildings, structures and monuments (including wrecks) worldwide by removing the commercial incentive to those involved in the looting of such sites. As such it goes further than the protection of proprietary interests under the Theft Act 1968 and will cover objects which, although not stolen, have been illicitly excavated or removed from a monument. The offence will apply irrespective of the place where the cultural object was illicitly excavated or removed and thus will apply equally to objects illegally excavated or removed in the UK and objects illegally excavated or removed outside the UK.

Summing up at the end of ninety minutes of supportive debate, Kim Howells, Minister of State at the Department of Culture, Media and Sport, recommended the Bill to the House, saying that: �the well-documented rise in the international illicit traffic in art and antiquities contributes � through the plundering of monuments and sites - to the wholesale destruction of the world�s archaeological and architectural heritage. Far from injecting hard currency into hard-pressed local economies, local people usually receive very little in return for destroying their own cultural heritage. Asset-stripping this finite resource is, by definition, unsustainable in economic terms�.

The Minister admitted that London played a regrettable central role in the illicit antiquities trade, saying that: �here, the pattern of movement and dispersal through a chain of dealers is a regular practice and details of provenance can become lost in the process. Licit and illicit antiquities become hopelessly mixed, and looted artefacts acquire a �patina of legitimacy� as they can ultimately be sold, without provenance, by dealers and auction houses. Despite the many positive steps towards self-regulation, it is widely acknowledged that many antiquities surface on the London market without any declared previous history or archaeological context.�

For a verbatim account of the debate, see the Hansard website for Friday 4 April 2003.


BM appeal to save Babylonian relief

The British Museum is attempting to raise around �1.5 million to buy a spectacular terracotta relief, thought to have come from the ancient city of Babylon, about 55 miles (90km) from modern Baghdad. The relief shows the winged figure of a woman, naked except for a horned head-dress, necklace and bracelets, standing on the back of a double-headed lion, holding a rod and ring, flanked by owls. The relief may depict Ishtar, the goddess of sexual love and war, or the goddess Ereshkigal, her sister and rival, who ruled the Underworld. Journalists have inevitably dubbed her with the more colourful, if less accurate, name of �the whore of Babylon�.

The relief dates to the age of King Hammurabi, under whose reign (1792-1750 BC) Babylon came to prominence. John Curtis, FSA, Keeper of the Department of the Ancient Near East, described it as the second most important Babylonian piece in existence, after the stele in the Louvre on which King Hammurabi�s law code is inscribed.

The owner, a Japanese collector, is keen for the sculpture to go to the museum. On three previous occasions when the piece came up for sale the price was beyond the British Museum�s budget. Neil MacGregor, FSA, the British Museum�s Director, said the trustees would like to make the carving the museum�s principal acquisition for its 250th anniversary.

The attempt to acquire the relief comes as the museum experiences a huge increase in visitors to its Mesopotamian and Assyrian galleries, with the public developing a keen interest in Iraq�s archaeological heritage as a result of the war.

HLF grant to create a new home for the Petrie Collection

A �4.9 million grant has just been awarded by the Heritage Lottery Fund to University College London to enable the Petrie collection of Egyptian and Sudanese archaeology to be given a new home. UCL acquired the 80,000-item collection in 1913, and while some of the finest items have been on display, 90 per cent of the collection has been stored in far from satisfactory conditions in rooms above UCL�s central heating boilers. The grant means that the entire collection - one of the largest intact collections of Egyptian antiques outside Egypt - will now be properly housed in the Panoptican, a new five-storey building designed by Dixon Jones to be built on a site next to UCL�s Bloomsbury Theatre.

Consultation on the future of the Historic Environment in Wales

The Welsh Assembly�s Minister for Environment, Sue Essex, has just launched a consultation document on behalf of the Welsh Assembly Government which explores the future management of the historic environment in Wales. The document � A Review of the Historic Environment in Wales - was published on 31 March and comments are being sought by 20 June 2003.

The review (characterized as the Welsh equivalent of Power of Place) explores the positive contribution that the historic environment can make to the way of life in Wales. The authors are Paul Loveluck (President of the National Museums and Galleries of Wales), Jane Sharman (previously employed in a senior capacity with English Heritage) and Paul Drury (who represents the UK on the Council of Europe Cultural Heritage Committee).

Among a number of recommendations, the consultants have noted that aspects of the historic environment go beyond the remit of any one organization and recommend putting in place a co-ordinating body to develop an approach to the historic environment which ensures that the many contributions already being made are mutually supportive, and bring maximum benefit. There are various possibilities for providing this enhanced role and options exist for putting in place a suitable structure that will reflect a new approach, and ensure that the values embraced by the people of Wales are properly catered for. The consultation process seeks views on how this might be achieved.

Copies of the report are available on line from the Cadw website, or can be obtained from Stephen Gear, Cadw, Crown Building, Cardiff, CF10 3NQ, email: Stephen.Gear@Wales.GSI.Gov.UK.

Learning and the Historic Environment

Mela Watts, Manager of the Curriculum Division at the Department for Education and Skills, told participants in the Attingham Trust colloquium on Learning and the Historic Environment last week that DfES wholeheartedly supports the view that the historic environment should play a central role in education. Such an idea was, she said, entirely consistent with the department�s desire to persuade teachers that the core curriculum is not a straightjacket and that the historic environment was the perfect basis for cross-curricular activity. Heritage Link Director, Christopher Catling, co-chair of the meeting, said that a recent MORI poll conducted in Liverpool showed that �heritage education in schools� topped the priority list when people were asked where Government heritage funds should be targeted. Co-chair Gillian Wolfe, CABE Commissioner responsible for Education, said that CABE was about to launch a new Education Foundation to address this need and support teachers looking to introduce pupils to the built environment.

The results of the colloquium, hosted by the Attingham Trust under the Direction of Fellow Giles Waterfield, FSA, will feed through to a major report due to be published later this year on Learning and the Historic Environment: Policies for the Future.

Gulbenkian shortlist

The shortlist for Britain�s biggest ever arts prize, the �100,000 Gulbenkian Prize for Museums and Galleries, has been announced. Because of the size of the award, it was assumed that the prize would inevitably go to a big national project � but the only national museum in the shortlist is the Natural History Museum�s �30 million Darwin Centre, where visitors are taken on behind-the-scenes tours to see the Centre�s 22 million zoological specimens. The other prize contenders are the Clifton Park Museum, Rotherham, shortlisted for its project entitled �Collections, Communities and Memories - making Rotherham's heritage accessible�, the Galleries of Justice, Nottingham, for its National Centre for Citizenship and the Law, and Discovery Point, Dundee, for the RRS Discovery Renewal Programme, based around the story of Captain Scott�s ship, the Discovery, built in Dundee in 1901.

Bamber Gascoigne, Chairman of the judging panel, summed up how the panel arrived at the last four: �We are looking for museums moving beyond the best of current practice,� he said. �Imagination, innovation, extending the very concept of the museum�. The selected museums, although very different from each other, exemplify what the prize seeks to be about: �Rotherham takes the concept of the museum out to local villages; Nottingham uses the museum as a powerful social force in support of the curriculum; Dundee finds ways of making a single resource, the RRS Discovery, come more vividly alive; and the Darwin Centre lowers the barrier between scientists and the public, to the benefit of both�. The winner will be announced at a ceremony at Zandra Rhodes�s new Fashion and Textiles Museum in South London on 15 May.

Roman villa found in Pembrokeshire

The Twenty-Four Hour Museum website carries a report this week concerning the rediscovery of a substantial Roman villa near Wolfscastle, in Pembrokeshire, suggesting that Romano-British culture spread to the furthest reaches of Wales. Roman remains were first found at the site by a farm labourer in 1811, when the nineteenth-century antiquarian and archaeologist Richard Fenton investigated and concluded that a Roman villa had once existed on the site. Now locally born archaeologist Dr Mark Merrony, who recently conducted trial excavations, says that he found: �Severn Valley pottery from the first and fourth century, as well as Roman roofing slates, paving slabs and a stone object that could be a flue arch or part of a bath�.

Previous findings in the area include a small Roman fort, discovered near Amblestone in 1921, and a small Roman villa near the Carmarthenshire border in the 1950s. More recently archaeologists unearthed traces of a Roman road running from Carmarthen towards Haverfordwest. This latest discovery points towards an even greater Roman influence in Pembrokeshire than had been previously suspected.

Designation review

Last week�s Salon contained details of the terms of reference of the DCMS-led review of the means by which England�s historic environment receives statutory protection. Fuller details are now available on the DCMS website under �Press Releases�. In two weeks� time DCMS intends to add a new section to the site dedicated to the Review, where news will be posted and views invited on short policy pieces.

The Review was officially launched on 4 April by Arts Minister Baroness Blackstone, who said: �Heritage protection has been a part of our legal framework for over fifty years. The current system is highly regarded both at home and abroad, and has been widely emulated around the globe. But perceptions and priorities have evolved over time from an initial focus on individual buildings and monuments towards a wider interest in the urban and rural landscape as a whole, in historic parks and gardens, and in our more recent past�.

�We now need a new approach to the management of our heritage, one that will be effective, sustainable, inclusive and transparent. Our goal is a legislative framework that remains robust in the protection it affords but at the same time provides for the management and enabling of change, rather than its prevention.�

The Government will work in partnership with English Heritage and spend the next two months gathering ideas from interested parties. These views will be reflected in a public Consultation Paper expected in July.

Green light for Arts and Humanities Research Council

To some it may be old news now, but for those who missed the announcement in late January, the Government has given the green light for the Arts and Humanities Research Board (AHRB) to become a fully fledged research council. As with the existing research councils, the new Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC) will be created by Royal Charter and Act of Parliament, operate on a UK-wide basis and be funded by the Office of Science and Technology (OST).

Professor Geoffrey Crossick, Chief Executive of the AHRB, said that: �the AHRB has grown significantly since its launch in October 1998 (prior to which no dedicated source of funding for project research in the arts and humanities existed). With a budget of almost �70 million per year, the AHRB now funds a portfolio of high-quality research projects in the arts and humanities. The importance of research in the arts and humanities has been recognized, and they will now take their place alongside the natural, physical and social sciences, at the heart of the country�s research activities�.

Arts and humanities researchers constitute nearly a quarter (23 per cent) of all research-active staff in the higher education sector, and performed particularly well in the 2001 Research Assessment Exercise. Across the UK, the number of staff in the top 5* and 5-rated departments doubled, from 3,507 to 7,006.

In any one year, the AHRB makes approximately 600 research awards and almost 2,000 postgraduate awards. Awards are made after a rigorous process of peer review, to ensure that only applications of the highest quality are funded. Through its core funding scheme for museums and galleries in the higher education sector in England, the AHRB has distributed more than �40 million over the last five years. A further �495,000 has also been made available to museums and galleries through the AHRB�s Project Grants scheme.

An implementation group has now been established under the leadership of the Department for Education and Skills and the OST. �The arts and humanities research community has waited a long time for entry to the mainstream of UK research funding�, Professor Crossick said. �It is important that the process is completed in time for the AHRC to benefit from the OST�s allocation from the 2004 Spending Review�.

Further details can be found at the AHRB website.

Vacancy

Mourne Heritage Trust, Northern Ireland: Built Heritage Officer
Salary �22,698 - 23,350, closing date 22nd April 2003

The Mourne Heritage Trust is looking for an enterprising individual to implement the Mourne Homesteads project. This is an innovative grant-funded scheme that will restore up to ten vernacular/traditional dwellings within the Mourne Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty and run an extensive education project of training in traditional building skills. Though a fixed post to October 2004, there is potential to continue dependant on funding. For further details contact Harriet Devlin, tel: 028 4372 4059 or email: harriet.devlin@mourne.co.uk.