Ashmolean Museum - Acting Director's Report 1997-8 - (1) to No 4494

<br /> Oxford University Gazette: Ashmolean Museum Annual Report 1997-8<br /> (supplement)

Oxford University Gazette

Ashmolean Museum: Acting Director's Report 1997-8

Supplement (1) to Gazette No. 4494

Wednesday, 9 December 1998

Contents of the supplement:

To Gazette No.
4495 (10 December 1998)

Gazette Home Page

This Supplement, containing a general account of the year under
review, reproduces part of the full Report of the Visitors for the
Academic Year 1997–8
, which will be published shortly by the
Museum. In addition to the Acting Director's Report, printed here,
the full Report will contain Departmental Reports, details of new
acquisitions, and staff records. Members of Congregation wish-ing to
obtain a copy should contact the Publications Officer, Ashmolean


On 24 June 1997, Mr Chris Smith, the Secretary of State for
Culture, Media, and Sport, announced that the Ashmolean
Museum was among the first twenty-six museums in
England to be awarded Designation by the Museums and Galleries
Commission. The Museum was designated on
account of the `outstanding pre-eminent collections and the potential
to meet the highest standards of collection care'. The Museum's
citation read:

`Britain's oldest museum has a range of major holdings which merit
designation, with particular strengths in antiquities, western and
eastern art, coins, casts, with collecting continuity over a long
period of time.'

At a ceremony in the Museum of the History of Science on Monday,
20 October, in the presence of the Vice-Chancellor, the Acting
Director was presented with the Certificate of Designation by Mr Mark
Fisher, Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State to the Department for
Culture, Media, and Sport. The Museum looks forward to playing a
leading role in the development of this scheme.

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The Directorship

Dr George Goldner, Drue Heinz Chairman of the Department of Prints
and Drawings in the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, who had
been appointed in 1996 to
succeed Professor Christopher White on his retirement
in September 1997 withdrew from the appointment in April. Professor
Christopher White's retirement at the end of September was marked by
various functions in
his honour. He reviewed the twelve years of his distinguished
directorship in the Annual Report for 1996–7. The Visitors had
appointed Dr P.R.S. Moorey, Keeper of Antiquities, in the meanwhile
to be Acting Director from 1 October 1997 until 1 October 1998, or
until a new Director took up the post, whichever might be the
earlier. In the event, Dr Christopher Brown, formerly Chief Curator
of the National Gallery in London, was appointed to the Directorship
with effect from 1 June 1998. Functions were held in the first week
of June to mark his arrival.

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The New Director

Dr Christopher Brown took up the Directorship of the Ashmolean on 1
June after twenty-six years at the National Gallery, where he was
Chief Curator. He was educated at Merchant Taylors' School and at St
Catherine's College, Oxford, graduating with a BA (Hons.) in Modern
History in 1969, and achieving a diploma in the History of Art with
distinction in 1971. He obtained his doctorate from the Courtauld
Institute of Art at the University of London in 1986. In 1971,
Christopher Brown was made Curator of seventeenth- and
eighteenth-century Dutch and Flemish paintings at the National
Gallery, and appointed Chief Curator in 1989. He is a Trustee of the
Dulwich Picture Gallery. He has published widely on sixteenth- and
seventeenth-century Northern Art, including Pieter Bruegel the Elder,
Carel Fabritius, Rembrandt, and Van Dyck, as well as cataloguing the
National Gallery's Dutch collection The Dutch School
, which was published in 1991. Exhibitions he
has organised include `Rembrandt: The Master and his Workshop', `The
Drawings of Anthony van Dyck', `Art in the Making: Rembrandt', `Dutch
Landscape: The Early Years', `Making and Meaning: Rubens'
Landscapes', and `Masters of Light: Dutch Painting from Utrecht in
the Golden Age'.

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Development of the Ashmolean site to the
west and north

On the west side of the Museum, the building of the new Sackler
Library began in July and is scheduled for completion by the autumn
of 2000. The windows on the north end of the Western Art Department's
offices have been sealed against noise from the adjacent building
site. Half of the Paper Conservation Studio has been vacated to make
way for the work and Miss Chantry has diverted much of her work into
Miss Eustace's office. Miss Eustace will share Dr Whistler's office
until she can return to her own room. The considerable movement of
furniture and equipment, and the need to house displaced archives, is
putting much pressure on the available space. The Department of
Antiquities will lose all natural light in the Students' Room and one
assistant keeper's room along the Egyptian Mezzanine corridor as a
result of this project. The Students' Room will be fitted with
improved electric lighting and continue, for the present, as a vital
storage and study facility. The assistant keeper's room will be used
in future for storage of archives and cuneiform tablets. The Library
Project involves demolition of the present Griffith Institute
building. The Institute is to be rehoused in a new building against
the west wall of the Museum. The Heritage Lottery Fund has awarded a
grant of £350,000 towards the cost of a gallery for the display
of early twentieth-century works of art, immediately above the new
Griffith Institute. The new gallery will be entered from the existing
Landscape Room. The successful result of this application to the
Lottery Fund is largely due to
the considerable work put into its preparation by Miss
Eustace and the Administrator. An excavation of the site by the
Oxford Archaeological Unit prior to this development revealed
evidence of occupation from the Bronze Age to major medieval stone
foundations running under the Institute of Archaeology.

On the north side of the Museum, plans for the Ashmolean Research
Centre for the Humanities (ARCH) are rapidly developing. Since
October, the Acting Director (and from 1 June, the Director) has been
a member of a task force, chaired by the Warden of Keble College,
which is actively engaged in the planning. It is hoped that this
project will provide appropriate accommodation for the Education
Service with direct access to the Museum from St Giles' for parties
arriving by coach. Other developments of interest to the Museum are
still being actively pursued, not least the possibility of enlarging
the Cast Gallery,
and incorporating it more directly into the rest of the

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Gallery Refurbishment

At the beginning of the academic year, the refurbishment of the
Petrie Room was completed with the installation of a redesigned
display of the Egyptian Predynastic collections, including the Min
statues (Annual Report 1996–7, 16). Now that the Metrological
Relief has been moved to the refurbished Beazley Gallery upstairs, so
no longer obstructing the view from one end of the Randolph Gallery
to the other, a fine vista has been opened up.

With the opening of the new Bothmer Gallery at the end of last
year to accommodate the Classical Greek Reserve Collections (Annual
Report 1996–7, 23) it has been possible this year to refurbish
the Beazley Gallery, once again using much of the late
nineteenth-century furniture originally installed there. The displays
have been designed with particular attention to the needs of visitors
of all ages and backgrounds, not least the increasing number of
visiting schoolchildren taught through the collection. The famous
Metrological Relief is now mounted on the east wall of the Gallery,
whilst the West wall accommodates a display of Greek epigraphy in
which the inscriptions from the Pusey House Collection have been
installed with a much appreciated grant from Luther College, Decora,
Iowa, USA.

A generous grant of £40,000 from Daniel Katz Ltd.,
supplemented by a grant of £20,000 from the Association for
Business Sponsorship of the Arts, has enabled the Department of
Western Art to fund the refurbishment of the Weldon Gallery and
undertake a number of much-needed environmental improvements in the
Weldon Gallery and in the adjacent Dutch and Landscape galleries.
This project was largely organised by Dr Whistler.

The new Gallery for Japanese Decorative Art was completed and
formally opened on 30 September, by the Minister Plenipotentiary of
Japan, Mr Sadaaki Numata. The fitting-out of this newly-built gallery
was made possible by a generous anonymous benefaction. The renovation
of the Indian, Tibetan, and South-East Asian Gallery, which was made
possible by the generosity of another anonymous donor, has been
brought to completion. A formal opening was held in May.

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Donations and grants

Once again the Museum has been the recipient of many generous gifts,
which have not only enabled us to maintain and improve the standards
of the day-to-day functioning, but in various ways have greatly added
to what the Museum can offer to our public. Apart from the most
generous and totally unexpected bequest of approximately
£132,000 made by the late Miss Cynthia Mary
Perrins (the Bodleian Library received a similar sum), the donations
have all been directed towards specific projects, acknowledgement and
details of which will be found in the various sections below.

A further grant to the Department of Eastern Art from the
Leverhulme Trust was received in July 1997, to catalogue and research
the Newberry collection of Islamic embroideries. The project is for
three years. The applicant was Professor James Allan, and the
researcher to be funded is Dr Ruth Barnes.

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The Department of Antiquities continues to use the Gordon Childe Room
for a temporary exhibition of Egyptian funerary equipment until such
time as funding is obtained to refurbish a new large alcove off the
Griffith Gallery
created by the Forecourt Project.

In the Department of Western Art, two exhibitions
devoted to the works of architects, `Nicholas Hawksmoor and the
Replanning of Oxford' and `L.N. Cottingham (1787–1847),
Architect of the Gothic Revival' were made possible with sponsorship
from the Architects Design Partnership for the first and from De
Montfort University for the second. The `Claude Lorrain' exhibition
could not have taken place without very generous assistance from the
Department of Prints and Drawings in the British
Museum. This was the first occasion in which the two Print Rooms have
collaborated on an exhibition of this
nature; the size and scope of the exhibition was ideally suited for
the Ashmolean and it is much to be hoped that this will be the first
of a series of exhibitions of prints and drawings shared by the two

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Bequests to the Collections

The National Art Collections Fund has presented to the Ashmolean a
group of ancient Greek vases and terracottas from the bequest of
Walter Ison (1908–97). Trained as an architect, Ison had a
lifelong passion for classical architecture. He was the
brother-in-law of the distinguished archaeologist Humphrey Payne
(1902–36), who was perhaps Sir John Beazley's most famous
student, so it is most appropriate for these objects to find a
permanent home in Oxford.

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Acquisitions by gift or purchase

After more than six years during which their future was a matter of
uncertainty, a superb pair of Late Anglo-Saxon solid silver
strap-ends discovered on Ipsden Heath near Henley have found a
permanent home in the Department of Antiquities. The Museum is much
indebted to Mr Christopher Kennington, on whose land they were
initially found with a metal detector in 1991, and to the Museums and
Galleries Commission and the Victoria &
Albert Museum Purchase Grant Fund for assistance with the acquisition
of these fine objects after they were
declared not to be treasure trove in 1994.

The purchase by the Department of Western Art of the bronze
Annoni–Visconti marriage bowl was made possible by grants from
the Heritage Lottery Fund, the
National Art Collections Fund, the MGC/V&A Purchase Grant Fund,
and the Friends of the Ashmolean. The two other major acquisitions
made by the Department of Western Art, Courbet's A Young Stonebreaker
and Guy Franìois's The Entombment of Christ, both drawings,
were purchased with equally generous and essential contributions from
the National Art Collections Fund and the Friends of the Ashmolean;
the MGC/V&A Purchase Grant Fund also awarded a grant towards the
purchase of the Courbet drawing. The price paid for this drawing was
lowered by taking advantage of the tax concessions by which museums
are able to acquire works of art at less than the market price. The
importance of these grant-giving agencies and concessions in enabling
the Museum to continue to purchase works of art of quality can never
be sufficiently emphasised and acknowledged.

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Miss K.A.T. Eustace, Assistant Keeper of the Department of Western
Art, has been appointed a member of the Advisory Committee on the
Design of Coins, Medals, Seals, and Decorations to the Royal Mint.

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Friends of the Ashmolean

The Council of the Friends hopes that their new subscription rates,
which came into effect in January 1998, will make it possible for
them to be more generous in their purchase grants to the Departments.
During the academic year 1997–8, they made grants towards two
acquisitions made by the Museum to commemorate Christopher White's
Directorship, a painting by Franìois-Marius Granet, View of a
Garden, seen through an Archway, and an early Ming blue and white
moonflask (£10,000). They also contributed to the following
purchases: a chalk drawing by Guy François, The
Entombment of Christ
(£2,500); a Milanese bronze marriage
bowl of c.1580 (£5,000); a Courbet drawing in black crayon,
A Young Stonebreaker (£2,000);
a medieval Islamic tunic (£1,500); a late sixteenth-century
Japanese inlaid lacquer cabinet (£2,500); an Indo-Persian
watered-steel dagger with scabbard (£3,000); and a Persian
watered-steel dagger with an agate handle (£3,500). The Friends
also contributed £1,000 towards the fund for acquiring a
portrait drawing in pencil by Ingres, of C. R. Cockerell, the
architect of the Ashmolean, and £1,000
towards the cost of a drawing by Francesco Vanni, The Madonna
of the Rosary with Saints
. Both items will appear in the next
Annual Report.

Numerous donations have been received in memory of Miss Gisela
Herwig, a long-time member of the Friends, who died in December 1997.
Besides the usual programme of activities (outings, lectures, private
evenings in the Museum, recitals, and
parties) arranged for the Friends, the new society of Young Friends
has had its own lively programme of lectures,
behind-the-scenes talks in the Museum, and parties, and their
membership is growing healthily. The new group launched during the
year and intended to attract a different age-range to the Friends,
Family membership (which for a small extra subscription includes all
children under eighteen in a family in their parent's membership),
has made a much slower start, but it is hoped that this will
increase when news spreads among young parents of
the benefits available to their children through Family membership.

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The Gros Tournois: Proceedings of the Fourteenth Oxford
Symposium on Coinage and Monetary History
was published in
conjunction with the Royal Numismatic Society (Special Publication
No. 31) and the Société Française de
Numismatique. A substantial volume of over 500 pages, edited by N.J.
Mayhew, the Proceedings are the fruit of a collaborative
effort by all the leading scholars in the field. The Gros Tournois
was one of the most important coinages of thirteenth- and
fourteenth-century Europe. The principal money of France, it was
widely circulated and imitated across Europe.

An Atlas of Anglo-Saxon and Norman Coin Finds
by D.M. Metcalf, was also published jointly
with the Royal Numismatic Society (Special Publication No. 32).

The major publication from the Department of Eastern Art was
Oliver Impey's The Art of the Japanese Folding Screen.
The author discusses the history and usage of the folding screen and
illustrates in full colour, twenty-three superb examples dated from
the seventeenth to the nineteenth centuries. The screens illustrated
are all from the collections of the Ashmolean or the Victoria &
Albert Museum (on long-term loan to the Ashmolean). The book was
published jointly, in North America, with Weatherhill Inc. of New
York and Tokyo.

Two new titles were published in the continuing series of
Ashmolean Handbooks—Miniatures, by Richard Walker,
illustrating over 100 examples from the Museum's collections, and
Samuel Palmer, by Colin Harrison with sponsorship from
D.S. Lavender (Antiques) Ltd., and Hazlitt, Gooden & Fox,
respectively. Ruskin's Drawings, the first title in the
series, was reprinted. Ancient Greek Pottery will be
published in autumn 1998 as will the reprint of Dinah Reynolds's
Worcester Porcelain, making a total of twelve
titles currently in print.

Western Art exhibition catalogues included Portrait Prints
from the Hope Collection
, by Richard Sharp—the
culmination of his two years of research as Sackler
Fellow—and Nicholas Hawksmoor and the Replanning of
by Roger White (published in association with the
British Architectural Library Drawings Collections with financial
assistance from the Marc Fitch Fund). Retrospective Adventures:
Forrest Reid: Author and Collector
, edited by Paul Goldman and
Brian Taylor, was published jointly with Scolar Press to coincide
with the first public exhibition of Reid's collection of Victorian
book illustrations. The
catalogue was jointly sponsored by the Paul Mellon Centre, the
British Academy and the Esme Mitchell Trust, Belfast.

Catalogues are also available from the Museum for the two loan
exhibitions, L.N. Cottingham (1787–1847) Architect
of the Gothic Revival
, by Janet Myles and Claude
Drawings from the Collections of the British Museum and the
Ashmolean Museum
, by Jon Whiteley.

The second of Arthur MacGregor's Summary
Catalogues—Continental Archaeological Collections: Roman
Iron Age, Migration Period, Early Medieval
was published for
the Museum as British Archaeological Reports, International
Series 674
. (The Anglo-Saxon Collections: Non-Ferrous
was published as BAR, British Series 230
in 1993.) Both
volumes were published with generous funding assistance from the Marc
Fitch Fund.

During the course of the year the Department of Antiquities
launched a new series based upon the later archaeological collections
intended for the general reader. The first title to appear was
Medieval England, written jointly by Moira Hook and
Arthur MacGregor, closely followed by Pots and People—that
have shaped the heritage of Medieval and later England
, by
local archaeologist and ceramics expert, Maureen Mellor.

Two popular titles, ABC of Egyptian Hieroglyphs and
Ark to Ashmolean were reprinted.

Gallery brochures were published for the new gallery of Japanese
Decorative Art and the Gallery Plans were revised to show the gallery
and the new gallery for Greek Antiquities. A brochure was also
published for the newly refurbished Weldon Gallery and two posters
were designed
by Simon Blake to mark the reopening of the Gallery. A matching
Address Book and `Book of Days' or perpetual diary, illustrated from
European landscapes and seascapes have recently been produced,
together with a 1999 Appointments Calendar, following the same
themes. The complete listing of Museum Publications was updated for
the London International Book Fair in spring 1998 and a small
mail-order gift catalogue is currently at press.

Finally, the Museum is acting as distributor for I am Well,
Who are You?
, sub-titled `Writings of a Japanese Prisoner
of War', by the late Sir David Piper, first Director of the
Museum, from 1973–85.

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