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Best Research Project

The following four projects have been shortlisted for the best research project category in the 2016 Historic England Angel Awards.

To find out more about the projects, please read the excerpts from their submissions below. 

Fylde Decorative and Fine Arts Society for the research project, Tagging the Treasures

A group of women seated at a desk in a library, in the process of research work.
150 volunteers, researchers, invigilators at exhibitions, and many more in other activities helped in the task of researching over 240 artworks, 125 artists and 88 donors

The aims of the project

The aims of the project were to research and catalogue our Town Art Collection and produce an online and printed catalogue, thus making images and information about the Collection fully accessible for the first time; inform and create awareness of the Town Collection stored in the basement of the Town Hall and its importance to local culture and heritage.

The outcomes of the project

The result was a comprehensive online catalogue, and an abridged printed catalogue. Images and descriptions of the artworks and information about the artists and the donors, some of it accessible for the first time to the public. The project enabled an ambitious programme of diverse and innovative public and community engagement in our local area.

How it began

June 2013 to March 2016 - During the Tagging the Treasures Project it benefited from a grant of £24,000 from the Heritage Lottery Fund. We worked in partnership with The Friends of the Lytham St Annes Art Collection, Fylde Borough Council, Lancashire County Council Museum Service, as well as other stakeholders.

Barrier to success

The biggest barrier to engaging with any heritage asset is an audience not knowing about its existence. The project has for the first time brought about a recognition of the Collection that had never previously enjoyed any public profile.

Who was involved

We engaged 150 volunteers, researchers, invigilators at exhibitions, and many more in other activities. Research was undertaken on over 240 artworks, 125 artists and 88 donors. We all know research is a continuous process, it does not end.

Continuing the work

Monthly, we now have an average of 1,620 hits on our website; where our research can be found. The profile of our Collection has increased; more people are now aware that the Collection consists of quality works by important artists and sculptors. Donors who were previously not known to the wider public have now had their stories told. The most striking achievement of the project is increased awareness of our Town Collection and its importance as part of our local heritage.

A group of core researchers are continuing to research the Collection under the auspices of the Friends. Others are continuing to use their new curatorial skills, helping to put together an exhibition of the Collection at Fylde Gallery in September 2016, presented by the Friends. Surveys showed that prior to the project, knowledge of how the Collection came about was high, among DFAS and Friends of the Collection, around 80%, but only 15% of the public were aware of this. After the project, members of the public that knew about the Collection had doubled to 30%. 4,500 people visited three exhibitions curated by volunteers. 2,100 people attended 25 lectures, talks and presentations. 30 pupils from a local primary school took part in our project, researching a chromolithograph of the Mexico Disaster of 1886 that happened just off our shores.

Port Sunlight Village Trust and Wirral Borough Council for the research project The Port Sunlight Local Listed Building Consent Order

A group of five women standing on a lawn in front of a period building.
As one of the first to use a Local Listed Building Consent Order in the country, the project's resourceful research team found solutions to a lot of issues without referring to case studies

The aims of the project

The Local Listed Building Consent Order (LLBCO) grants listed building consent for specified works within Port Sunlight village - principally the replacement of severely deteriorated or inappropriate yard gates, rear doors and rear windows. The main aims of the Port Sunlight LLBCO centred around the desire to more efficiently and effectively conserve the significance of the village.

Unconsented works to rear windows and other features were having a negative impact on the village, and limited resources of Wirral Borough Council (WBC) were being taken up considering applications for listed building consent which were routinely consented. The LLBCO sought to address these site-specific issues by creating a system which provided clarity as to how best to carry out common works to their property, empower them to do this with ease and reduce capacity strain on WBC by removing the need to apply for commonly consented listed building consent applications.

The outcomes of the project

Following a great deal of work by both organisations, as well as advice and grant funding from Historic England, the Port Sunlight LLBCO was formally adopted on 26 November 2015. This was among the first LLBCO's in the country. Feedback has shown that owners feel greater clarity as to how best to go about common alterations to their homes, and a number of applications have already been received to remedy poor alterations as a result of the LLBCO. The local planning authority has also noted lower frequency of listed building consent applications for works addressed under the order.

The research project

The development, implementation of the Port Sunlight LLBCO was led by WBC and the PSVT.

Need

Strain on the resources of local planning authorities is a growing issue, and the LLBCO has helped to reduce this by granting consent for positive and routinely approved works which would normally require a more lengthy process of listed building consent. This enables the planning and conservation staff to spend more time addressing other conservation issues and opportunities within their area. The conservation issues particular to Port Sunlight also needed addressing - in particular the negative impact of unconsented works to listed homes, and lack of clarity for homeowners as to what works would best conserve their area.

Passion

Both WBC and the Port Sunlight Village Trust (PSVT) are passionate about their historic environment. To undertake such a project, which during the development stages was one of only two in the country, was a daunting task for both organisations, and their willingness to undertake this shows their passion and commitment.

Perseverance and imagination

Being one of the first LLBCO's in the country, there were no case studies from which to draw assistance, and the project threw up many issues which needed to be resolved. For example - how to make the LLBCO as flexible as it needed to be without creating different staff/time demands on WBC? And how to conserve the variety between windows, while also giving homeowners clear advice as to what would be the best option? Much time and effort was spent by the team in working out these issues and ensuring that a good balance was made.

The 'lessons learned ' from the LLBCO has fed into both training and an upcoming article in Historic England's 'Research News' for the benefit of others considering this option.

Pride of Place project team for the research project, Pride of Place: England’s LGBTQ Heritage

We have given public lectures on this work and organised outreach events with archives and museums, such as the Leeds City Museum and the Horniman Museum.
Members of the team gave public lectures and organised outreach events with archives and museums including the Horniman Museum shown here

The aims of the project

The aims of the project were to explore LGBTQ heritage and the built environment and provide the LGBTQ community and the general public with better access to this history, to demonstrate that LGBTQ history is fundamental to our understanding of our national heritage, to connect LGBTQ history to the built environment and landscapes, to engage the public, especially LGBTQ communities, in researching England’s LGBTQ heritage, raising awareness through social media, produce educational resources to develop skills and awareness of LGBTQ, create robust frameworks to enable identification and potential protection of significant places with LGBTQ connections in national and local listings.

The outcomes of the project

An online, crowd-sourced map of LGBTQ locations across England. The map was launched in June 2015 and to date has gathered over 1,600 entries, showing that LGBTQ heritage is everywhere in England and from all time periods. An online exhibition, which will be launched on Historic England’s website in September 2016.

LGBTQ heritage teaching resources.

At least 20 entries on The List will be amended and their LGBTQ histories will become a recognised and celebrated part of their heritage, and thus England’s heritage.

The Pride of Place team will also recommend five sites for new listing based on their LGBTQ significance. Through these amendments and listings, the legacy of Pride of Place will be that LGBTQ heritage continues to be recognised and celebrated in the official histories of the built landscape in England.

The research project

The project has used a range of methods to record LGBTQ histories. We explored multiple creative ways of reaching broad audiences and collecting their LGBTQ histories. There were test versions of our crowd-sourced map on different digital platforms, and we discussed with LGBTQ communities the pros and cons of each. These are small gatherings where people share their LGBTQ memories and histories and pin them on our digital map. At one of our pinning party events, over 80 sites were pinned by 12 people. These were creative, energetic and enjoyable events that in themselves are part of an important LGBTQ heritage. We will be attending Trans Pride 2016 on 23 July to host a larger pinning party with trans communities.

Sharing the outcomes

Members of the team have given papers on the Pride of Place project at academic social history conferences and regional heritage conferences. We have given public lectures on this work and organised outreach events with archives and museums, such as the Leeds City Museum and the Horniman Museum.

Other outputs of Pride of Place will further both public and professional understandings of LGBTQ heritage. Combined, the results of our research will enable members of the public, teachers, students, heritage professionals and academics to better understand LGBTQ heritage.

Star Carr Research Group for the research project Star Carr Archaeology Project

An archaeological dig site with four archaeologiests at work.
Research underway at the Star Carr site

The aim of the project

The aim of the project is to recover the archaeological information and to disseminate it as widely as possible.

Outcomes of the project

The project recovered an extensive range of information and has completely changed the picture of how we see and understand this little known part of early British prehistory. It has produced academic and popular publications, a number of PhD and MSc positions and numerous public events across North Yorkshire, school interpretation days and open days. The results of the archaeological work are being used to inform the restoration of an adjacent aggregates extraction site to create a physical interpretation of the Early Mesolithic period.

The research project

The Star Carr Archaeology Project is part of the Vale of Pickering Research Project and is a collaborative research project between the University of York, Manchester and Chester. The Star Carr research has been ongoing since 2000 as a series of evaluations and sampling exercises to establish the condition of the Star Carr site, an internationally important, waterlogged lake edge site used throughout the Early Mesolithic period (9000BC). The sampling revealed that the site was under threat from chemical erosion within the soil, whereby the deposits were being de-watered by farming activity degraded by a weak mix of acid. It was estimated that the site had in the region of five to ten years' life before the archaeological information was lost. The site was scheduled and immediately placed at 'High Risk'. The project team gained a 1.5m Euro European Research Council grant and additional funding from the University partners and Historic England.

Excavation

Excavation began in 2013 and continued until 2015. Over this period the excavations revealed the extent of a large timber platform on the lake edge, evidence for the earliest use of wood-working in the British Isles, evidence of the oldest 'house' in Britain and the largest collection of Mesolithic artefacts yet recovered from a single site. However, the greatest and most profound results revealed that our previous assumptions about the Mesolithic have been wrong. Rather than being a period characterised by small, family based groups who followed the seasons around the landscape, the Mesolithic can now be seen as a complex period with large communities investing in particular places and creating complex settlements but set against the uncertainties of climate change.

Legacy

The Project team has collaborated with partners across Britain and Europe, linking their results to new work on climate and landscape change. In addition the Project has collaborated with a neighbouring aggregates quarry in order to assist in their post-quarrying landscape restoration. The aim of this collaboration is to use the landscape and environmental evidence from Star Carr to drive a completely new approach to landscape restoration, one that has an educational role by creating physical, 'soft' interpretation.

Star Carr has been an internationally significant site since its first discovery in the late 1930s. The recent excavations have saved its dwindling and rapidly decaying archaeological evidence, and the new information will keep it at the forefront of international archaeology for at least the next 50 years through its dramatic reinterpretation and its focus on how people have adapted to and  lived with climate change - something we consider a very modern problem.

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