Wednesday, June 9, 2010

An England Field School Retrospective

Our class entered our final week of England Field School on Monday. York looks to have much to offer as far as historical sites are concerned and I am eager to see what the professionals at these sites have to say. So far, I have walked part of the city’s wall—the portion along the Lord Mayor’s Walk and Gillygate. Much of the architecture within the city has me constantly craning my neck as many of the old shops are in old buildings and look to have been converted quite well for modern use. There is new development alongside some of the old and I will pay attention to how the mix of old and new works for York, its tourism industry, and day-to-day living in a living historic city.

As I sit here in our flat on Monksgate listening to the rush of traffic and loud pedestrians, I can’t help but think back on our time at Kiplin Hall and the three weeks of site visits and project days. I have sites that stand out as the most beneficial and interesting. My two favorite sites—ones that made me question my views of how we present history and do conservation—St. Agatha’s Church in Richmond and Hadrian’s Wall. An additional site visit that is fast becoming a favorite was the stained glass conservation presentation with the York Glaziers. Finally, for my own personal interest in vernacular architecture found in rural landscapes, I have eagerly looked out of the window and observed the relationship between building and landscape across the English countryside.
St. Agatha’s was unique in the visible 11th, 14th, and 19th century additions to the building. The beautiful medieval wall illustrations were lovely yet the fact that they had been repainted in places during the 19th century was evident. I feel as though that fact is a good example of just how these features of historic buildings are never static.
Hadrian’s Wall was eye opening for just that reason. Many parts of the wall have been rebuilt and modified, yet it is the evidence of its footprint on the land that has endured. Discussing the wall and its conservation interests with Mike Collins of English Heritage and Eric Wilson of the National Trust was interesting. It was informative, to say the least, on how these two organizations must come together over the common goal of what is good for the 6 miles of Hadrian’s Wall the NT owns and EH oversees.

Throughout our time in North Yorkshire I have seen much of its rural landscape. Visiting the Yorkshire Dales, North Yorkshire Moors, and the Lake District have given me an appreciation of the English countryside and how the buildings are recognized as part of the larger cultural landscape. I feel that America’s perception of historic preservation and landscape conservation has developed separately and only now seems to be coming together. England’s conservation of landscapes and the buildings within has nearly always embraced the value and importance of such a relationship.

This next week in York looks promising. Monday’s visit with Sarah Brown of the York Glaziers has given me a new appreciation for conservation of historic stained glass. The innovative, time consuming, and slightly dangerous parts of stained glass conservation have left me enthralled and appreciative of the fact that I will never look at stained glass the same. This class has been a great way to get a comparative look at conservation in England and the United States. I encourage future students to take part if they can--you'll have a great learning and travelling experience that will stay with you in your graduate and professional life.
--Haley Grant

No comments:

Post a Comment