When Charles II ascended the throne in 1660 he wasted no time in amassing a formidable art collection which, whilst not as celebrated as that of his father, Charles I, nevertheless included works by Bruegel, Leonardo da Vinci and Titian. He also commissioned a portrait of himself that is almost three metres high. The work, by John Michael Wright, is almost three metres high and depicts the king in parliamentary robes and the newly created regalia, displaying the return of regal power. The portraits and other works from Charles’ collection feature in an exhibition at the Queen’s Gallery that runs until 13 May 2018 and provide a counterpoint to the larger exhibition of Charles I’s works at the Royal Academy.
Following on from the story that Northamptonshire County Council planned to severely restrict opening hours at the Record Office and introduce charges to use the archives, comes the news that councillors have voted to close 28 of the county’s 36 libraries. Three options were tabled but all involved closure, none to retain the status quo. Being a rural county, many of the libraries offer a community service way beyond that of lending books and with a poor public transport system people will lose access to food banks, children’s clubs, issuing of bus passes and so much more. Petitions have been launched and the campaign to the save the libraries has high profile supporters like authors Alan Moore and Philip Pullman. Here’s hoping that that campaign is as successful in overturning the council’s decision as was the reversal of the proposed cuts to the record office following the public outcry.
You can read more in this article in The Guardian:
Attended the Business Archives Council conference earlier this week, which was great, as always! One of the afternoon sessions really caught my interest as it featured three sets of speakers highlighting their joint academic-archivist collaborative projects. Ryland Thomas, from the Bank of England spoke about how daily transactional ledger data from the bank’s archive has been used to test whether, and to what extent, during the mid-nineteenth century the Bank of England adhered to Walter Bagehot’s rule that a central bank in a financial crisis should lend cash freely at a high interest rate in exchange for “good” securities, and found that the bank’s behaviour broadly conformed. Another set of customer ledgers has shown that the securities the Bank purchased were debts owed by a geographically and industrially diverse set of debtors and, using data on the bank’s income and dividends, they found that the Bank and its shareholders profited from lender of last resort operations.
The full paper can be read here: http://www.ehes.org/EHES_117.pdf
It was a fascinating insight into the academic use the bank makes of its own archives and the parallels it had been able to draw with practices today. Interestingly, during the Q&A session, the bank’s archivist admitted that they are not keeping the equivalent ledgers from today…
Last night, in New York, a work believed to be by Leonardo da Vinci, Salvator Mundi, sold for $450 million dollars (including fees), the highest amount paid for a work of art to date. Interestingly, it was placed in a sale of contemporary artwork as it was felt there is more money in that sector than amongst collectors of Old Masters. Christie’s described it as “the greatest art rediscovery of the twentieth century”, yet not all art critics agree: one described the painting’s surface as “inert, varnished, lurid, scrubbed over and repainted so many times that it looks simultaneously new and old”. After all, it sold for just £45 in London in 1958 when it was thought to be by a follower of da Vinci. The buyer(s) is, as yet, unknown, but who would pay so much for a work of questionable attribution…?
Sadly, the US government has announced that it intends to withdraw from UNESCO by the end of 2018, citing concerns with mounting arrears at UNESCO, the need for fundamental reform in the organisation and, what it claims, is a continuing anti-Israel bias. The decision has been hinted at for months by Trump’s administration. In July, the US ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley called UNESCO’s listing of the Tomb of Patriarchs in Hebron in the West Bank as a Palestinian World Heritage site, an “affront to history”. The State Department said that the country hopes to “to remain engaged with UNESCO as a non-member observer state in order to contribute US views, perspectives and expertise on some of the important issues undertaken by the organisation, including the protection of world heritage, advocating for press freedoms, and promoting scientific collaboration and education.”
If the US wants to air its views on what UNESCO does, then it ought to maintain its financial support and debate the issues within the organisation, not snipe from the sidelines.
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…
Completed my last teaching session at University College Dublin last week. This autumn semester I’ve been teaching the Records Management module to the students on the Masters course in Archives and Records Management whilst one of the lecturers is on maternity leave. I’m really grateful for opportunity I was given. It was a bit scary at the start but really enjoyable and it was no hardship going to Dublin every fortnight! They are a great bunch of students this academic year and I wish them the very best for their future careers.
This year’s Business Archives Council conference (21 November) focused on the rewards and realities of diversifying your service. There was a wide range of speakers, not just from the business archive sector, so there were different perspectives and lots of great ideas to discuss, including working with volunteers, reminiscence therapy, community engagement and novel and exciting ways in which to involve employees in significant company anniversaries. In my role as a PhD student (gamekeeper turned poacher!), it was good to hear how the Boots Archive is being extremely proactive in its approach to the academic community. Wonderful hospitality from HSBC during the day and also from Barclays for the evening reception for the Wadsworth Prize, where the HSBC history The Lion Wakes by David Kynaston and Richard Roberts was the worthy winner. Thanks too to HSBC for giving all conference delegates a copy!
Great to hear an old friend, Kim Collis, on ‘The Listening Project’ live from Swansea on BBC Radio 4 earlier today. In an all too brief appearance, Kim, who is the County Archivist of West Glamorgan, took part in the programme hosted by Fi Glover, which reflected on the Welsh relationship with language and literature. Kim expressed a hope that the rise of digital content will not mean the loss of personal contact in archives and libraries and emphasised the joy of serendipity in making chance finds when looking through the archives themselves and not relying on a search engine.
‘The Listening Project’ is ‘capturing the nation in conversation’ and is an ambitious oral history project to gather a picture of life in contemporary Britain in which individuals volunteer to have a conversation with someone close to them about something they’ve never discussed before. It is a partnership between BBC Radio 4, BBC local stations and the British Library.
What a glorious day to be on the South Downs, with barely a cloud in the sky. The Trundle is awash with wild flowers, including harebells, yarrow, scabious, ladies fingers and even scarlet pimpernel, creating a glorious carpet of yellows, pinks, blues and purples. We were entertained by the aerial acrobatics of some hawks and crows in what looked like a re-enactment of a World War I dogfight. The distant views were a bit hazy, unlike on a crisp winter’s day, but this is England at her summer best*. And what was even more glorious is that we had this delight almost to ourselves.
*In deference to my Yorkshire roots I ought to say almost best, as I’m sure that the Moors and Dales are looking equally glorious today but, sadly, I’m too far away to find out!
My thoughts, views and musings about what's happening in the world of archives and records management, information and governance, heritage and culture