Evolving operational policies for Covid-19

Historic Environment Scotland has issued Version 7 of its Covid-19 Operational Policy & Minimum Operating Standards for Property Management and Visitor Operations.

The open sharing of this evolving publication by the organisation has been great to see. The first version was showcased publicly by the HES Director of Conservation, David Mitchell, back in June 2020 as part of the Covid-19 Historic Environment Resilience Forum (CHERF) event on Re-opening Venues which I chaired.

The document has been an incredibly useful resource for considering operational issues and decision-making system design for the sector to use as a comparator resource to adapt to their own situation.

From a heritage management teaching point of view, it has also been an excellent live case study to enable students to consider the organisational requirements and ramifications of decisions/actions which aren’t always obvious at visitor sites and organisational hubs.

Heritage listening: Duchess the podcast

Inevitably I have become an avid listener to the new heritage-focused podcast series launched by the Duchess of Rutland, simply entitled, “Duchess” as I have headed out for my daily constitutionals during lockdown.

The first series has ranged far and wide across the UK, focusing on the personal stories of the women behind the running and development of private stately homes and estates – most of whom are united by being part of the British aristocracy with the title Duchesses. As Emma Rutland wryly observes, it is a somewhat elite club!

She has however produced utterly engaging interviews which have been exceedingly open and honest, revealing how the interviewees have married into, inherited, survived and prospered as members of the British establishment. More importantly the interviews go a long way to break down the stereotypes of the private stately home owner in explaining the trials and tribulations of the sleeves-rolled-up approaches needed for maintaining the ongoing survival and flourishing of the estates in local communities and modern society more widely.

The love of peeking behind the curtain will make the series appeal to many, whilst anyone interested more in the ‘management’ of heritage sites will find plenty too, as the stories have provided a wealth of case studies of innovation, social inclusion, community development, tourism experience creation, and reflections on long term stewardship of historic assets in private hands often against the odds.

The podcasts can be found in the usual audio locations, and further details can also be found on the dedicated website: https://www.duchessthepodcast.com

The Jewel Tower

The Jewel Tower © David Gill

The Jewel Tower was constructed in 1365 as part of the Royal Palace at Westminster. It stood at the south-west corner of the complex adjacent to Westminster Abbey. From 1869 to 1938 it served as the Weights and Measures Office and in 1941 was damaged by an incendiary device. The tower was repaired in the years following the war, after being placed in the care of the Ministry of Works in 1948. It is now in the care of English Heritage.

The first official guidebook was prepared by A.J. Taylor, the then Assistant Chief Inspector of monuments. It follows the standard format of History followed by description. A fold-out plan was inserted inside the rear cover. A note comments: ‘The purpose of this guide is to provide the visitor to the Jewel Tower with a full account of its history and a description of its different rooms. Those who prefer to save the former to read at leisure will find a shorter historical note exhibited on the ground floor of the tower’.

1956 (2nd ed. 1965; 2nd impress. 1966)

Taylor’s guide continued to be published for over 40 years, appearing as the English Heritage guide though with additional illustrations. Alan Sorrell’s reconstruction of the tower (along with part of the palace) was included on the back cover.

1996 (repr. 2001)

Jeremy Ashbee prepared the new English Heritage red guide (2013). This consists of a tour followed by a history. A number of special features are included. A series of plans are placed inside the read fold-out cover.

2013

Greece: COVID-19 and the economic impact on heritage

Chart © David Gill, 2021; Data from the Hellenic Statistical Service

The latest figures from the Hellenic Statistical Service have revealed the major impact on visitor numbers to museums and archaeological sites in Greece to the end of November 2020. I have already comments on the dramatic fall of visitors (museums; archaeological sites) and the picture continues to be bleak: 3.7 million visitors (to the end of November 2020) compared to 19.5 million visitors in 2019. However, the telling figure comes from ticket receipts: 21.1 million Euros (to the end of November 2020) compared to 130.9 million Euros in 2019. This is a significant loss of budget for the protection and conservation of heritage in Greece.

Dorchester: Heritage Sign

© David Gill

This ‘R.A.C. Road Sign’ created by Burrow of the Kingsway in London outlines some of the key heritage sites around Dorchester, the Roman Durnovaria, including the ‘Prehistoric Camp’ at Poundbury, and the ‘Great Prehistoric Earthworks’ at Maiden Castle.

Heritage Tourism in 2020: Historic Royal Palaces

© David Gill

One of the last heritage sites I visited in London prior to lockdown was the Tower of London (for the Heritage Alliance conference). ALVA has now released the visitor numbers for three of their properties in London: the Tower, Hampton Court Palace, and Kensington Palace. The combined number of visitors in 2019 was 4.5 million; in 2019 it fell to 730,816.

Wenlock Priory: guidebooks

2020

The new English Heritage guidebook for the Cluniac priory at Wenlock adopts the new format for the series: a nearly square design that makes it easier to use on site than the previous tall format.

There are two main sections: the tour followed by a history. There are six ‘special features’ (what I would describe as information boxes) that include one on the Cluniac Order, and archaeology at the priory. The all colour guide includes a number of reconstructions, such as one for the chapter house, and an aerial view of the complex. (I miss the drama and atmosphere of an Alan Sorrell reconstruction!) The later history of the priory is included down to its placement in State Guardianship in 1962.

The guide by John McNeill includes a foldout plan inside the back cover, and a labelled photograph of the site on the folded out front cover. Both will help the visitor to understand the different parts of the monastic complex.

1965

The first Ministry guide to the site was by Rose Graham and was entitled ‘The history of the Alien Priory of Wenlock’ (1965). This reproduced her essay from the Journal of the British Archaeological Association (1939).

Visitor Numbers for Archaeological Sites in Greece: 2020

© David Gill, 2021

The Hellenistic Statistical Service released the visitor numbers for archaeological sites in Greece today (31 March 2021). They cover the period up to the end of September and show a fall of 79.8 per cent due to the pandemic: a fall from 11.2 million visitors in 2019 to 2.2 million visitors in 2020. Olympia saw the largest fall with just over 85 per cent. Overall this represents a fall of some 9 million visitors for the period to the end of September. It also represents a drop of 84.2 per cent of income through ticket sales: from just over 90 million Euros in 2019, to 14.2 million Euros in 2020.

Heritage Tourism in 2020: National Trust

Ordered by Top 10 sites in 2019 © David Gill, 2021

The ALVA visitor figure data has revealed the impact of the pandemic on the National Trust. Using the Top 10 sites in 2019, the fall has been from 5.4 million to 2.9 million in 2020.

Ordered by Top 10 sites in 2020 © David Gill, 2021

Using the Top 10 sites for 2020, the fall has been from 4.6 million in 2019 to 3.4 million in 2020.

Ordered by Top 20 Sites in 2019 © David Gill, 2021

To give a larger picture, using the Top 20 sites in 2019, the fall has been from 9.1 million to 5.3 million in 2020.

These figures suggest that parks and gardens have allowed the public to continue to engage with heritage through the pandemic.

Heritage Tourism in 2020: National Trust for Scotland

© David Gill, 2021

The ALVA figures for 2020 have been released. I have chosen the top 10 locations for the National Trust for Scotland where there is easily accessible data for 2019. I have not included Corrieshalloch Gorge (56,060), Ben Lomond (54,266), or Balmacara Estate & Lochalsh Woodland Garden (45,957). These 10 sites attracted 934,938 in 2020, down from 2.1 million in 2019.

Based on Top 10 sites for 2019 © David Gill, 2021

Using the Top 10 sites for 2019, the fall is from 2.1 million to 888,159 in 2020.

The figures reflect how landscapes and gardens have been used to allow the public to re-engage with heritage sites and locations.