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History Placements and the Development of Historical Skills at Goldsmiths College Dr Sarah Lambert Goldsmiths College, University of London.

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Presentation on theme: "History Placements and the Development of Historical Skills at Goldsmiths College Dr Sarah Lambert Goldsmiths College, University of London."— Presentation transcript:

1 History Placements and the Development of Historical Skills at Goldsmiths College Dr Sarah Lambert Goldsmiths College, University of London

2 - Identification: providing a number for the object, the part of collection it belongs to (e.g. drawings and pictures), and its category (e.g. photograph), reporting or devising a name, providing a description of its theme. - Production/Dating: identification of the author (when known), statement of the precise date or assessment of a likely period of time for the object’s production -Physical characteristic: a physical description of the object, - Iconography: attribution of the picture to a specific category of themes (e.g. clergy, events, choir, etc.). - Inscriptions/marks: a section devoted to reporting location, kind, method, and full content of any inscription or mark present on the object (e.g. captions, notes, stamps, etc.). - Numbers/relationships: a list of previous numbers that identify the object in other lists or catalogues (e.g. negative reference number). - Acquisition: any information on how, when, given by whom, the object became part of the collection; -Location - Reproductions: a linking number and code to the virtual reproduction of the object, in my case the scanned copies of the pictures.

3 St Pauls Choir School,

4 Choir boys enter the nave of St Pauls

5 Dr Temple, Archbishop of Canterbury


7 The invention of photographic means of reproduction at the end of the 19th century marked a substantial change in the very ontological conception of images and representation. The possibility of achieving a technological product whose indexical fidelity to reality was purportedly absolute, seemed to promise revolutionary opportunities for all those interested in presenting and narrating “the truth” about such reality. The focus, here, is all about what can be seen: importance is given almost exclusively to the content of the image, which is increasingly dissected and perused for visual information. Such an interpretation however, masks and silences their material nature as three-dimensional objects. As products of material culture, the nature of photographic objects can be argued to be ‘closely related to social biography’ and thus understood as belonging to continuing processes of ‘production, exchange, usage and meaning … enmeshed in, and active in, social relations, not merely passive entities in these processes’. In its materiality, the object doesn’t just deliver to us a visual evidence better preserved, but it also becomes historical evidence itself, contributing to a possible “history of photographers”, and witnessing the relevance that photographing those men might have held in a particular social context at some point in history.

8 This process of grouping photographs within a particular collection, of dividing them within boxes or other containers, is also a way to deconstruct their meaning and reclassify them as objects. What is often overlooked is how this process, in which photographs undergo subsequent relocations and archival reorganizations throughout time, often reflects evolutions in strategies and values that belong to and take place in the wider socio-cultural context. As a matter of fact, such practices entail arbitrary decisions, and in one way or another always ‘privilege certain aspects of … materiality … while ignoring other possibilities’.

9 The ticket to Horatio Nelson’s funeral: National Maritime Museum, Greenwich, London, Sutcliffe-Smith Collection

10 Robert Trevitt, A PROSPECT of the CHOIR of the CATHEDRAL CHURCH of St PAUL, on the GENERALTHANKSGIVING the 31st Decem.r Her Majesty and both Houses of Parliament present : St Paul’s Cathedral Collections.

11 St Paul’s Cathedral 29th December 1940

12 What does it mean to be a cathedral church of the City of London? What responsibility does the collections department bear in a institution that apart from being a museum is primarily a living and constantly evolving place of national worship? How did St Paul’s over its long and turbulent history perform the role of a centre of faith and worship, national institution or a focal point of encouragement and comfort in the times of crisis? Upon entering the cathedral on a sunny day, one is blinded by the light streaming through the large windows, lace-like whiteness of the church seems to be a monument to air itself. Filled with tourists; who concentrating on the audio- tour devices follow their guides through rows of monuments, stopping here and there for a closer look; St Paul’s has a feel of yet another of London’s tourist spots. St Paul’s is a symbol of the Anglican faith, even more so than Canterbury, a national religious centre but also a place of more secular national importance. The cathedral is a place where events of national importance take place. Author of this essay had a chance to experience the scale of activity during the preparations for the ‘non’ state funeral of a former prime minister. The solemn occasion sparking both support and protest entangled in miles of high voltage power cables snaking their way through the cathedral and the echoing barks of the police dogs. Those recent events are not a solitary spurt of activity, they mirror the cathedral’s long history. In the fateful summer of 1588, the cathedral was a hub of activity for months. In the run up to the Armada showdown, preaching went on outside at the traditional spot of St Paul’s Cross, spurring the nation to not fear the Spaniard and stand up for Anglican faith. In the aftermath of the crushing defeat a triumphant sermon was preached on September 8th with the banners taken from the Spanish ships hanging from the church’s battlements and from the cross itself. In November a procession with the Queen attended the cathedral church again and thanksgiving service was held, followed by the feast attended by the Queen.

13 This theme is repeated throughout the history of the cathedral. In 1706 a general thanksgiving was held for the victory at Blenheim. An account of the service is preserved in a print, an engraving for which was made by Robert Trevitt. This unique object, now frayed and fragile gives a wonderful insight into the day’s proceedings. Titled: A PROSPECT of the CHOIR of the CATHEDRAL CHURCH of St PAUL, on the GENERAL THANKSGIVING the 31st Decem.r Her Majesty and both Houses of Parliament present. The print is an ideal vision of what should have happened that day. This if related to the modern perceptions seems to be a peculiar equivalent to ‘airbrushed’ or ‘photoshopped’ press photographs. This enquiry had also drawn the attention to the condition of the print which proved to be in a dire need of conservation and eventually had to be removed from its frame and replaced by a copy. This single case points towards a responsibility which rests upon a collections departments in institutions such as this one. Preserving objects that commemorate national events proves to be quite important to anyone who researches those events. Snippets of information about the British early modern society contribute towards the ‘bigger picture’ and are an important part of the material culture of the period. In such view the collections management proves to be a vital link between the past and the modern narrative of it

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