Salon Archive

Issue: 66

Weekly meeting report

Margaret Richardson, FSA, ninth in a line of curators charged with caring for the legacy of Sir John Soane, gave an account of the work of her eight predecessors at this week�s meeting. Disappointed by the conduct of his two sons, Soane made a gift of his houses and museum to the nation in 1833. Curators were obliged to maintain the museum in the state in which it was left at Soane�s death, 'as nearly as circumstances will admit�. Each curator brought a different interpretation to this task, which was made more difficult by the diminishing value of Soane�s endowment, the vicissitudes of two world wars, and constant sniping from the press who, as early as 1850, complained of the lack of access, saying that the museum had a �locked-up air�. Today�s Sir John Soane�s houses are undergoing a major programme of work to restore the fabric and the appearance, to provide new facilities and to bring new life to his museum.

A full report of the meeting held on 16 October is now available on the Fellows� side of the Society�s website.

Forthcoming meetings

23 October: Ballot
30 October: The Archaeology of the Book, by Dr Mirjam Foot, FSA

Arts Minister stands up for the arts � for a change!

To the fury of DCMS ministers and officials, last week�s Sunday Times told the world that Arts Minister Estelle Morris would deliver a speech to the Cheltenham Festival this week arguing that Britain�s museums and galleries are off-putting and are mainly the preserve of the middle classes, that they do not reflect Britain�s multicultural society, and that they are �not very good at adapting to change and are not very accountable�.

In the event, she said nothing of the kind. Instead, Estelle Morris�s first public speech since her appointment as Arts Minister made a refreshing break with the past by saying that there are some things that economists simply cannot measure. �There is something�, she said, �inherently good and valuable in art and creativity in its own right, that needs no justification other than the pleasure and fulfilment it gives people�. She praised the work of the galleries and museums sector, saying that �they are world leaders and we should be proud of that�. As evidence of the importance of the arts to a broad spectrum of society � and not just some imaginary elite � she pointed to the fact that �museum admissions have soared [and that there was] rejoicing across Liverpool when it was awarded the title of Capital of Culture�. The arts were central to our national life, but �don't have the recognition they deserve, are not valued as much as they should be by politicians or others, and are not resourced enough�, she said.

The Minister warned that it was tough persuading her political colleagues to accept this, however. �We live in a political and an economic climate where we all want a return for public investment. Money spent, time used, priorities awarded, all have to have a return�, she said, adding that �Target performance indicators, value added, evidence bases are all part of the language we've developed to prove our ability to deliver, to make progress to show a return and justify the public money that is used.�

The Minister pledged to try and do something about this, saying that �Culture makes a contribution to health, to education, to crime reduction, to strong communities, to the economy and to the nation's well-being, but I don't always know how to evaluate it or describe it. We have to find a language and a way of describing its worth. It's the only way we'll secure the greater support we need�.

The Minister indicated some of the lines of argument she would use with parliamentary colleagues: The arts�, she said, �are a personal resource for dealing with life. They give us a civic and national identity, and can help us determine our place and contribution as the world becomes an ever-smaller place ... the sector is undoubtedly an economic strength to our country. The creative industries account for 8.2 per cent of gross value added. It contributes �11.4 billion to our balance of trade. It employs 1.9 million people and it is growing at more than double the rate of the rest of the economy. With an economic sector that is potentially this strong, we have to ask ourselves whether we're doing all we should to support it. Creativity is becoming acknowledged as a key driver for economic growth and ... employment trends tell us that creativity is at a premium. It's what gives companies an edge over their competitors ... all the talk about a knowledge economy will only happen if we nurture creativity.�

The speech concluded on a very upbeat note: �I believe�, the Minister said, �that the arguments for creativity and innovation are more urgent than they have been. Creativity, innovation, risk taking are at a premium, and other sectors are working at this to develop them. Yet they've always been at the centre of the Arts and Creativity sector. Other sectors strive for what this sector has at its core.�

Portable Antiquities Scheme annual report

The Treasure Annual Report published last week shows that the number of treasure finds reported during the year 2001/2 (214 in total) was slightly down on previous years, because of countryside access limits imposed at the time of foot-and-mouth disease, but that the long-term trend remains upwards. The report shows that the presence of a Finds Liaison Officer in a region typically increases the number of finds reported as Treasure by a factor of five. With a network of Finds Liaison Officers now in place across the whole of England and Wales, large increases in reported treasure finds are bound to be on the way. Among the more spectacular finds of the year under review were the Ringlemere gold cup, from Sandwich in Kent, associated with a previously unknown early Bronze Age funerary and ceremonial site, a gold finger-ring with an enamel bezel made in the Rhineland area and dating from the last quarter of the tenth century AD, and an Anglo-Saxon silver-gilt mount fragment decorated with a long-legged lion (perhaps the symbol of St Mark) characteristic of eighth-century Anglo-Saxon metalwork.

These and other objects reported through the Portable Antiquities Scheme will go on display as part of the British Museum exhibition Buried Treasure: Finding Our Past, which opens on 21 November 2003. Next spring the exhibition will tour to Cardiff, Manchester, Newcastle and Norwich.

UK signs bilateral agreement with UNESCO

A new UK-UNESCO Co-operation Agreement signed in Paris last week by Heritage Minister Andrew McIntosh will enable developing countries to benefit from UK heritage and conservation expertise. Under the terms of the agreement, UK experts will assist developing countries with the identification of potential World Heritage Sites and the preparation of management plans and conservation strategies for both cultural and natural World Heritage Sites.

Lord McIntosh said that: �The UK has some of the best conservation expertise in the world. I am delighted that as a result of this co-operation agreement with UNESCO we will able to share that experience.� The Director General of UNESCO, Koichiro Matsuura, said: �We need to have the tools and the necessary resources to identify areas of high conservation value, protect heritage at risk and build the capacity of countries around the world to make heritage conservation an integral part of the livelihoods of local communities. I hope that this initiative will serve as an example that will inspire other partners to engage in such useful and important forms of international co-operation.�

The Department of Culture, Media and Sport has agreed with UNESCO that the Caribbean and South Asia should be the first regions to benefit from the agreement. DCMS has allocated �25,000 for year one funding. In addition, the DCMS is funding a one-year secondment to the World Heritage Centre and gives approximately �130,000 to the World Heritage Committee every year.

Panel to advise on saving art for the nation

Downing Street announced last week that Loyd Grossman, Chairman of the Campaign for Museums, Neil MacGregor, Director of The British Museum, and David Barrie, Director of the National Art Collections Fund, have all been recruited to form the core of a new panel of experts formed to advise the Government�s Acceptance in Lieu Panel on securing cultural and historical treasures for British collections that could otherwise be sold abroad.

Known as Treasures For Our Future, the panel will provide an impartial forum where private owners can discuss options on how to dispose of cultural assets while ensuring they remain in the UK. The panel will also work alongside public institutions that are seeking to acquire items, offering advice and suggestions for fund-raising.

Panel Chairman Sir Martin Jacomb explained that this was a response to the frequent crises that occurred when important items go under the auctioneer�s hammer. �Museums, archives and libraries are then faced with a desperate race against time to negotiate an acquisition, before the hammer falls�, he said, adding that: �the panel will not be a funding body, but a facilitator aiming to secure such items for future generations�.

Aggregates Levy Fund gives �30m to heritage and environmental projects

Elliot Morley MP, Minister of Environment and Agri-environment, was a special guest at an event held last week to acknowledge the distribution of �29.3 million of grants to heritage and environment projects in the last two years. The Aggregate Levy Sustainability Fund (ALSF) is financed by a tax on the extraction of aggregates, such as sand, stone and gravel used in construction, which is then used to bring about environmental benefits that mitigate the damage such extraction might cause. The Fund is distributed by English Heritage, English Nature and The Countryside Agency.

The Museum of London, which hosted the event, is itself a recipient of a �303,00 ALSF grant which has enabled it to develop the important new London Before London gallery, where finds made during sand and gravel extraction are displayed. The ALSF grants scheme is now waiting an announcement on whether the Government will sanction the Fund to continue beyond its first two years. The decision is due to be announced in the Chancellor's Pre-Budget Report in November 2004.

Lasers reveal new carvings at Stonehenge

Given that our Fellow Mike Pitts has such a long association with Stonehenge it was a fairly safe bet that the site would feature prominently in the first issue of British Archaeology under Mike�s editorship. So no prizes for guessing the lead story in the magazine when it hit the newstands last week � an engrossing account of the use of laser scanning techniques to look for carvings on the Stonehenge megaliths. The work was carried out in 2002 by Wessex Archaeology, using contractors Archaeoptics of Glasgow, who had scanned the timbers of Seahenge the year before.

Three stones were chosen for scanning because they possessed the greatest number of known carvings. The actual task of scanning the stones took no time at all; interpreting the results took months, at the end of which the survey team identified two previously unknown axe carvings, now so badly weathered as to be invisible to the eye alone. The new scans also show that many of the known carvings have suffered erosion since casts and photographs were taken fifty years ago, possibly because of people touching them.

The first newly discovered carving is about 15cm (6 inches) square and may possibly be two axes, one on top of the other; the other is about 10cm (4 inches) by 8cm (3 inches). The axes are of types made around 1,800 BC, some 500 years after the stones were erected. Axe carvings on other monuments from this time are associated with burials.

Research continues to enhance the data and look for new discoveries. Having proven the potential of the technique, the survey team believes that a full scan of all the surviving 83 stones would reveal more ancient carvings.

The coda to this story says much about the universal appeal of Stonehenge. The article ended with the address of a website where variable-light animations of the carvings can be viewed. Within hours of the magazine�s publication, the site collapsed under the sheer volume of hits from people wanting to know more � like the launch of the 1901 census site by the Public Record Office in January 2001, the sheer scale of interest by the public at large has taken everyone by surprise. For future reference the website address is www.stonehengelaserscan.org; Salon will report when the site is back online.

Carved stones in Scotland

Two new websites have been launched to promote the enjoyment and protection of Scottish carved stones, from prehistoric rock art to Victorian tombstones.

One has been set up by the National Committee on Carved Stones in Scotland (NCCSS) and covers new discoveries and ongoing work about all types of carved stones.

The other was set up by the Carved Stones Adviser Project , based within the Council for Scottish Archaeology and funded by Historic Scotland. Aiming to be the first port of call for all those interested in graveyards and gravestones, the site provides an introduction to the general history of Scottish graveyards and downloadable guidance notes on such topics as recording and conservation work, as well as information for cemetery managers, gravestone owners, recording groups and preservation trusts. A notice board page advertises forthcoming events, books, articles and current news about gravestones, while the project directory lists initiatives taking place in graveyards across Scotland and how volunteers can get involved.

British archaeologists question French cave art dates

An article in The Daily Telegraph last week reported that British and French archaeologists were at odds over the age of the palaeolithic cave paintings at Chauvet, in south-eastern France. Paul Pettitt and Paul Bahn, FSA, published a paper in Antiquity Volume 77 in March 2003 this year, saying that the style of the paintings suggested a date of about 15,000 BC. The French have dated the paintings to 33,000 BC using tiny samples of black charcoal that were scraped from some of the paintings and sent away for radiocarbon dating to the Laboratory of Climate and Environmental Science (LSCE) in Gif-sur-Yvette, France. Pettitt and Bahn argued in their article that: �If the rock art in the Chauvet cave is 30,000 years old, it is the most ancient example of human art in existence and the implications for the evolution of culture are immense: it would be as if they had found a Renaissance painting from the early Middle Ages�. Instead, they argued that the dating is flawed and called on the French to send carbon samples to other facilities around the world for dating. The French culture ministry has rejected the allegations and has said that alternative dating methods are �too slow and expensive� to bother with. According to the Telegraph, this has led Paul Pettitt to accuse the French of �not being honest and open� about the real age of the paintings and of exaggerating their age because of official pressure to promote them as the oldest cave paintings in the world.

Project to digitise Welsh history completed

Last week saw the completion of an ambitious project to digitise thousands of cultural and historical gems held in the museums and galleries of Wales. Called Gathering The Jewels (), the project provides access to documents, maps, photographs, paintings, artefacts, sound and film clips relating to 20,000 artefacts from the nation�s museums, from the great seal of Owain Glyndwr to trades union banners. Rugby legend Gareth Edwards MBE spoke at a reception to mark the completion of the project last week, saying that �People everywhere can now learn about our history and culture and appreciate Wales�s unique contribution to the world�. Welsh Culture Minister, Alan Pugh, told the guests �I am very pleased that the project�s educational potential will be built on and developed further.�

Historical Manuscripts Commission relocates to Kew

On 8 December 2003 the public services of the Historical Manuscripts Commission, currently located in central London, will reopen at The National Archives, Kew. The HMC reading rooms in Quality Court will close on Friday 7 November at 5pm, to allow staff to prepare for and carry out the move. During this closure period there will be no access to NRA lists for researchers intending to visit in person. Staff will try to acknowledge e-mails and letters during the closure period, but will not be able to provide a detailed response until the move is complete and the HMC is settled in its new location.

The whole of the National Archives at Kew (including the HMC) will be closed for its annual stocktaking from 1 to 6 December inclusive and will reopen on Monday 8 December.

Publication of papers of British antiquaries and historians

Papers of British Antiquaries and Historians, the twelfth volume in the series Guides to Sources for British History, has just been published by the Stationary Office (�30, ISBN 0 11 440279 5, order on line at: book.orders@tso.co.uk). This volume identifies and describes the papers of 1,300 antiquaries, historians, genealogists, heralds, archaeologists and others working in England, Wales and Scotland and Ireland between the mid-fifteenth and late twentieth century. Their papers, ranging from a few manuscript volumes to several hundred boxes of material, are to be found in a wide range of repositories, from national libraries and record offices to local museums and archaeological societies.

Roman Chester: remains and reconstructions

This new exhibition at Chester�s Grosvenor Museum reveals the many ways in which Chester�s Roman remains have been recorded in art over the last 350 years. Dr Peter Carrington, FSA, Senior Archaeologist at Chester City Council, explained: �The survival of Chester�s Roman remains has never allowed the city�s origins to be forgotten. On seventeenth-century maps they were depicted to emphasise its antiquity and enhance its prestige. In the nineteenth century artists continued to be fascinated by these remains and included them in romantic landscapes. However, from the eighteenth century onwards there was a growing interest in making accurate records of discoveries as a contribution to the new, scientific disciplines of history and archaeology. Over the past eighty years formal excavations have become a regular part of the cultural life of the city and worthy of record as events in their own right. More recently, artists have rediscovered ancient artefacts as a source of inspiration and a basis for replicas, while computer-generated images enable ever more detailed and convincing reconstructions of Roman Chester.�

The exhibition continues until 23 November. Further information from p.carrington@chestercc.gov.uk.

1920s: the decade that changed London

The Museum of London is looking at the much more recent past in its latest exhibition focused on the London of eighty years ago. The 1920s began with London struggling to find its feet. The First World War had bankrupted the economy and had left people�s lives and beliefs shattered. By the end of the 1920s the mood had changed, as Londoners came to terms with skyscrapers, �talking pictures� in the cinemas, robots, divorce, the BBC and a Labour government. From America came the joyous exuberance of jazz. From Russia came ballet and Bolshevism. From India and Ireland came challenges to the old assumptions of the British Empire. These momentous changes meant that the 1920s can be seen as �the real start of the 20th century�.

The exhibition continues until 18 July 2004. Further information can be found on the museum�s website.

The Wallace Collection: seminars in the history of collecting

The next in the Wallace Collection�s seminar series takes place on 19 November 2003, at 4.30pm, when Katy Barron, Assistant Curator of Paintings at The Royal Collection, will consider the subject of �Royal Collectors of French Painting in England 1730�1830�. The Royal Collection includes a diverse and little-known group of French paintings ranging in date from the mid-sixteenth to the late nineteenth centuries. The core group of works, by artists such as the Brothers Le Nain, Claude, Dughet and Greuze, was amassed during the period 1730 to 1830 by Frederick, Prince of Wales, George III and George IV. The paper will examine the royal taste for French art and the range of paintings that were acquired by each royal collector. It will also discuss the strange lacunae in their collections of French art. This is particularly interesting in the case of George IV, who purchased copious quantities of French furniture and porcelain, but comparably few seventeenth- or eighteenth-century French paintings. The role of artistic advisers and the means of acquiring French paintings will also be discussed. The seminar will finish by 6pm.

Participants are asked to book in advance by contacting Louisa Collins, Museum Assistant, The Wallace Collection: Louisa.collins@wallacecollection.org.

Final thoughts

Catherine Johns, FSA, writes to ask if any other Fellows saw last week�s news reports saying that the universe may be shaped like a soccer ball. It turned out that they did not simply mean spherical, but were thinking of the pentagonal panels on a modern football, and that they actually believe the universe might have twelve pentagonal faces forming a dodecahedron. Catherine asks: �Have we at last solved the mystery of the Roman bronze dodecahedra? Were they models made to demonstrate the shape of the universe, which had already been worked out by the 1st century AD?�

John Coales, FSA, has also written to say that: �Having just read the report of the meeting on October 2nd, I cannot resist putting on record my family connection with the King's Room. My great-grandfather, William Turner 1813-1898, spent all his working life in that room. I have in my possession the document appointing him in 1837 which bears the personal signatures of the Archbishop of Canterbury, the Lord Chancellor and the Speaker of the House of Commons. In 1847, after ten years� service, he was made a Second Class Attendant at an annual salary of �85; in 1856 he became a First Class Attendant with an annual salary of �120. In 1880 he was paid an additional �20 for superintending the replacing on the shelves in the library of books used by readers. He retired in 1886.� As an aside, John wonders �what Bernard Nurse and his team would think of this scale of remuneration!�.

Vacancies

The Public Catalogue Foundation, Publications Manager
Salary: c �23,000, closing date 20 October 2003

The Public Catalogue Foundation is a project to catalogue all oil paintings in public ownership. The Foundation needs someone with energy and initiative to take on multiple responsibilities, including the management of the painting database and the layout and editing of the catalogues. Candidates need DTP, IT and editorial skills, a good degree and publishing experience. If you are interested, send a covering letter and CV by email to: andy.ellis@thepcf.org.uk or by post to Andrew Ellis at The Public Catalogue Foundation, 17 Buckingham Gate, London SW1E 6LB.

Heritage Lottery Fund, Regional Manager for Yorkshire and Humberside
Salary �34,950 to �49,750, closing date 24 October 2003

Leading a team of 14 staff who manage the grant-making process from initial enquiry to completed project. Further details from Bartlett Scott Edgar on 020 7382 7511 no later than 17 October 2003.

Heritage Lottery Fund, Members of the Historic Buildings and Land Panel
Three new members are being sought to serve on the Historic Buildings and Land Panel which advises the trustees and staff of the Heritage Lottery Fund in their assessment of large-scale applications for lottery funding. In particular the Panel needs experts in the areas of conservation architecture, engineering and planning. Panel members are paid a daily fee of �350 plus travel expenses. Further details from Sheila Hemmings by email: sheilah@hlf.org.uk.