Other Events

The Ironbridge International Institute for Cultural Heritage runs a number of events and conference throughout the year.

Our future events include:

Rust, Regeneration and Romance: Iron and Steel Landscapes and Cultures – 10-14 July 2013, Ironbridge, UK

For centuries iron and steel have been the fundamental building blocks of modernity. These metals and the technologies, societies and cultures surrounding them have revolutionised the lives of billions of people. From the earliest functional usage of iron in domestic life, to decorative cast iron, from weapons to knives and forks and from the use of high tensile steels in buildings around the world to the stainless steels of space exploration, the transformative power of iron and steel is undeniable. This capacity to transform extends to the landscapes and cultures which have themselves been transformed through the mining, production, processing and consumption of iron and steel. As China and India race to modernise their economies with imported iron and steel, many cities across Europe and North America are still struggling with the decline in production and manufacture. In many parts of Europe former centres of iron and steel production have undergone regeneration and now form part of the tourism economy. Rust has gained currency as part of industrial heritage. Still, in many parts of the developing world, ideas of heritage lie very much in the future, as communities continue to work in the mining of iron ore and the production and fabrication of steel.

This conference seeks to engage in an open multi-disciplinary analysis of iron and steel landscapes and cultures, from the ancient to the modern. It looks toward the legacies of both production and consumption and how these metals have influenced all aspects of social life. We wish to explore the relationships that communities, regions, nations share with iron and steel through its functional use, creative and artistic use and its symbolic use. Indicative questions the conference will address are: How are economies and societies transformed by the extraction and processing of iron? How does the environmental impact and legacy of iron and steel sites shape social and political life? How do governments and communities deal with both the expansion and decline of the iron and steel industries? What are the forms and formats of regeneration for iron and steel landscapes and communities?  To what extent are global communities connected through iron and steel, economically and culturally? How have the landscapes and cultures of iron and steel found expression through various art forms? How are these landscapes managed and understood?

For further information please visit the Institute’s website.

The Ironbridge Lecture 2012: Who owns, Who knows, Who cares? Legal Milestones on the Trail of Orphaned and Abducted Art – 5 December 2012, University of Birmingham, UK

Museums contain many things of uncertain origin and lineage, inevitably because many collections are ancient and because collecting practices were different long ago. An object that has lived through colonisation, war and persecution, for example, is unlikely to arrive at a museum with a full family tree.

These gaps in knowledge are part of the fascination of museum objects. They remind us that things had a life before they became exhibits and that behind these inanimate objects are human stories. To rebuild the past movement of an object can be as instructive as to unveil its original creation and purpose. But the same gaps can be embarrassing when the museum is asked to lend the object or is otherwise challenged to justify its holding of it.

Between the unearthing of an archaeological object and its appearance in a public museum there exists a middle stage that seldom excites much public attention. This concerns the process by which a discovered antiquity becomes public property or otherwise enters the public domain. Such processes vary from country to country, not only in the way they work but also in the respect they receive. They affect both the museums that acquire such objects into their permanent collections and the museums that borrow and display them. The Museums Association Code prohibits the modern acquisition of objects that are tainted by title defects or, by illicit export and, the Association provides guidance for the consideration of claims for the repatriation of objects removed in ancient times.

However, that such laws are not universally honoured can be witnessed in the modern law cases that have arisen from dealings in illicit archaeological material. Such dealings have been condemned as causing many evils: the mutilation of archaeological sites, the irretrievable loss of contextual knowledge, the banishment of treasures from the public gaze, the debasement of the legitimate market by the upward percolation of tainted objects that threaten its integrity, and even the corrosion of national dignity and identity. On occasions they have damaged the respect in which museums are held and have called into question the proper role of cultural institutions.

This lecture will examine the stories underlying some of the claims and the efforts of those who attempt to retrieve ‘orphaned’ and ‘abandoned’ objects and asks whether the present network of laws go far enough and whether the policies underlying the current approaches are coherent and justified. Should our desire to act correctly in this field go beyond an exercise in institutional self-denial? Should we be seeking a more creative and pragmatic response to the challenges presented by these orphaned and abducted antiquities.

The year’s lecture will be delivered by Professor Norman Palmer QC Hon CBE FSA.

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