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.

 

 

The US National Parks system as a political pawn causing untold damage

The current Government shutdown in the USA caused by the political dispute over President Trump’s demand for funding for a wall along the US border with Mexico is having significant negative effects on the historic environment and nature conservation of the ‘treasured’ National Parks system, as well as related agencies falling within the realm of the Department of the Interior.

During this shutdown 80% of the employees of the NPS have been furloughed, leaving only skeleton staff mainly for policing and security.

It has been reported that the National Parks Service is losing $400,000 per day by not collecting admissions revenue where parks and heritage sites charge, quite apart from wider revenue lost from concessions, campgrounds, retail and hospitality. There have been widespread reports of significant human health, pollution and threats to nature and ecosystems, with sanitation sites overflowing and litter not being collected. Questions have also been asked on why sites have been left accessible, rather than simply closing the various NPS units/sites altogether.

Maintenance backlogs and acute maintenance/management issues are building due to the impact of weather at this time of the year also. It is not a pretty picture – foremost for the dedicated NPS staff who are not being paid, many of which are trying to keep things going on a voluntary basis, secondly for the long-term damage being done to the natural and cultural resources of the Park System which has been heralded as “America’s Best Idea”, and thirdly for the unfortunate political circumstances whereby the environment (in its broadest form) comes low down in the pecking order when Government faces a crisis.

Professional journals: RICS Building Surveying Journal

Journal summary: The RICS Building Surveying Journal (BSJ) is published bi-monthly and distributed in the UK and internationally to members of the Building Surveying Professional Group.
It helps building surveyors with technical and professional aspects of their day jobs and covers topics ranging from pathology assessments through design and maintenance issues to the repair, refurbishment and restoration of buildings, keeping readers up to date with changes affecting business/practice matters.

Publisher: RICS (Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors)

Website: https://www.rics.org/uk/news/journals/building-surveying-journal

Access: Open access; print subscription via membership

Journal type: Professional journal

Mottistone: signs of privacy

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Mottistone © David Gill

I noticed a sign on the garden gate at National Trust Mottistone: it appears to be a standard Ministry of Works sign. It needs to be remembered that the Royal Label Factory produced signs for both the Ministry and the National Trust.

For other Ministry ‘private’ signs:

St Martin’s Kirk, Haddington

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St Martin’s Kirk, Haddington © David Gill

St Martin’s Kirk is on the eastern edge of Haddington and dates to the 12th century. It is possible that the kirk was attended by the reformer John Knox who was born in the town.

The Kirk is in the care of Historic Environment Scotland.

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St Martin’s Kirk, Haddington © David Gill

Guidebooks to Melrose Abbey

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1932 (2nd ed. 1949, 6th impress. 1973)

Melrose Abbey was a Cistercian foundation from Rievaulx Abbey in Yorkshire. It was placed in State Guardianship in 1919.

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1938

The first guidebook was prepared by James S. Richardson and Marguerite Wood (1932). A second edition was prepared in 1949, and this continued into the period when the abbey was cared by the Department of the Environment. This phase coincided with a short card guide (1963), and a wider illustrated guide to the Border Abbeys (1964).

Melrose Abbey

1981 (rev. 1989)

The guide by Richardson and Wood was revised by C. J. Tabraham (1981; revised 1989). This was illustrated in black and white, and contained a plan of the abbey inside the back card cover. This was further revised in 1995 and then reprinted in 2003.

Melrose Abbey

2005

This Historic Scotland guide has been revised by the ‘Official Souvenir Guide’ prepared by Chris Tabraham (2005). It is fully illustrated, much in colour. The guide includes the reconstruction by Alan Sorrell.