Strand 3: York Living with History

Yesterday we launched the York strand (‘Strand 3’) of the ‘How should decisions about heritage be made?’ project. We’re calling it Living with History and are treating it like a Public Inquiry into how heritage and heritage decisions affect the lives of people in York. Below is Martin’s account of the event hosted by University of York’s Institute for the Public Understanding of the Past.

Reblogged from York’s Alternative History

Martin Bashforth

Thanks to the hosting by IPUP (Institute for the Public Understanding of the Past), the meeting yesterday evening was a huge success. There were about 50 people who turned up. Martin set the context by showing what YAH has been doing, how we like to engage with the public and how we might be about ‘dissent’ but that it emerges from mainstream society.

Helen introduced the Living with History project, which is concerned with how heritage fits into the decision-making process, how that process works and how we ( i.e. the general public in York) might improve that. How can we make good decisions out of complex and messy issues and what would count as a good decision?

Using pending decisions to be made about the buildings at Stonebow House, she stimulated a lively debate and multiple conversations around the room. We will be able to use the ideas generated in getting this project off the ground in a bigger way. Many thanks to the generous participation of those who came along.

In the interests of transparency, what follows is the unedited raw data generated from the flip charts at the end of the meeting, expressing concerns about the Stonebow site itself, the values and issues involved, and concerns about how decisions are made:

What would go back?
Story of site and architecture
Why not suitable letting?
Is it useful?
It’s an example of its type?
Parts in use e.g. York Music Scene – where would they go?
Affordability for users
Opportunity for something new e.g. green space
What is the current allocation on York City Plan?
Are decisions therefore limited?
What consultancy has there been?
There is a different York constituency involved – is this perceived negatively?
Who values it?
How is it valued?
How is value measured?
It is difficult to get people involved until too late
There are 300 community organisations offering a potential way in to effective consultation
People are directly involved – what do they want?
It is not just about buildings
What about housing needs
There is a sense of a ‘democratic deficit’ in that the consultation processes adopted appear alien and false (i.e. not actually listening, just going through the motions)
What was there before and why was it changed?
What is the relationship of the specific site to the wider locality

Proof positive, if it were needed, that, as YAH tries to highlight – past, present and future are live issues and go beyond mere ‘preservation’ into the daily lives and concerns of people here and now. There will be more to come. Watch this space!


Science & Music Collecting Project

VCS3 10321487 edited

Forte Piano? Casio VL-Tone? Electronium? Stratocaster? Revox?

What musical objects might be added to the Science Museum’s collections? Are you up for a participatory investigation?

The Science Museum is looking for people who know about and are passionate about music, musical instruments and the technologies of music to collaboratively develop ideas for the museum’s collections. Decisions about what to collect have traditionally been taken by curators, making judgments about the importance and significance of objects and whether they can tell a good story. In this collaborative collecting project, we want to experiment with broadening-out the kinds of expertise, ways of knowing, cultures, sub-cultures, memories and experiences which inform the Science Museum’s collecting decisions.

Between January and May 2014, ten of us will work together to get to know the existing collections and procedures and then to conduct research and make a series of recommendations for items that might be added to enhance the music collections. The project will work on two levels – there is the task at hand of developing these recommendations. Alongside this we will contribute towards a wider research project ‘How should decisions about heritage be made?’ by asking: What makes a good and legitimate decision in terms of museum collection? Who should be involved? How might different claims, expertise and contributions to museums be democratically enabled?

We’re hoping to collaborate with people with a wide range of motivations, interests, experiences and knowledge so we’d like you to write 300-500 words offering one of the following:

An object you think might be added to the Science Museum collections and why.
A story of your involvement in the music or music technology scene – what insights might this offer
Your response to the question ‘what would a democratic museum look like?’

Applicants will need to be able to attend five, monthly, meetings in London. Reasonable travel expenses will be covered.

Closing date: Tuesday 17 December at midnight

Send to:

The ‘How should decisions about heritage be made?’ project is funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council and coordinated by the Centre for Critical Studies in Museums, Galleries and Heritage at the University of Leeds.

For further information about the project see:

Arts & Humanities Research Council