Winifred Lamb: museum curator and archaeologist

Lamb_Cambridge3

I will be exploring the relationship between Winifred Lamb’s work as an archaeologist in the Aegean, and her role as Honorary Keeper of Greek Antiquities at the Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge. In the museum there are recognisable strands to her curatorial work: the display (and publication) of the Greek figure-decorated pottery, supplemented by the Ricketts and Shannon loan (and later Shannon bequest); the formation of a prehistoric gallery; the development of a collection of Greek, Etruscan and Roman bronzes; and finally material from Anatolia. The Greek pottery interest was influenced by her work with (Sir) John Beazley in Room 40 during the final stages of World War 1.

In a second paper I will consider the process of writing Lamb’s biography: the archive sources including her correspondence, diaries, and photographs; her acquisitions for and gifts to the Fitzwilliam; and her publications. I will then turn to the writing of a life from an essay in Breaking Ground to the memoir in ODNB. What should be included or excluded? Where do the emphases lie?

Academic journals: International Journal of Tourism Cities

Journal summary: The International Journal of Tourism Cities (IJTC) provides an international forum for the critical study of urban tourism and tourism cities. The journal aims to be inter-disciplinary in its appreciation of tourism cities and tourism in urban areas, and welcomes original, theoretically-informed articles from those involved in the planning, management or marketing of tourism in city destination or places adjoining urban areas.
Urban tourism and travel cover many disciplines and impinge on numerous aspects of daily life within cities. Moreover, they play a key role in domestic and international tourism in most countries, and cities often function as key travel gateways and tourism destinations.  The journal particularly encourages contributions on contemporary topics and issues in urban tourism including smart cities and tourism, environmental impact and sustainable tourism development in cities, citizen and stakeholder involvement in tourism, city destination governance, and the development of policies and standards for city tourism development. IJTC is the official journal of the International Tourism Studies Association (ITSA). 

IJTC has four distinct purposes:

  • To encourage greater research and scholarship related to tourism in urban settings.
  • To stimulate more interdisciplinary research on tourism in cities, particularly the integration of tourism and urban studies theories and principles.
  • To generate more research studies on tourism at the edge of cities, where urban and rural areas converge.
  • To create more literature on best practices in city tourism worldwide through in-depth analyses and the production of exemplary case studies.

Publisher: Emerald

Website: https://www.emeraldinsight.com/loi/ijtc

Access: Subscription; some open access articles

Journal type: Academic peer reviewed

Academic journals: International Journal of Tourism Anthropology

Journal summary: IJTA cover the multidisciplinary spectrum of tourism anthropology – including ethnography, ethnics, sociology, psychology, archaeology, art, linguistics, economics, politics, history, philosophy, geography, and ecology. Papers within the journal aim to interpret and understand the evolution and impact of tourism variation in all of its forms. The international scope is emphasised in order to address cultural, religious, regional and national barriers, and to meet the needs of accelerating socioeconomic change and changes in the global economy.

Publisher: Inderscience Publishers

Website: https://www.inderscience.com/jhome.php?jcode=ijta

Access: Subscription; some open access articles

Journal type: Academic peer reviewed

The long road to museum transformation

I was delighted to attend the Opening Reception last night at the National Museums of Scotland to celebrate the completion of the 15 year transformation of the main National Museum building on Chambers Street in Edinburgh.  As the final three galleries to be represented included the East Asia gallery, we were treated to a performance of Japanese drumming, which echoed amazingly through the main atrium of the Museum.NMS drums

Speeches were kicked off by the Scottish Cabinet Secretary for Culture, Fiona Hyslop, who re-emphasised the point the culture is at the heart of flourishing societies, and were a vital part of public life (and policy).  She has consistently stuck to this script, and as a longstanding political overseer of the culture and heritage portfolio in Scotland, it remains heartening to hear her continue to win the argument for culture within Government realms.  Were that always the case south of the border, and oh to have a culture minister in England that lasted more than a couple of years!

We were then given short speeches by the National Museums Scotland Chair, Bruce Minto; the Chair of the Scottish Committee of the National Lottery Heritage Fund, Dame Seona Reid (formerly known as the HLF, but renamed as part of their new strategic plan last week); and finally by Dr Gordon Rintoul, who as Director of NMS has seen the project through from the start.  We then headed off to view the new galleries – covering ancient Egypt, East Asia and ceramic collections – and were left to ponder whether 15 years on, and with the changing fashions and expectations for museum display and experiences, whether it is time to start the whole process again, akin to painting the Forth Bridge.

 

 

Politically correct heritage – storming in a (bone china) teacup.

An understated comment and warning by the Director General of Historic Houses in the members’ magazine before Christmas has been picked up by the Spectator and the Telegraph and turned into an argument that the National Trust is continuing to pursue a politically correct agenda in the presentation of its properties open to the public.

The Prejudice and Pride activity programme, report and research by the National Trust and Leicester University, which followed the 2017 celebration marking 50 years since the Sexual Offences Act (1967), which partially decriminalised homosexuality in England, provided an opportunity to understand heritage better, reflecting on the legacy of those LGBTQ individuals whose stories have not been fully told.

The Historic Houses Director-General, Ben Cowell, picked up on a specific point in the programme’s accompanying report which suggested the the focus on family history at National Trust houses results in ‘a narrative that privileges heterosexual lives’, leading to ‘a heteronormative emphasis’ on the line of succession (who married whom, which children they had, and all that).  Cowell questions whether in future succession might only reluctantly be acknowledged in interpretation, and states a hope that we shouldn’t end up with complex historical circumstances at a house being reduced to ‘a single (progressive) story‘.

Rod Liddle, writing in the Spectator on January 12th, has enlarged on the ‘mild rebuke‘ of the National Trust by Ben Cowell, into an opinion piece which laments that Historic Houses is on the wrong side of history, and that sadly, everything is now ‘reducible to a single (progressive) story which takes no account of historical realities.’  Liddle ends by opining, ‘the past is not, as Historic Houses quietly suggested it was, a foreign country where people do things differently. The past either did not exist or should not have existed, and those aspects which conflict with our modern sensibilities must be airbrushed out of the picture’.  

Amusingly, The Telegraph, has taken the opinion piece a step further (January 25th), suggesting that a row over revisionism has started, ‘with one prominent conservator [Cowell, in his original Historic Houses Magazine column] suggesting the Trust would “jar with the realities of history” if it tried to play down the role of families who have looked after stately homes for centuries, without whom they would not exist.‘  The story goes on to regurgitate previous accusations of the Trust acting in a politically correct way, reminding readers of the row started at Felbrigg in 2017, when the Trust “outed” Robert Wyndham Ketton-Cremer, the late owner of the hall, leading to volunteers at the site refusing to wear rainbow lanyards; and the accusation by the Church of England that the Trust was “airbrushing faith” by not using the word ‘Easter’ in its annual chocolate egg hunt sponsored by Cadburys.

The Telegraph piece didn’t refer to the Mail’s NT-PC story from the back end of last year, when a visitor spotted a timeline at Avebury Manor using BCE / CE (before common era / common era) instead of AD / BC labelled dates.  It is, however, a theme which the Telegraph does tend to revisit, having reported on the Trust chairman’s end of year (2017) internal memo to staff, and then again with an opinion piece geared around Cragside covering up busts and paintings of men, under the wonderfully provocative banner, “Nobody joins the National Trust to be subjected to politically correct agitprop“.

The National Trust has indeed changed its approach to presenting its properties, beginning to foreground alternative histories relevant to its properties and stories around gender, slavery, equality, and sexual orientation which wouldn’t necessarily have featured previously, as it tries to make the experience of its sites more inclusive, and aims to attract a more diverse audience.  Has it become politically correct though?  Probably not. The jury is likely to continue to play this out in the press, from varying standpoints and with more or less accompanied eye-rolling at an organisation perceived to be at the centre of the heritage ‘establishment’, and therefore a good target for critique by journalists.

This is all perhaps more instructive in media studies terms rather than anything else, with ideas of left or right-leaning politics, establishment and subversion, all thrown together with more than a sprinkling of journalistic license to create a storm in a bone china teacup. A great case study for my heritage management students has written itself.

Beefeaters’ benefits – pensions in the heritage sector

Pay and benefits is always a live issue within the heritage sector, not least as much of the sector pays relatively low wages in comparison to the skills base which may workers have, and the necessity in many organisations for use of a large volunteer base to keep many attractions operating effectively.  Much analysis has been undertaken and promotion of appropriate salary structures over the years by organisations such as the Museums Association and the Chartered Institute for Archaeologists. Less analysis and awareness exists though on the longer term benefits and pension arrangements for staff within the sector.  This has been brought to the foreground recently with the Yeoman Warders (also known as Beefeaters) voting to take strike action against their employer, Historic Royal Palaces, who are closing their final salary pension provision and moving staff onto a defined contribution scheme.

A number of public sector heritage organisations such as museums and national conservation agencies have changed their public sector status over the past few years: this has led to changes to pay and benefits structures.  Some bodies have shifted from being closely allied to the central civil service, towards independence from government, and reconstitution as “arm’s length” bodies, often referred to as quangos (quasi-autonomous non-governmental organisations). The Government’s Culture Ministry, DCMS, has a large number of quangos, agencies and public corporations under its umbrella responsibility.  Some of these have retained civil service pension schemes; some have ‘analogous‘ schemes which are largely comparable and follow similar rules; some have developed their own provision or arrangements with commercial schemes.  In some cases, staff in the same overarching organisation have a mixture of provision, where ‘trading companies’ may have been set up with different pay scales and pension arrangements for particular groupings of staff, e.g. visitor services or catering employees.

Historic England employees have access to the Civil Service Pension Scheme, whilst English Heritage employees (which falls under the responsibility of Historic England, though as a separate charity) now only have access to a group pension plan provided by Legal & General.  British Museum core staff have access to the Civil Service Scheme, whilst trading company staff have a defined contribution scheme; the Natural History Museum on the other hand offers a scheme to all permanent or fixed term staff which is provided by FriendsLife.

There is some interesting mapping to be done of the current situation (particularly in the larger organisations) and the potential long-term issues for not only these organisations, but also the career paths of staff in the sector, now and in the future. It may also be instructive to reflect on the long-term approaches which heritage organisations take towards the assets they are looking after, versus the human assets in their employment.

Amusement in Aberdeenshire as newly discovered stone circle turns out to be… well, new.

There has been much amusement in the media over the past few days around the official recording of a stone circle before Christmas by archaeologists from the local council and the national heritage organisation, Historic Environment Scotland, which has turned out to be only around 25 years old.

Described earlier as a smaller variation of sites typical of the region, it was noted that is was in very good condition, and that it was surprising that the site had not been formally recorded before now. The former owner of the land, however, has recently got in touch with the officials explaining that he built the replica in the mid-1990s.

Cue much collective guffawing and some professional embarrassment – neatly summed up on the BBC’s Newsround website as, “Awks!”  The local archaeologist took to twitter noting ruefully, “If you are having an awkward day at work at least you’re not that guy who identified a new prehistoric stone circle to the press that now turns out to be about 20 years old.

A nice piece in the Scotsman this week puts this all into a wider perspective, noting that many archaeological sites of this kind remain mysterious; flags that the honesty and candour of professionals involved will do them good rather than harm; and that there is a history of making ‘new’ monuments.  The example of the Sighthill Megalith is given – and I would encourage you to read Kenny Brophy’s blog on this site, and his other investigations into the past around us in the everyday urban environment.

I agree with the Scotsman article and forsee that the site will indeed become of greater interest to visitors, and should rightly do so.  Given the ’30 year rule’ which applies to listing sites in the built environment, the site is already almost of an age where it could officially be ‘heritage’, and in due course could indeed merit protection – and why not?  It may be a site of its time, and hopefully investigation won’t stop entirely – it would be great to professionally record the motivation of the builder of this new/old site – and, as archaeologists often say, to gain an insight into the society which created it – an advantage we don’t have for sites which really are 4000 years old.