Museums and Apartheid

Aron Mazel has recently published an extensive paper about the creation of the South African Cultural History Museum in the 1950 and 1960s that focuses on (i) the role that several apartheid ideologues played in this and (ii) the different phases leading to its establishment and the ‘twists and turns’ associated with them.

Nationalist Party Senator, DH van Zyl

Nationalist Party Senator, DH van Zyl, was a key figure in the creation of the South African Cultural History Museum.

‘In the 1950s and 1960s, white National Party (NP) and Afrikaner Broederbond (AB) ideologues and functionaries, who came to power in 1948, recast and realigned South African museums, to strengthen the ideological underpinning of Apartheid. Investigation of an extensive range of documentary sources housed in South African archives has led to the suggestion that the splitting of the South African Museum (SAM) in Cape Town, which led to the creation of the South African Cultural History Museum (SACHM), formed part of this process. The paper shows that (i) NP and AB ideologues increasingly dominated the SAM Board during the 1950s and early 1960s and (ii) their aspirations changed from the display of cultural history material, within the auspices of the SAM, into the establishment a fully-fledged independent SACHM committed to the presentation and housing of white South African and European material and history. The SACHM came into existence in 1964.’

Reference: Mazel, A.D. 2013. Apartheid’s child: the creation of the South African Cultural History Museum in the 1950s and 1960s. Museum History Journal. 6 (2): 166-202.


Rock Art CARE Project Northumberland focus group

Focus group members at West Lordenshaw 1D.

Focus group members at West Lordenshaw 1D.

At the beginning of November the Heritage and Science: Working Together in the CARE of Rock Art project held its second focus group, this time for rock art non-experts.

The event involved nine non-experts. Along with the project research team, the group visited the rock art site at Lordenshaw in Northumberland National Park to test out the draft tool kit, which is one of the key deliverables of the project. A discussion was then held in Rothbury to gain feedback on possible improvements and changes to the tool kit.

The participants were mainly drawn from North East ramblers groups so they were certainly prepared for any conditions. However as it was the weather was perfect. The low autumn sunshine really picked out the rock art in a spectacular way.

West Lordenshaw 2C in the autumnal morning light.

West Lordenshaw 2C in the autumnal morning light.

The feedback on the tool kit was vital as part of project aim is to co-produce its resources. There was lots of very useful feedback provided by the group, such as pointing out it was sometimes hard to distinguish a difference in the condition of motifs. An expert, such as Dr Mazel, is so used to seeing many motifs that this issue hadn’t been considered.

The end product will help protect open-air rock art by creating a means for anyone to quickly evaluate the condition of rock art based on scientific research into potential risks to the stone.

To join the wider discussion about rock art in the UK and Ireland visit the project on Facebook.

AHRC funding for Northern Bridge Doctoral Training Partnership

The Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC) announced this month that Newcastle University, Durham University and Queen’s University Belfast are to receive a total of £11.2 million to fund a new programme of postgraduate research training under the new Northern Bridge Doctoral Training Partnership (NBDTP).

The Partnership will bring together the research strengths of the three universities, offering postgraduate research students opportunities to work with partner organizations and research leaders across a wide range of Arts and Humanities subjects and to benefit from new specialist training and resources. The award will provide fully funded studentships across the three institutions over the next five years. This represents over six per cent of the total number of AHRC studentships awarded nationally for this period.

To find out more about NBDTP and how the new Partnership will benefit doctoral research at ICCHS current PhD research students are invited to attend a special Student Forum event on Monday 9 December, 2-4pm in the Doctoral Training Room (Fifth Floor, Daysh Building, Newcastle University). Please email by Friday 29 November if you would like to attend.

Rock Art CARE Project Donegal Fieldwork

The project team.

The project team (left to right): A. Mazel, P. Lewis, P, Warke, M, Giesen, R. Enlander.

The Heritage and Science: Working Together in the CARE of Rock Art project completed its third and final data collection exercise in early September. The team included Dr Aron Mazel, Dr Myra Giesen and Peter Lewis from Newcastle University with Dr Patricia Warke and Dr Rebecca Enlander from Queen’s University Belfast.

The team visited several rock art sites in Donegal, Ireland, to gather further scientific data on the contributing factors to rock art decay. Twenty four panels were analysed in a variety of conditions, some almost perfect but others were very eroded. This was very helpful in providing a variety of data that can be used to analyse the factors affecting rock art condition. Despite very high concentrations of rock art, especially in an area called Doagh Island, all the sites were on private land and not signposted or easily accessible.

Donegal rock art.

Example of rock art in an excellent condition.

As usual soil samples were taken at each site but unfortunately, and not for the first time, the XRF machine broke down so it was impossible to analyse the rock composition. This will now be done at a later date. The findings, along with the written recordings of risk factors at the panels, will help to further shape the tool kit and management guide that aim to help protect rock art.

With the data collected for the Donegal sites, the fieldwork element of the project is now complete. The next phase of the project will focus on continuing with consultations over the toolkit and management guide with a view to disseminating the final products in January 2014.

Find out more about the CARE project and the forthcoming toolkit and management guide visit

To join a wider discussion about rock art and rock art sites visit the Rock Art of the UK and Ireland page on Facebook.