Posts by Ian Baxter

Director of Scottish Confucius Institute for Business & Communication, Heriot-Watt University & Professor of Historic Environment Management, UCS Ian Baxter originally trained as an archaeologist at Edinburgh University, and completed a PhD at the University of Cambridge investigating strategic management within heritage organisations. He has worked for a number of Universities, including the University of Cambridge (as Director of Public and Professional Programmes), and Glasgow Caledonian University (as Head of Department of Management and Director of Business School Postgraduate Programmes). Ian has spent over 20 years working and researching with a variety of heritage and tourism organisations throughout the UK. He was closely involved in the development of the national Heritage Counts programme by the Government’s conservation agency, English Heritage, which established the value and impact of the historic environment and heritage organisations to England (in terms of employment, visitors, quality of life, etc.). More recently he continued his involvement in heritage auditing through the development of the Scottish Government’s Historic Environment Audit programme with Historic Scotland, where he completed a mapping exercise of conservation and heritage-related organisations in Scotland. He has also managed a variety of tourism development consultancy projects, including the national visitor attractions survey with VisitScotland, and an assessment of organisational support needs for non-governmental and voluntary/charitable organisations in the Scottish historic environment sector. His research interests are policy development, methodologies for establishing historic environment and heritage ‘values’, heritage foresight / scenario planning and tourism/visitor attraction management. He is a member of a number of professional committees, including the ICOMOS-UK Cultural Tourism Committee (a UNESCO advisory committee) and has previously served on the National Trust for Scotland’s Archaeology and Economic & Community Development Advisory Panels and English Heritage’s Research Advisory Panel. He’s has edited the ‘Cultural Trends’ journal Policy Research Notes section (Routledge); the policy research information bulletin on behalf of the UK Heritage Research Group (UKHRG); and the new resources section for the US-based ‘Heritage & Society’ journal (Left Coast Press). He is a director of The Heritage Alliance, and the Built Environment Forum Scotland. Ian is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts, a Fellow of the Society of Antiquaries of Scotland, a Practitioner of the Institute for Archaeologists, an Affiliate Member of the Institute of Historic Building Conservation and tweets about heritage and tourism.

Heritage hospitality

For a little while now, I have been using the hashtag #heritagehospitality to capture instances of food, drink, hospitality locations and illustrations which have used or highlighted a historical context to provide a level of place authenticity, or quality (in all its construed forms). I have also occasionally flagged actual historical illustrations of food or hospitality.

Parks Canada have their own twist on heritage hospitality, with an entire webpage devoted to Heritage Chocolate, via a commercial sponsorship association with the Historic Division of Mars, which has created Heritage Chocolate for use at the organisation’s historic sites.

It is interesting to note that the Parks Canada ‘red chair’ features on the Mars website, as we are encouraged to support education by eating chocolate.

Branding the beauty – red chair moments from Parks Canada

In a nod to the shift from the experience to transformative economy in site management and interpretation, Parks Canada has been placing red chairs in scenic locations around its National Parks. These are designed to not only provide a passive viewpoint experience of natural heritage and landscape, but also generate a proactive sense of adventure in the visitor (the transformative bit) who is encouraged to seek out the locations where the benches have been placed.

The programme has been running for around three years, having started in Gros Morne National Park and has featured in social media and advertising across the country, with each Park taking its own approach to promotion.  The hashtags #ShareTheChair and #TimeToConnect hook in to the idea of shared outdoor experience and connecting with nature to bring about wider wellbeing.

The chairs themselves have heritage background, built in the Adirondack or Muskoka style, are bright red and carry the Parks Canada organisational logo.  The chairs can also be bought from the Parks Canada website (children and adult sizes available).

It is an interesting approach by the organisation, though has attracted some criticism – but as a site intervention of experiential design which incorporates a call to action, heritage, branding, visual stimulus, and landscape interpretation, it is effective.  I hope to capture my own red chair moments in the next month and will no doubt participate in #ShareTheChair as I encourage a couple of teenagers to disconnect from their phones for a moment.

In the UK, we have seen smaller scale equivalents at individual sites with National Trust branded deckchairs, and very subtly branded picnic benches at English Heritage sites.

Cosmopolitanism, self-identity, and a desire for social interaction in religious tourism – research paper

As part of a research team, I am a co-author on a paper in the Services Industry Journal which has recently looked at aspects of destination image and the behavioural intentions for visitors to religious sites. The case study focused on Iranian visitors to Mecca for Umrah.  An infographic has been produced which captures the key points in the paper. Given the growth in religious and spiritual tourism, including heritage trails, the paper includes advice for religious destination managers.

Abstract: This paper examines the links between cosmopolitanism, self-identity, and a desire for social interaction on perceived destination image and behavioural intentions. A model was tested using a sample of 538 Iranian visitors to Mecca for the purpose of Umrah. The result from the structural model suggests that destination attributes influence perceived destination image. Further, such tourists are likely to revisit or recommend Islamic destinations if their experience matches their perceived image of the destination. This implies that, while the religious characteristics of the destination remain important, destination managers cannot disregard the tangential, non-religious attributes of a destination which are crucial in order to satisfy more conventional tourist desires. As such, this study suggests that those managing religious travel destinations should endeavour to foster a welcoming image, where experience, interaction, and tolerance are at the forefront of the destination’s offering.

Link to the paper here: http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/02642069.2017.1333601

Management of heritage sites by the state – researching administrative histories in Scotland

Piecing together the administrative history of heritage properties in care (as an organisational function rather than as decisions relating to individual sites) inevitably requires documentary analysis from a number of sources. Investigating organisations in Scotland which oversaw the national historic sites portfolio, is complicated further by the relationship and stages of devolution of responsibilities between Ministries in London and the former Scottish Office (now Scottish Government). The National Records of Scotland provides a useful research guide for Scottish Government records in the period post-1707 (post Union).

Whilst many responsibilities were transferred to the Scottish Office in the post-War period, responsibility for the Historic Buildings Council for Scotland (which advised on conservation issues) was only transferred from the Ministry of Public Buildings and Works to the Scottish Secretary of State Edinburgh in 1966 (and put under the auspices of the Development Department) .  Formal responsibilities for ancient monuments, royal parks and palaces was not transferred to the Development Department until 1969.  Some aspects of Scottish heritage management are covered in research mentioned before as part of the Men from the Ministry project led by Simon Thurley at the then English Heritage, and records for the Ministry of Public Buildings and Works (and its successors – the Department of the Environment, and Property Services Agency) are held at the National Archives in Kew.

The Scottish-based records are catalogued as: Ministry of Works/Department of Environment/Property Services Agency (MW)
Ancient monuments, 1794-1975 (MW1); royal palaces, parks and gardens, 1816-1968 (MW2-3); public buildings, 1808-1979 (MW5).

As the Historic Buildings & Monuments section within the Scottish Development Department gradually coalesced under the Historic Scotland banner (prior to its formal creation as an Executive Agency), records are also held and catalogued as follows:

Historic Scotland – see Scottish Office Development Department
Ancient monuments case files, from 1859 (DD27) and historic buildings, from 1952 (DD32).

The Scottish Office Central Services (SOE) files have a catalogue relating to Manpower and Organization (SOE1) which contains information on the way in which the Development Department functions were organised, so these are a further line of enquiry for administrative histories of heritage.

There are also inter-relationships with other sites and functions of Government which now may be considered as part of the wider heritage or cultural landscape and therefore other organisations with heritage-related responsibilities (property and land management) are worth considering – this includes Railways and Canals (Ministry of Transport); Forestry (Forestry Commission); countryside recreation and nature protection (Countryside Commission); and Museums and Galleries (formally under the Scottish Office Education Department).

For detailed consideration of individual buildings / monuments, the research guides to Buildings, Canal Records, Lighthouses and Railway Records provide signposts. Additionally, Historic Scotland commissioned Morag Cross to produce a Bibliography of monuments in the care of the Secretary of State for Scotland in 1994, produced as an Occasional Paper by the University of Glasgow’s Archaeology Department, which is a key source of information, as (of course) are organisational records currently held within Historic Scotland (now Historic Environment Scotland) rather than those ‘archived’.

From experience to transformation – enterprising heritage sites

The business of running a heritage site has got ever more complex as new ideas, drivers from the wider tourism industry, changing visitor expectations, and commercial pressures on conservation organisations have increased. The range of ‘touchpoints’ between visitors and heritage sites often combine aspects of intellectual, commercial or experiential interaction, and have the potential to move the site from having a passive to an active relationship between the managing organisation for the site and its users.  This is particularly useful for heritage organisations which want to develop customers into stakeholders and supporters of a conservation cause.

The growth in the range of income streams for an individual site lead to complexity for leadership of both the site and wider organisation, which means a site needs to be considered as a particular form of enterprise.  A recent publication by Bruce Dearstyne, Leading the Historical Enterprise (Altamira 2014) considers usefully considers this.

The different contexts and relationships are neatly illustrated at Anglesey Abbey, near Cambridge, run by the National Trust. Illustrated is one of a number of similar information boards at various key visitor gathering points around the site. The information frame is headed by a strapline variant of ‘One Time..’ which is used across the site to bring together the interpretative theme based around Lord Fairhaven’s creation of the estate and landscape gardens. An explanation is provided of the new live interpretation which is being deployed at the site by costumed volunteers (called ‘engagers’), designed to provide an ‘immersive experience’, as if the house owners were still in residence. Further notices suggest that the visitor could ‘Start a fresh story here’, by visiting the second-hand book shop, purchase tickets for the Winter Lights evening opening, or purchase a raffle ticket which will support the restoration of the Rose Garden.  Visitors are also encouraged to ask questions about the plants in the garden by taking a card from a small wooden box and writing their queries on them for passing to garden staff, who will then feed back information.

The various notices therefore bring together aspects of brand creation; diversity in income streams; innovation in interpretation through immersive experience of the site; after-hours special events which stretch the hours of site utilisation and which have developed a level of exclusivity given popularity (tickets being sold in July for November, almost 6 months in advance); knowledge development through being able to quiz the gardeners about plants; and sating of competitive tendencies via a raffle with prizes with the added bonus of doing something good for the site.  In a single location we can therefore see a sophisticated range of visitor engagement, and consider this against the context of Pine and Gilmore’s ideas on the Experience Economy and developed notions of the Transformative Economy, whereby a heritage visit can now affect a person visiting in a number of ways.

Smailholm Tower – more guides

As a follow-up to David’s post on Smailholm Tower, in my own collection I have a couple of publications to fill in some gaps. Historic Scotland had moved to producing colour covers for its guides during the mid-1980s during it’s latter years as part of the Scottish Development Department when greater commercial expectations were being made of the Historic Buildings & Monuments department, and the Historic Scotland brand was emerging.  (As an aside, the Scottish Development Department has it’s own interesting organisational history, explored in part by Ian Levitt in 1996 in a paper in Scottish Affairs).

The guide runs to 16 pages, comprising an Introduction, History, Tour, and Exhibition section on the costume figures collection which had been “presented by the Saltire Society to the Secretary of State for Scotland in 1983 for permanent display in Smailholm Tower.” [my italics]  This guide also carries the logo of Gateway supermarkets as a supporter and sponsor (advertising considered in a previous post). A price code is noted on the back cover, as opposed to a set cost which would limit the ability to change the selling price of the guide without a full reprint.

Chris Tabraham (Principal Inspector of Ancient Monuments, and author of a number of publications) is the author of the guide, first published in 1985, and in its second impression with amendments in 1989 (pictured). This version of the guide still forms the basis of another revision in 2007 into the modern Historic Scotland guidebook format considered in the previous post on Smailholm, but which still notes that it was first published by HMSO in 1985.

In 1993, Historic Scotland reprinted the Excavation Report for Smailholm which had been published in the Proceedings of the Society of Antiquaries of Scotland 118 (1988), authored by Chris Tabraham and George Good. This was sold at the site (very reasonably, in comparison to many excavation reports) as an additional option to the guidebook. Whilst focusing on archaeological investigations carried out between 1979 and 1981, the publication provides further historical and architectural context for the Tower.

 

A question of ownership of national heritage assets

There has been some recent press coverage in The Scotsman about plans by the Royal Collection Trust to create holiday flats in Abbey Strand – buildings that form part of the complex of the Palace of Holyroodhouse in Edinburgh. This has been picked up subsequently in a debate on the ownership of the heritage asset and who picks up the bill for managing it.

Asset ownership in the public sector has come into focus of late, partly because of austerity forcing public bodies to rationalise their building stock and use to cut costs, and also because of the move to empower communities (particularly in Scotland) to take ownership of, or responsibility for buildings that were previously run by national or local Government agencies.

In the heritage sector, this has prompted Historic Environment Scotland to consult the public on its policy and guidance for Asset Transfer – which in theory could open elements of the national historic properties portfolio up for alternative ownership or management models.  At one point in the consultation process the list of assets were described, somewhat erroneously as a ‘shopping list of castles’.  In fact, many of the properties that could be transferred are ancillary buildings such as car parks and ticket huts, as the main historic property is either held only in Guardianship (for a private owner) or is a Crown holding.

Anything to do with land ownership is of course complicated and can get tied up with wider society arguments on equity and access – and as the debate on the Palace of Holyroodhouse demonstrates – it is a real rabbit hole to explore ownership and organisational management responsibility of heritage assets (buildings and land) in particular where the ‘public organisational realm’ is concerned. Any investigation soon throws up all kinds of interesting historical quirks and complicated relationships between ownership and management and sometimes a collective scratching of heads.

Ancient title of ownership associated with the Monarchy and Government, regulated by law such as the Crown Lands Act (and subsequent associated legislation) nonetheless makes for fascinating investigation – in some respects these lands and properties have formed part of the core of the national collections of historic properties, which are now managed by Historic Environment Scotland, English Heritage and Cadw.  But, also in the mix of heritage asset owners and managers are other Governmental or public bodies such as Historic Royal Palaces, the Royal Parks, the Crown Estate (and new Crown Estate Scotland body), the Ministry of Defence, the Courts Service and on a wider landscape scale bodies such as the Forestry Commission.

Being the UK, there are some delightful quirks to be discovered in organisations such as the Crown Estate Paving Commission, which manages and maintains areas of Crown Land around the Regent’s Park and Carlton House Terrace in London, and the Duchy of Lancaster which holds land and property in trust for the Sovereign.  Management of the elements of what might be considered the national heritage estate is therefore as varied as the properties themselves.