heritage museum

Heritage: place, past and future

Neil Cossons (University of Liverpool - with permission)

Many of the best things have happened because of lunatics with fire in their bellies – I like to think I’ve been an animator of lunatics

Sir Neil Cossons is a leading authority on heritage and industrial archaeology. During his career he has led major museums – from 1983 to 1986 Neil Cossons was the Director of the National Maritime Museum, Greenwich, and for fourteen years Director of the Science Museum, London. He has served as a non-executive director of British Waterways Board. From 2000 until 2007 he was Chairman of English Heritage, the United Kingdom Government’s principal adviser on the historic environment of England.

Sir Neil was Director of the Ironbridge Gorge Museum from 1971 to 1983. Sir Neil has published several books. He was knighted in 1994 for his work in museums and heritage.

Sir Neil was in Dunedin to help celebrate the 150th Celebration of the Dunedin Gasworks Museum.

Talking points:

All history is a form of myth, but accepting the inadequacies of the process you can get something back from the process

The real job is stimulating people to use their imagination

I regret not having been enough of a lunatic

I think the best thing I could do was support activists.

The role (of government heritage organisations) is in recognising the energy, intellect, knowledge and activist capacity of communities to do good things

One of the aspects that appeals to me, rather perversely, is where you see groups (as is here in Dunedin with the Gasworks) taking on what for most people would be either a lost cause or something where people say ‘why on earth would you bother – Gasworks – horrible places’ and really bringing them to life

Science Museum, London
Elgin marbles
Trent Lock
SS Great Britain
British Waterways
Bletchley Park
Preston Bus Station
Skansen Museum (Stockholm)
Plimouth Plantation
Queen St Mill, Burnley

heritage local government

Living heritage

Dr Glen Hazelton is Dunedin’s Heritage Policy Planner. Glen argues that a buildings tell a story about a place that has a past, and that this gives a message about where that place might go in the future. While Dunedin’s European heritage might only be 160 years old, our settlers built in a classical style in a new country to impart a sense of permanence. Coming from a culture protecting their place, they over-engineered on purpose. This, combined with economic downturns, has left Dunedin with a huge stock of Victorian buildings. Glen stresses though, that the job is not just about the Victorian buildings, to become old, buildings have first to be young – and no-so-young. Heritage then, is about a living heritage, the fabric of the place that tells the story of the place. We ask if it is possible to build a new building with the intention of it becoming heritage.

Shane’s number of the week: 1200. That’s how many Sperm Whales where believed to be in the area of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill in 2010. How many of these were harmed or killed is just starting to come to light.

Sam’s joined-up-thinking: This week saw the finals of the Otago Young Enterprise scheme. A highlight this year was the prevalence of corporate social responsibility in the fledgling businesses. Without being required to,many of the student businesses donated a sizable chunk of their profits to community organisations and charities. Sam judged the award for Excellence in Sustainable Business Practice, and was pleased to see one business in particular – Grow Girls from St Hilda’s – take a systems approach to sustainable business. They sold compost derived from waste materials – coffee grounds, chicken manure etc. Grow Girls also won the overall Otago excellence award.