The National Trust (4)

I have been alerted to the attached article written by Eleni Vassilika, the former curator of antiquities at the Fitzwilliam Museum who was for a time herself curatorial director of the National Trust. It gives a good account of the tensions within the National Trust which has led to the writing of the consultation document whose ethos – that detailed curatorial expertise is now redundant – appears to underpin the radical proposed restructuring, itself caused by the financial difficulties of the closure of so many properties. It is unfortunate that neither of the proposed documents is in the public domain, so the public is forced to judge what is happening on the basis of secondhand press coverage. But it sounds as if Tony Berry, the director of visitor experience, may have seized the opportunity of Covid-19 for a grand carve-up, which, whatever its rights or wrongs (without the relevant documentation it is impossible to judge) in terms of managing properties and their collections, looks like being a catastrophe in terms of PR.

https://societyhistorycollecting.org/news-and-events/dialling-down-on-collections-at-the-national-trust/

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4 thoughts on “The National Trust (4)

  1. Ivan Gaskell says:

    Perhaps the National Trust should look to its New England sister organizations for guidance. My understanding is that the English National Trust was founded in emulation of the Trustees of Reservations, created in 1891 in Massachusetts, as its founding act states, “for the purposes of acquiring, holding, maintaining and opening to the public beautiful and historic places within the Commonwealth.” In 1910, the Society for the Preservation of New England Antiquities was founded (now Historic New England). The Trustees of Reservations manages 107 properties (some being tracts of land, others house museums), and Historic New England administers 37 house museums, plus 1,284 acres of land. The standard of curatorial scholarship in both is very high. Historic New England curator, Laura Johnson contributed a brilliant chapter on textiles in 16th-century Florida to the newly published “Oxford Handbook of History and Material Culture,” which I edited with Sarah Anne Carter. Without curatorial scholarship, all else, including “Visitor Experience,” is futile.

    • Dear Ivan, How interesting. I didn’t know about the connections between the National Trust and the Trustees of Reservations and have always admired the quality of scholarship used in the interpretation of American houses, which led, I think, to Merlin Waterson’s work at Erddig, which was revolutionary in its time. Not sure what the models now are. Charles

  2. bendorgrosvenor says:

    Dear Sandy, that statement does not address any of the key concerns. What it does do is deny allegations that haven’t actually been made. B

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