Museums were in the news this week with the rumour mill in overdrive that Maria Balshaw is tipped to succeed Nicholas Serota as director of the Tate. They may be big shoes to fill, but she has a great track record in her work at the Whitworth Art Gallery in Manchester, and it’s fantastic to hear that a woman might be taking over one of national institutions. Meanwhile, Tristam Hunt, is to leave politics and take over at the V&A, which will, no doubt, have put some curators noses out of joint…
Interesting piece on BBC radio 4’s “Today” programme this morning that a “lost” story by Beatrix Potter – “The Tale of Kitty in Boots” – has been uncovered and will be published later this year. The presenter referred to the find as being in a dusty archive but the researcher, Jo Hanks, swiftly replied that the V&A [Victoria & Albert Museum] look after their archives!
Then, only about 30 minutes later, there was another piece referring to archives! One of the latest files to be released by The National Archives (TNA) is about an MP’s proposal to Churchill that the UK should introduce a McCarthy style search to root out communists in the BBC which, thankfully, did not happen.
The Wedgwood Collection, which was under threat of sale to meet the pension deficit of its parent company, Waterford Wedgwood, has been saved thanks to thousands of members of the public who responded to an appeal by raising £2.74 million within one month. Waterford Wedgwood Potteries collapsed in 2009 with a £134 million pension debt and the museum contents, including over 80,000 works of art, ceramics and archives, were threatened with sale at auction to help meet the deficit. The public donations will be added to the £13 million raised with support from the Heritage Lottery Fund, the Art Fund and a number of private trusts and foundations. The collection will be gifted to the Victoria & Albert Museum but remain on display, as a long-term loan, in the museum at the Wedgwood factory site in Barlaston, near Stoke.
But why did it have to come to this? Why aren’t such pre-eminent collections, which are a key part of Britain’s heritage, better protected? The Wedgwood Collection was held as a trust. Yet, in December 2011, the High Court ruled that the collection could be sold to pay the company’s creditors. Nearly two years later the Administrator agreed a value of £15.75 million for the collection and gave the Art Fund one year to raise the amount to keep the collection intact. Selling the collection would have meant splitting it into lots and being scattered across the globe. How have archives come to be treated as a commodity to be bought and sold in such a cavalier fashion and to have such high prices put on them? How vulnerable are other collections that have moved to trust status, believing that this afforded them some protection?
My thoughts, views and musings about what's happening in the world of archives and records management, information and governance, heritage and culture