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.

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’.

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.

Dirleton: Gazebo

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Dirleton Gardens © David Gill

The gardens at Dirleton are a delight. In the corner of the 1860s and 1920s garden is a gazebo, suitably signed.

Dirleton is in the care of Historic Scotland.

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Dirleton Gardens © David Gill

An Inventory for Scotland

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2015

The Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Scotland (RCAHMS) presented its final reports in the form of a well illustrated overview of its work from 1908 until its conclusion in 2015. This beautifully designed study includes commentary on the impact of different technologies on how the historic landscape and its features can be mapped and recorded.

Cadw Visitor Figures for 2015

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Tretower Court © David Gill

The 2015 visitor figures for Cadw sites are now available (for 2014 see here). (2014 numbers are in brackets.)

  1. Conwy Castle: 204,172  (184,758)
  2. Caernarfon Castle: 195,352 (175,216)
  3. Caerphilly Castle: 93,421 (107,887)
  4. Harlech Castle: 89,038  (75,512)
  5. Beaumaris Castle: 82,368 (86,854)
  6. Tintern Abbey: 70,808 (67,520)
  7. Castell Coch: 69,004 (69,418)
  8. Raglan Castle: 66,058 (59,385)
  9. Caerleon Roman Baths and Amphitheatre: 60,192 (55,977)
  10. Chepstow Castle: 59,463 (56,976)
  11. Criccieth Castle: 45,715  (43,528)
  12. Kidwelly Castle: 31,686 (29,359)
  13. St David’s Bishop’s Palace: 24,308 (24,646)
  14. Blaenavon Ironworks: 29,107 (22,467)
  15. Rhuddlan Castle: 25,872 (20,701)
  16. Plas Mawr: 23,658 (24,738)
  17. Carreg Cennen Castle: 23,345  (21,776)
  18. Cilgerran Castle: 19,416  (17,894)
  19. Laugharne Castle: 12,209  (15,807)
  20. Tretower Castle and Court: 13,587  (11,537)
  21. Denbigh Castle: 10,154 (12,584)
  22. Valle Crucis Abbey: 7,355  (8,117)
  23. White Castle: 7,682 (8,603)
  24. Oxwich Castle: 6,336  (6,070)
  25. Strata Florida Abbey: 5,280 (6,391)
  26. Dolwyddelan Castle: 4,645  (5,768)
  27. Lamphey Bishop’s Palace: 3,220  (2,856)
  28. Rug Chapel: 2,674 (3,387)
  29. Weobley Castle: 2,071  (2,495)
  30. Margam Stones Museum: 139  (438)