Day of Archaeology – Norfolk

This morning I’ll be working mainly on former RAF Coltishall, a World War Two and Cold War airfield, which closed in 2006 and which Norfolk County Council bought in 2013.  This currently takes up a lot of my time, and little did I expect when I started digging in 1970 that one day a) I’d be a County Archaeologist and b) that we’d have expanded the scope of our interest to include, for example, milestones and other roadside heritage assets, and buildings as recent as 1980 (another Cold War heritage asset, a rare DIY bunker just outside Norwich).  Anyway, I’m just about to make two calls.  The first to a conservator at the Imperial War Museum at Duxford (Cambs) to get some advice on how best to maintain and/or restore the huge military murals painted during the First Gulf War on the insides of the steel doors of Hangar 1.  Second to a local resident who turns out to have detailed knowledge of the site, including the World War Two E-pens, for Spitfires or Hurricanes, two of which are extant and one of which we have just cleared of ivy, undergrowth and weeks (through our Norfolk Monuments Management Project).  He also knows about our three Pickett-Hamilton forts, two of which were very recently relocated by the Airfield Research Group, hiding under the turf (and locations not known to anyone who I’ve met on site, some of whom have been there for decades and involved in its maintenance).  Also they are not visible on aerial photographs, which I would have expected.

David Gurney, Historic Environment Manager (County Archaeologist), Norfolk County Council



From Cultural Property to Fiction

Cast of part of the Parthenon frieze at UCS

Is there a typical day in the life of a Professor of Archaeological Heritage at University Campus Suffolk?

This is the week of Ip-Art, the Ipswich Arts Festival. On Tuesday night I was at Arlington’s in Museum Street for a poetry evening hosted by Poetry Anglia. The building was constructed as a museum – so it appropriately became the home of the muses! I was invited to be the first reader and offered my ‘Roman Vision‘ reflecting on the Roman remains that peep out among the buildings of modern Athens.

Earlier in the day I had attended an e-learning workshop. There was a focus on the use of iPads, a topic of interest to me through the Gwella project work at Swansea University (in my previous role). I am developing materials that can be delivered to smart phones and tablet devices to assist with the interpretation of archaeological and heritage sites.

Wednesday was the UCS research day. There was a varied programme with a keynote address on e-medicine. I gave a paper, ‘Looting matters: cultural property, conventions and compliance’. This considered a discussion of how recently surfaced antiquities can continue to surface on the market and to be acquired by major museums. I reviewed some of the international guidelines, as well as the ethical codes for museums and dealers in ancient art. The focal point was the compliance (or non-compliance) of dealers and museums when questionable material is identified. (For more on this topic see ‘Looting Matters‘.) Earlier in the week I had received my offprint of a study of the material returned to Italy from Princeton University Art Museum.

The same research conference included a discussion of project management from a colleague in the Business School. We have developed an interesting dialogue about the management of ancient projects. I was struck by the wording the (Athenian) Eleusinian Epistatai decree of the 430s BC that cites the way that the ‘management’ structure for the temple (presumably the Parthenon) and the statue (presumably the Athena Promachos) should be used as a model.

The Sainsbury Centre at UEA

Yesterday was spent in a series of meetings at UEA in Norwich. Part of the day involved discussions in the Sainsbury Centre and it was good to see the series of Cycladic marble figures from the southern Aegean. These figures formed the subject of a research paper with Christopher Chippindale (Cambridge University Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology) that was published in the American Journal of Archaeology [JSTOR]. It was the first in a series of studies about cultural property.

One of the trends on Twitter yesterday was the submission of online poetry from around the world to celebrate the forthcoming Olympics.  I offered my ‘Shaded Marbles‘ as an audio track with appropriate images. The theme is on (historic) cultural property currently in the British Museum. (The Greek theme was appropriate given the origins of the Games.)

Another of my roles is as Head of the Division of Humanities. So this evening I will be attending the Short Story event in the Spiegeltent at Ip-Art to hear the competition winner announced. I was one of the judges for the short-listing and I have been asked to say something about our institutional support for this literary event.