The outgoing head of England’s heritage, Sir Tim Laurence, calls for a broader discussion of Britain’s past
English Heritage should not shy away from controversy and try to present “the whole picture”, said outgoing chairman Sir Tim Laurence.
The charity should also be prepared to make unpopular decisions while “trying new approaches” to become more inclusive, the vice admiral added.
So far she has avoided much of the criticism of other historical bodies including the National Trust and many museums.
Vice Admiral Laurence has chaired the charity since 2015 and served as commissioner before it was granted charity status.
Sir Tim Laurence, husband of Princess Anne, said the charity should not back down if its decisions are unpopular
English Heritage awards Blue Plaques (pictured) to places of historical importance and since 2020 has been updating its online listings to include slave trade links
The body that awards the commonly seen blue plaques to mark places of historical importance has been updating its online profiles since 2020 to include historical figures’ connections to the slave trade.
In an article for The Daily Telegraph, Princess Anne’s husband said it was important that the whole picture was presented.
“The transatlantic slave trade—a grisly stain on our nation’s history—is explained where relevant. But that is also the story of England’s role in the abolition movement.’
Other historical items campaigners have wanted removed from their traditional locations this year include a memorial to Tobias Rustat of Jesus College, Cambridge
Sir Laurence gives the example of Kenwood in Hampstead, which was the home of Lord Mansfield, whose judgment of 1772 was a turning point for the abolitionist movement.
English Heritage should not back down if its decisions prove unpopular or wary of controversy, Sir Laurence added.
“We need to try new approaches to ensure that every segment of our society feels welcome and well-informed, even if it causes criticism,” the outgoing chairman continued.
“It’s good to test what works and what doesn’t, as long as you’re willing to recognize the latter and change course accordingly.”
The comments come just a month after the London-based Wellcome Collection scrapped its popular Medicine Man exhibition.
The exhibit, which has been on view since 2007, “failed” to tell the stories of those “we’ve historically marginalized or excluded,” said the charity that runs the museum.
Items on display included wood, ivory and wax models from around the world and different cultures, some dating back to the 17th century, as well as curiosities such as Charles Darwin’s walking sticks.
The move was quick to draw criticism, with many questioning the wisdom of closing the attraction.
A man and woman stand in the Wellcome Collection’s Medicine Man exhibit, behind them is a photograph of Henry Wellcome in Aboriginal attire
The painting A Medical Missionary Caring for a Sick African Man preserved in the Wellcome Collection. On its website, the Wellcome Collection says: “It depicts colonial hierarchies and racial stereotypes – a part of history that should not be forgotten, but which could not be adequately countered and contextualized in the reading room without reaffirming that oppression.”
Other historical items campaigners have wanted removed from their traditional locations this year include a memorial to Tobias Rustat and a ‘racist’ clock in Gloucestershire.
A church judge refused to allow a Cambridge college to remove the monument – which it claimed was a hideous memento of the slave trade – saying it should be preserved as a reminder of “human imperfection”.
Earlier this year, the new National Trust chairman criticized the organization’s “awakened” direction, saying it would no longer engage in political wrangling.
René Olivieri, who took over as Chair in February, said in an interview that while we have the right to ask questions about the history of the Trust’s more than 200 buildings, we cannot “eclipse” other perspectives “for new views”.
Speaking to Country Life magazine, Olivieri said: “It’s important – as much as heritage protection allows – to make these buildings and their contents more interesting to more people.”
https://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-11584157/Outgoing-English-Heritage-chief-Sir-Tim-Laurence-urges-wider-discussion-Britains-past.html?ns_mchannel=rss&ns_campaign=1490&ito=1490 The outgoing head of England’s heritage, Sir Tim Laurence, calls for a broader discussion of Britain’s past