Cuts at King’s College London?

An excerpt from Mary Beard’s latest:

Now it is the turn of King’s College London – which is planning (very confidentially, so far) to lose up to 22 posts in Arts and Humanities by the end of the academic year. This means that at least one subject (which ought to be a protected species) will disappear.


Anyway, at King’s this will mean (so they themselves predict) taking Byzantine and Modern Greek into Classics (that’s maybe no bad idea), losing four lecturing jobs in German, Spanish and Modern Greek (so much for our country’s language provision) — and it will mean removing Palaeography entirely. Those fighting to keep their jobs will be asked (among other things) to show how much research income they have brought in.

Palaeographers may be a quirky crowd. But King’s has the only established chair in the subject in the country, and a tradition of tremendous research in the subject (recently exemplified by Julian Brown and Tilly de la Mare) going back decades. The only way that we can hope to understand books and manuscripts of the past (not just how to read them, but also to work out why they were as the were.. and what difference it makes) is to keep the study of palaeography alive. It is the underpinning of history and pre-modern English literature and has crucial links with Classics and the transmission of classical texts,

This point was made firmly in the last round of university cuts — where the King’s provision was explicitly singled out as distinguished.

All we can do is write to the Principal of King’s and make a plea for preserving the infra-structure of intellectual culture. Once these skills disappear, you never get them back.

Dr Beard’s post has links to the relevant folks to send your indignant mail …

via A Don’s Life by Mary Beard – Times Online – WBLG: University cuts, redundancies – and bye-bye palaeography at King’s College London.

… and I note now the existence of a Facebook page for this: Save Paleography At King’s London

On the web:

Guernsey’s Roman Shipwreck

From the BBC (January 27):

Dr Margaret Rule clearly remembers receiving a phone call from diver Richard Keen on Christmas Day 1982 saying he had found a ship wreck.

The ship was located in the mouth of St Peter Port and was suspected to be a medieval barge.

Closer inspection in summer 1983 revealed it was in fact a Roman ship and so work began to “rescue” it.

It was raised between 1984 and 1986 and since 1999 has been at the Mary Rose Trust undergoing preservation work.

Dr Rule described raising the ship as “a rescue operation” because “the ship was being destroyed by the propeller wash of the large vessels entering and leaving the harbour”.

She said that discovering it was a Roman vessel was “the most exciting moment of my life” from both a personal and historical perspective.

She explained that the discovery was very important as it is a rare sea going Roman ship, while most found are canal or river vessels and that it would shed light on the trade routes used due to the pottery found from as far away as Spain and Algeria!

Dr Jason Monaghan from the Guernsey Museum added to this saying the Asterix is “one of only two of its type surviving and it is Britain’s largest Roman object”.

He went on to say that once the ship had been raised, thanks to private funding from the Guernsey Maritime Trust, it was studied and cleaned up before eventually being sent to The Mary Rose Trust in England for preservation work.

By the start of 2010 this preservation work was largely complete and the feasibility of bringing the vessel back to Guernsey was being investigated.

Dr Monaghan said: “It would need to be displayed in a ‘giant goldfish tank’ or glass tank to keep the bugs and dust off and keep the humidity stable… if it gets too dry it will fall apart or too wet it will go mouldy.”

Richard Keen who first found the Asterix also hoped to see it return to Guernsey, but acknowledged it would be “a fairly massive undertaking” and that it would “require a lot of money”.

The ship’s namesake is a the small but fearless French comic book character created in 1959, who lives in the only free village in Gaul (modern France), which was part of the Roman Empire.

via BBC – Raising Asterix, Guernsey’s Roman shipwreck.

Back on the 22nd, there was this brief item, also from the BBC:

A 1,700 year-old ship wreck could be returned to Guernsey if funding can be found, after undergoing preservation work since it was raised in 1985.

The Asterix was found by local diver Richard Keen in St Peter Port harbour in 1982, where it had lay since 280.

The timbers were taken to the Mary Rose Trust in Portsmouth for immersion in wax and freeze drying.

Guernsey Museum Service said money is needed to pay for somewhere to store and display the ship.

The Asterix was destroyed by fire and sunk in the 3rd Century where the entrance to St Peter Port harbour was later established.

The museum service has said it hopes to bring the wreck, measuring 18m (60ft), back to the island for a permanent display.

via BBC – Wreck of Roman ship Asterix could return to Guernsey

Both reports feature additional video coverage.

On the web:

The Fitzwilliam Has Some Interesting Stuff

From Cambridge News:

CAMBRIDGE’S treasure house of art has opened a gleaming new window on what life was like for ordinary people thousands of years ago.

Experts at the Fitzwilliam Museum have spent the past 18 months revamping its famous collection of ancient Greek and Roman artefacts – and from Saturday, visitors will be able to enjoy an intimate view of the world ruled by the likes of Alexander the Great, Julius Caesar and Hadrian.

The refurbishment of the antiquities section has cost nearly £1 million, and Dr Timothy Potts, director of the Fitzwilliam, said it would offer “fresh insights” on the two great empires.

As well as works of art from 2,000 years ago, the collection includes a vast number of everyday objects, such as eating and drinking utensils, domestic pottery, and jewellery.

There is even a woman’s cosmetics box, dating back 2,500 years.

The Greek and Roman gallery at the museum had hardly altered since the 1960s, and it has now been brought up to modern-day standards, with new display cases and better lighting.

A museum spokeswoman said: “The primary focus of the new displays is on people – the figures who, across the centuries, have given these objects their appearance and shaped their history.

“New object information aims to build up an illuminating picture of the artists and craftsmen who created the works, the customers who commissioned or used them, and the collectors, restorers and conservators who have affected the way they look today.

“The displays explore issues such as: what did people do at drinking parties? How did they relate to their gods? How did they remember the dead?”

Dr Potts said: “The Fitzwilliam’s collection of Greek and Roman antiquities is of international significance, so I’m delighted that we now have a superbly redesigned space in which to display it to its full potential.

“This new presentation, which is based on recent research and conservation work, will offer many fresh insights, not only to new visitors, but also to those familiar with the collection.”

The gallery update is part of a project funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council.

The original article also has a couple of interesting videos … whatever the case,  folks will also want to check out Charlotte Higgins’ comments on this one …
via Cambridge News | Latest News From In & Around Cambridge City | Latest Sports, Jobs & Business News in Cambridge Newspaper – £1m insight into life in two great empires.

Tip o’ the pileus to Virginia Knight who sends along a link to a nice little slideshow on the Fitz from the BBC:

Vodpod videos no longer available.