A Companion to Mediterranean History out now

(credit: Wiley Blackwell)

(credit: Wiley Blackwell)

A Companion to Mediterranean History, part of Wiley Blackwell’s acclaimed Companions to History series has just been published.

The book project, led by editors Peregrine Horden and Sharon Kinoshita, is a culmination of at least three years’ work and a coming together of 29 contributors from across the world.

Each contributor is a specialist in their field, but we are united by an interest, for some a vocation, in testing the Mediterranean paradigm as a way of interrogating the history of the region (including the sea itself) in a meaningful and coherent way.

From climate to nautical technology, and cave dwelling to language, this volume is trailblaizes themes in history unfettered by the conventional parameters of the accepted canons of period, place and politics, or indeed disciplinary expectations.

It is a great credit to the editors that they have succeeded in bringing together such diverse scholars of varying experience, approaches and opinions and produced a coherent and thought-provoking book that will surely be argued over (we hope) by scholars and students alike.

My contribution was the chapter on material culture from prehistory to now, on which I will be writing a separate blog post.

About the book

Mediterranean history has never been more widely debated or practised, yet there remains no consensus about precisely how this history should be written, the definition of its parameters, or the breadth of topics it should include. In summarising the latest scholarship and reappraising key concepts, contributors to this volume enable fruitful interdisciplinary dialogue on subjects ranging from climate and cartography to material culture and heritage politics. A Companion to Mediterranean History represents an invaluable guide to the current state of Mediterranean scholarship that will also help to redefine the field for a new generation.

Buy now from Amazon.

Details

  • Hardcover: 498 pages
  • Publisher: Wiley-Blackwell (12 Mar 2014)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0470659017
  • ISBN-13: 978-0470659014
  • Product Dimensions: 24.6 x 17.6 x 2.8 cm
  • RRP £120 Hardcover, £99.99 Ebook.

Made in metal: Writing the industrial background of Graham Sutherland’s war art

Graham-Sutherland-246x269Earlier in the year I spent some weeks in the summer researching and writing a survey of the links between Cornwall and South Wales, particularly those evidenced in the metal industries of copper, iron and steel, and tin.

It resulted in a wonderfully illustrated book called Graham Sutherland: From Darkness Into Light. War Paintings and Drawings, co-authored with Sally Moss and Paul Gough, and published by Sansom and Company.

 

Buy the book. RRP. £17.95.

Read Made in Metal in preprint version on my Academia.edu site.

it is not often that you will find modern art discussed in equal measure to the historical context of its subjects.

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Top ten for heritage digitisation projects

Preparing for digitisation: Record photograph from an album in the Elizabeth Treffry Collection, Hypatia Trust.

Preparing for digitisation: Record photograph from an album in the Elizabeth Treffry Collection, Hypatia Trust.

Digitisation usually refers to making collections data, including images and other media, available online. But it may also refer to making any quantitative (e.g. historical datasets) or qualitative information (exhibition and learning resources) available and discoverable via the web.

A digital collection usually comprises an object record describing the object, its composition or makeup and other descriptive elements. It may have an associated image, video, audio or document with it. Sophisticated digital collections will display links to related objects and information. Some are aggregated into larger digital repositories which allow you to search across several collections such as Culture Grid or Europeana.

The digitisation movement in the UK heritage sector started in earnest under the New Opportunities Fund Digitisation (NOF-digi) programme, funded by the National Lottery between 2001-3/4. One of my previous projects, Hantsphere, was part of this. NOF-digi projects taught heritage and cultural technologists a lot about good and bad practice, and most importantly about sustainability. A significant amount of data remains undiscoverable and in some cases has been lost altogether through lack of onward funding and resources within the organisations that ran these projects. Continue reading

A bad curator blames their tools

M-Shed, tells the story of Bristol especially its industrial and social history

M-Shed, tells the story of Bristol especially its industrial and social history

I have been a member of the Social History Curators Group (SHCG) for a few years now. Of all the professional groups and societies dedicated to museum and collections work I have found SHCG to be the most useful. Most degrees and qualifications in museum studies (or indeed heritage management) lack opportunities for sustained subject-specialist training unless it is part of an internship, vocational attachment or similar activity. That’s why SHCG and other curatorial networks are so important.

FirstBASE is SHCG’s recently launched online resources centre, an invaluable library of information for anyone dealing with social (and industrial) collections. SHCG also organises training events and when I saw one advertised for identifying tools I leapt at the opportunity. Here is my review, which will also appear in a forthcoming SHCG newsletter.

Training Review: What is it? Identifying mystery objects: trade tools

Venue: M-Shed, Bristol, 4 March 2013

I didn’t know a twybil from an adze before the training. By the end of the day I could enthusiastically explain the difference between a dado plane and a plough plane.

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List of industrial World Heritage Sites

Levant Mine, part of the Cornwall and West Devon Mining Landscape, designated in 2006.

Levant Mine, part of the Cornwall and West Devon Mining Landscape, designated in 2006.

45 industrial heritage sites, centres and lanscapes have been designated as World Heritage Sites by UNESCO since 1978.

44 currently hold WHS designation as Dresden Elbe Valley, Germany, was delisted in 2009, having only achieved designation in 2004.

Liverpool Mercantile Maritime City is currently on UNESCO’s danger list.

I am in the process of revising a paper I gave in 2011 on how people’s perceptions of industrial heritage are shaped, using copper as a theme. Starting with a global perspective, I have been counting those that are designated World Heritage Sites. I wanted to share the list for interest. I have included sites related to transportation and communication, urban sites with a substantial representation of historical commerce, and those bearing testimony to pre-modern industry. Those highlighted relate to copper.

Please leave a comment to me know whether I have left any out.  Continue reading

Approaches to regenerating industrial heritage sites

Vivian and Sons engine house and chimney, 1860, Hafod Copperworks, Swansea

Vivian and Sons engine house and chimney, 1860, Hafod Copperworks, Swansea

Following on from my survey of industrial heritage education this article discusses different approaches to the regeneration of industrial heritage sites. By their very nature, industrial heritage sites are often also classed as ‘brownfield’ sites and therefore fairer game for redevelopment than areas of ‘greenfield’.

This was well-illustrated in English Heritage’s Industrial Heritage at Risk report of 2011. I was particularly taken by the figure that placed metal and coal mines most at risk in the Register.

I live and work amongst the most significant mine workings in the world (West Cornwall) and the conservation work on mine workings over the last 30 years has been extensive, culminating in the inscription of the Cornwall and West Devon Mining Landscape in 2006. The Cornish engine house is now an icon that is synonymous with Cornish identity and culture and several sites have regenerated into visitor attractions so compared with many other parts of the world mining heritage, at least here seems to be enjoying a new lease of life.

Having worked extensively on historic copper smelting landscapes, particularly of the Lower Swansea Valley, that really are in danger of physical collapse and until recently, erasure from collective memory, I wonder about the criteria for assessing risk? Some of this is bound up in the different statuses of structures that are Scheduled or Listed. I have recently completed work on producing a prospectus for the heritage-led regeneration of the old Swansea copperworks sites of Hafod and Morfa and it became quickly evident that those structures that were not Scheduled or Listed were most in danger of being omitted altogether from the regeneration plans. Listing and scheduling can create islands out of features that were once part of inter-dependent working landscapes.

Heritage-led regeneration at industrial heritage sites have also brought extensive opportunities for bring large properties and land back into use while also preserving some of an area’s historical character.

Heritage-led regeneration: Reuse vs visitor attraction

Industrial heritage sites, like other historic structures and landscapes, have undergone regeneration in a variety of ways. The benefits or otherwise of reusing a building for new purposes such as housing, retail, other commercial uses or as a museum or cultural centre have recently been debated on a LinkedIn thread on the use of industrial complexes as cultural centres.

As part of my report in the regeneration of the Hafod-Morfa copperworks site I had a stab at trying to categorise different types of heritage-led regeneration in a UK context although it is fair to apply several of these categories to industrial heritage in Europe and beyond.

  1. The open-air museum.
  2. The working museum/site which retains traditional processes and products.
  3. Industrial park with visitor centre or museum as central focus.
  4. An industrial building or complex converted exclusively to heritage activity.
  5. Brownfield site regeneration which retains heritage features and offers some interpretation but primarily functions with unrelated businesses and activities.
  6. Conserved structures retained in the landscape with no designated centre and minimal interpretation.

The following examples have been chosen to be representative of the full range of industrial heritage site or landscape present in the UK and are not intended to be geographically inclusive. In addition there are great numbers of projects that have regenerated industrial buildings but could not be considered ‘heritage-led’, for example the Toffee Factory in Newcastle which might be usefully defined in a seventh category of ‘vestige’. A sort of façadism. This is not a criticism, it just isn’t what I would call ‘heritage-led’.

Examples

1. Amberley Museum and Heritage Centre
Situated in the former Amberley Chalk Pits, now dedicated to the industrial heritage of the whole of South East England featuring narrow gauge railway and historic bus service, traditional craft demonstrations and a regular series of events and festivals.

2. Whitchurch Silk Mill
Working early nineteenth-century silk mill in Hampshire, still producing traditionally-woven silk for interior design. Visitors can see the internal workings of the mill and silk weavers at looms (now powered by electricity, not mill wheel).

3. Wheal Martyn China Clay Museum and Country Park
Set in spent china clay pits which have been largely given over to park and woodland with museum containing displays and artefacts from the industry, access to viewing point to see a commercially working neighbouring pit, and access to Clay Trails cycle route.

4. STEAM. Museum of the Great Western Railway
Situated in the restored former Swindon Grade II-listed railway works. The entire works complex has been integrated into a single museum building. Displays incorporate artefacts, static locomotives, archives, film and audio footage of the railway and dioramas. The museum runs themed and non-heritage events programme.

5. Heartlands, Cornwall
Set in the derelict area around Robinson’s Shaft, previously part of South Crofty tin mines, in Pool, Cornwall, the complex is now billed as a ‘cultural playground’ with ‘state of the art’ exhibition space containing displays related to Cornish mining, an adventure playground themed on Cornish mythology, landscaped gardens with flora and features related to Cornish migration abroad, craft studios and offices, and soon to be extended to a new housing estate. One of the site’s principal attractions are its rolling series of events, markets and activities for visiting schools.

6. Derwent Valley Mills
World Heritage Site since 2001, designated as the ‘birthplace of the factory system’ for textile production, it comprises a series of conserved water mills along a 15-mile stretch of the River Derwent from Matlock Bath to Derby. The Derwent Valley Heritage Way has been instituted as a series of walks which lead visitors through the landscape’s historical and natural environments.

Conclusions

Let’s state the obvious first. There are many approaches to heritage-led regeneration. Each is specific to the period in which the site was redeveloped, the funding available, the potential for future income and the vision of those charged with undertaking it. Some are more successful than others. In many cases it is too early to tell what will actually become of the industrial heritage of the site or area.

And this brings me to my second conclusion and one about which I will write more soon, that the interpretation of a site’s industrial past is crucial in qualifying it as ‘heritage-led’. Interpretation can take many forms, such as activity or demonstration as in allowing the public to view Victorian silk weaving techniques at Whitchurch Silk Mill, through displays and exhibitions, through a sensory experience such as riding on the narrow gauge railway at Amberley, or just simple self-guided heritage trails–using a leaflet or smartphone app.

I fear that sites more recently regenerated are allowing interpretation and opportunities for immersion in the industrial past to play second fiddle to ‘inspired by’ activities such as art installations, public sculpture and the performance of plays. These are stylised activities that may entertain but often do not convey an authentic sense of the past to audiences, even if they are infused by it. And at sites that were hives of activity, often busy, smelly and noisy, the experience you get at many industrial heritage sites and lanscapes is almost the opposite..

Old pilchards and Cornish industrial fishing heritage

Pressed and salted pilchards, Newlyn Pilchard Works

Pressed and salted pilchards, Newlyn Pilchard Works

Industrial heritage in Cornwall is completely dominated by mining, and most of that is heavily focused on tin mining and china clay extraction as opposed to that of other metals and minerals such as copper, arsenic and so on. Even more neglected is Cornwall’s fishing and fish processing heritage.

The Cornish Quaysude gallery in the National Maritime Museum Cornwall, in Falmouth, provides a tantalising glimpse of fish processing and export, specifically that of pilchards (salted and pressed) which took place in St Ives, Mevagissey and Newlyn amongst other fishing centres. Other interesting exhibits can be found in a number of the smaller museums of Cornwall, such as St Ives Museum, Padstow Museum and Fowey Museum.

Penzance no longer has its maritime museum and Newlyn, today home to the largest fishing fleet (in terms of numbers of boats) in the UK, has no centre for its fishing heritage. However this was not the case until relatively recently, and may change in the near future. Villagers in Mousehole, west Cornwall’s most ancient port, is currently looking at integrating some of the region’s fishing and maritime heritage into displays in the project to establish a new community centre (in the derelict sail/net loft which also housed pilchard processing pits on Duck Street). Talk of old pilchards reminded me of the now defunct Old Pilchard Works Museum in Newlyn.

I had occasion to revisit some photographs I took back in Summer 2003 of the Old Pilchard Works in Newlyn when it was open to the public as a working museum. It remains one of the most memorable museum experiences I have had. The working part of the museum allowed visitors to get a feel for an ancient delicacy which the vast majority of Brits and Cornish would probably turn their nose up at. Salted and pressed pilchards, or Cornish sardines. Caught in abundance off the Penwith coast, pilchards landed in Newlyn would be salted and then pressed, then arranged in barrels ready for export to Italy (and sometimes Spain). Think anchovies and their growing status as a trend ingredient in British gastronomy, then think of a more rounded, almost sweeter flavour and you will have an idea of the wonder that is a salted pilchard.

Press play to view a slide show of my photographs or view on Flickr.

The pilchard presses resemble book presses and there is something timeless about seeing military rows of fish lined up and piled up ready to have their life extended to at least a year through this processing. Barrels were marked with various marks according to the importer, one of them being ‘Cigno Bianco’ or White Swan as you can see in one of the photographs of a box of ‘salacche inglese’ –in future that would probably read ‘salacche cornovagliese’. Part of the museum experience was having the chance to do ‘brass rubbings’ of the copper stencils that marked the boxes and barrels. To my sadness, I can no longer find the one I did but I do remember it was of the Cigno Bianco mark. The museum also introduced visitors to traditional fish processing and the particular relationship between the Cornish and Breton fishing industries, especially those of West Penwith and the region of Concarneau.

As you will hear in this video, from Terry Tonkin who worked here, they were a particular delicacy of the Italian dish, spaghetti alla puttanesca. So prized were the Cornish salted pilchard that they were considered superior to the usual Italian acciughe or anchovy. This dish is a classic of southern Italy, particularly the south-eastern region of Puglia (Apulia) and parts of Sicily. It’s a brazen dish (possibly accounting for its unashamed name, ‘whore-like spaghetti’) made with fresh tart tomatoes, salty black olives, anchovies or other salted fish and capers. It’s time of year is from harvest time at the end of summer to Christmas when these preserved delights are made and put in store for the winter.

Some time in 2005-6 the museum closed, for various reasons, mainly financial, but also because the demand for salted pilchards began to decline. As the Managing Director Nick Howell said in a statement regarding the circumstances of the closure, no amount of good publicity from TV chefs such as Keith Floyd and Rick Stein could persuade the British public to embrace this delicacy. The privately run museum was subsidised by the business which had also just begun to use traditional Breton canning methods to preserve Cornish pilchards and mackerel (in olive oil). You’ll be hard pushed to find a salted pilchard in Cornwall at the moment but thankfully you can still buy Pilchard Works canned fish all over the country. I hope we see salted pilchards in British and Cornish cuisine in the future.