Ashmolean Museum - Annual Report 1994-5 - (1) to No 4382

Oxford University Gazette

Ashmolean Museum: Annual Report 1994-5

Supplement (1) to Gazette No. 4382

Monday, 27 November 1995

Contents of the supplement:


To Gazette No. 4383 (30 November 1995)

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This Supplement, containing a general account of the year under review, reproduces part of the full Report of the Visitors for the Academic Year 1994–5, which will be published shortly by the Museum. In addition to the Director's Report, printed here, the full Report will contain Departmental Reports, details of new acquisitions, and staff records. Members of Congregation wishing to obtain a copy should contact the Publications Officer, Ashmolean Museum.

Director's Report

The Visitors

During the course of the year the Vice-Chancellor decided that the Museum's interests would be better served by having a Chairman of the Visitors who had more time available to devote to its affairs. He, therefore, invited Dr R.C. Repp, the Master of St Cross, who has been a Visitor for a number of years, to take over as Chairman from him. The Museum is very grateful to the Vice- Chancellor for his past support and very much hopes that, despite the ending of a tradition which goes back to the opening of the University Galleries in 1845, he and his successors will maintain, albeit at one remove, the benevolent interest that has been shown in the past.

In March the new Proctors, Dr J.A. Black and Dr W.D. Macmillan, and the new Assessor, Dr P.A.W. Bulloch, took over from their predecessors.

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Distinguished Visitors

On the occasion of the conferment of the Degree of Doctor of Civil Law, the President of the Republic of Hungary, accompanied by his wife, Mrs Göncz, was given a tour of the Museum by the Director. This was followed by a tea- party held in the Eastern Art Galleries.

Princess Benedikta of Denmark paid an unofficial visit to the Museum and was given a tour by the Director.

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In the New Year's Honours, an MBE was awarded to Mrs Anne Stevens, in recognition of her long service as a dedicated volunteer in the Museum. In the Birthday Honours, the Director (Professor Christopher White) was appointed a CVO, in recognition of services to the Royal Collection.

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Review Committee Report on the Museum

During the year a review of the Museum, commissioned by the General Board, was carried out under the chairmanship of the Master of St Peter's, Dr J.P. Barron. The committee's Report, which contains thirty-five recommendations, is, with the response of the Visitors, being considered by the General Board. A fuller account with the agreed changes to the operation of the Museum will be provided in next year's Annual Report, but the Museum is very pleased to note that the Review Committee's recommendation for the appointment of a registrar/documentation officer, based in the Department of Western Art, has already been accepted by the General Board to take effect from October 1995.

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Financial Situation

`By the skin of our teeth' we were once again able to get through the year without seriously impairing the existing operation of the Museum. Fortunately the review of `non-formula' funding carried out by HEFCE did not lead to any reduction in our grant from the University. The income from the growing Endowment Fund has proved crucial in meeting running costs, as have the voluntary donations made by the public and the income from shop revenue, both of which unfortunately have been sharply reduced owing to the building works. This has meant that we have had to use all the monies left in reserve funds.

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Fund-raising: Advisory Committee

As at 31 July 1995, the Advisory Committee for Fund-raising consisted of M. Ulfane, Esq. (Chairman), Mrs M. Wyndham Baker, Lady Berlin, A. von Bohlen und Halbach, Esq., D. Davies, Esq., Grèfin M. Douglas, G. Eskenazi, Esq., Ms B. Harley, D. Lloyd-Jacob, Esq., CBE, J. Morton Morris, Esq., Dr J. Pellew (Director of the Development Office), D. Potter, Esq., the Rt Hon. the Lord Rayne, C. Silver, Esq., CBE, A. Snow, Esq., and the Hon. Mrs L. Weinstock. We would like to express our gratitude to the members of the committee for the time and energy they have devoted to promoting the Museum's causes. Completing the desired total for the Endowment Fund has remained the committee's principal objective and much hard thought has been devoted to this aim.

There were two events arranged for the Patrons during the year. In the autumn the Director gave a talk about a personal selection of Old Master drawings in the Print Room, and during the summer a visit was arranged to Kelmscott and to Lockinge, by courtesy of Mr C.L. Loyd, who kindly conducted our group around his collection.

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Fund-raising: Donations

Three major donations to the Museum are reported below under the Development of the Sunken Court. The total sum of money given or promised by the end of the year amounts to £9,871,179, which includes gifts totalling £30,403 to the Endowment Fund, with a further £1,744,516 promised over the next five years.

The Helen Roll Charity has once again come to the support of the Museum by generously making a donation of £6,000 towards the cost of purchasing new security equipment.

The Department of Western Art gratefully received a number of donations from benefactors who contributed towards the cost of conservation and of exhibitions which are difficult to fund from the resources of the department. Mr Martin Shopland and Mr Jacob Stodel contributed to the cost of ceramic restoration, Mr Nicholas Stogdon paid for a programme of conservation on the collection of German prints and a grant from the Villiers David Foundation paid for the repair of the portrait of Villiers David, by Augustus John, bequeathed by Mr GÄrard Schlup. A benefactor who wishes to remain anonymous contributed to the costs of the Friends' Private View of the Lear exhibition, the exhibition of the work of Valerie Thornton was made possible by a substantial contribution from Mr Michael Chase, and a grant of £500 was received from the Paul Mellon Centre towards the cost of the catalogue of the forthcoming exhibition of the work of Helen Saunders. The Ruskin exhibition, to be held in the McAlpine Gallery in 1996, has been generously sponsored by the Ruskin Foundation in association with the Maxim Group, while the costs of bringing the Prat collection of French drawings from the Louvre for exhibition in Edinburgh and Oxford in the autumn and winter of 1995 have been contributed by Eurotunnel and the Fondation Elf. A handsome donation of £12,000 from Mr Daniel Katz has been made towards the costs of the research and production of Mr Jeremy Warren's catalogue of the pre-1540 sculpture in the Department of Western Art. The department is also grateful for a donation from a benefactor who wishes to remain anonymous which paid for improving the documentation and display of the decorative arts.

The major project to provide basic conservation and mounting for the Newberry Collection of medieval Egyptian embroideries in the Department of Eastern Art is now complete. This was due to a generous donation from the Pilgrim Trust and to the continuing financial support of Mrs Marianne Ellis.

The Stockman Family Foundation has most generously promised a gift of $84,000, to be paid over three years, to underwrite the cost of employing a textile conservator in Eastern Art and to purchase specialised research and storage equipment.

Following on from the financial support of the Barakat Trust over the last few years, the University provided the necessary resources for the computerisation of the photographs of Islamic architecture held in the Creswell archive. All the images in the archive are now computerised and will soon be available on CD-ROM.

A grant from Mr David Khalili enabled the Department to employ Mr Menno Fitski to establish a computer database of the Japanese porcelain collection.

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Development of the Forecourt

The major works on the development of the forecourt began in September 1994 and have been proceeding smoothly, on time and within budget, thanks to our outstandingly professional working team, who are overseen by the donor's contract manager, Mr Eric Gabriel. The builders, Messrs Bovis, are due to complete construction by December this year, and the new facilities are due to open in early February 1996.

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Development of the Sunken Court

Two major donations, £220,000 from the Michael Marks Charitable Trust and up to $350,000 to cover the cost of installing the Japanese Gallery from the Fidelity Trust of Boston, plus a generous grant of £87,000 from the Museums and Galleries Improvement Fund (Wolfson Fund), have meant that, with the £683,000 already donated by Dr Dietrich and Mrs Joyce von Bothmer, we can proceed with the construction of an Antiquities gallery and climate- controlled storage area, an Eastern Art Print Room, and a Japanese Gallery in the Sunken Court. Plans have been prepared by Mr Graham Jessop and it is proposed to carry out this work during 1996.

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Development of the Ashmolean site to the north and the west

Following the presentation of a `design concept' for this area commissioned from Mr Robert Adam, of Winchester Design, in 1992, and some substantial offers of funding for the development, a working party, established by the General Board under the chairmanship of Mr P.M. Oppenheimer, has during the course of the year been preparing definitive recommendations on the academic activities for which space should be provided on the site and the details of space to be provided for those activities. The working party's report will be presented to the General Board during Michaelmas Term 1995.

Apart from modifications to the existing building which will result from the development, the Museum's interest in this project concerns the Cast Gallery, which should be housed in more spacious quarters, and a projected twentieth century Western Art Gallery.

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Bequests and Gifts to the Collections

Loyal and long-standing friends of the Museum continue to give us antiquities of quality which it would otherwise be difficult for us to acquire for the collections. This year Dr Grace Simpson presented fragments of a red-figure cup by the Painter of Louvre G. 456 and a pair of Etruscan gold earrings found at Orvieto in 1889. Sir Denis Wright, Counsellor HM Embassy, Tehran (1955–6) and then Ambassador to Iran (1963–71), gave his collection of thirty-five ancient Near Eastern seals, primarily Persian of the Sasanian Period (AD 250–650).

The Acceptance in Lieu procedure enabled the Department of Western Art to acquire 64 sketchbooks by Edward Ardizzone from the estate of Mrs Catherine Ardizzone, enriching the growing collection of work by twentieth-century British artists and keeping together a representative cross section of the artist's work which, without the intervention of the In Lieu system, would probably have been broken up. Two other gifts of twentieth-century works, both given to honour Michelle Sykes, were received with particular pleasure. One of these, a sketchbook by Ceri Richards, was given by the Friends of the Ashmolean, the other, a suite of ten drypoints by Ana Maria Pacheco, was given by the Education Service.

The Department of Eastern Art received a bequest of Chinese ceramics from Dr Honor Smith and donations of Indian paintings or sculptures from Sir Howard Hodgkin, Mr Simon Digby, and Mr and Mrs John Eskenazi.

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Acquisitions by purchase

The most memorable acquisitions in the Department of Antiquities this year are both sculptured stone heads of men. We have been fortunate to secure another of the Arundel Marbles rediscovered in 1972 by Mr and Mrs Denys Haynes at Fawley Court near Henley-on-Thames, following acquisition of the `Arundel Homerus' (Annual Report 1983–4 Plate I: ANT 1984.45) and a fragmentary Greek altar (Annual Report 1991–2 Plate III: ANT 1991.294). This rather battered and eroded marble head of the life-size statue of a late Hellenistic or Roman man vividly illustrates the vicissitudes suffered by the Arundel Collection. Fortunately, it was illustrated by Richard Rawlinson in John Aubrey's posthumously printed Natural History and Antiquities of Surrey in 1719 (figure VIII, bottom left-hand corner) so may be precisely recognized for what it is. Far more spectacular and attractive is the fragmentary head of a diademed man carved in imperial porphyry. It was first brought to the attention of the museum some years ago, when on the antiquities market in London. Its origin is unknown. The closest parallels to the face occur on coins of the late fourth century AD. It has been provisionally identified by Professor J.R. Harris as a portrait of the Emperor Gratian (AD 359–83), aged about nineteen or twenty. The angle at which it is broken suggests that it may originally have been part of a larger group.

The purchase of eighty-three prints and thirty-six sketchbooks by Gertrude Hermes, the most substantial acquisition made by the Department of Western Art in 1994–5, was made possible by generous contributions from the MGC/V&A Purchase Grant Fund, the National Art Collections Fund and the Friends of the Ashmolean.

The Department of Eastern Art has continued to build up its already distinguished collection of Japanese export ceramics, and has also added to its important collection of Japanese screens, through the Jeffery Story Fund. The generosity of an anonymous benefactor has made possible the purchase of a number of outstanding metal or stone sculptures for the department's Indian and Tibetan collections. The Friends of the Ashmolean helped to fund purchases of an eleventh century Chinese silk kesi fragment and a small cup of opaque red glass from early Islamic Egypt, while Mrs Marianne Ellis generously contributed to the purchase of a fifteenth- to sixteenth-century Egyptian glass flask in its original embroidered bag.

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Friends of the Ashmolean

The Friends have very kindly made donations towards the following purchases: an opaque red glass cup, Egypt, eighth to tenth century (£2,556), kesi silk fragment, China, tenth to twelfth century ad (£3,250), a sketchbook by Ceri Richards, to mark the retirement of Lady Sykes (£2,000) and a collection of wood engravings and sketchbooks by Gertrude Hermes (£2,000). In addition they made a grant of £2,500 to the Education Service.

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The Museum has established a central Conservation Strategy Committee made up of representatives of the conservation and curatorial staff of each department to provide a coherent strategy and tactics, with an emphasis on buildings management and preventive conservation, for future expenditure on all aspects of conservation.

The activities of the conservation staff of the Department of Antiquities have been largely dictated this year by preparation for the Forecourt and Sunken Court development schemes, some long term, some short term, all involving much hard work in the movement of objects, repacking, and documenting. The new Organic Store adjacent to the Sunken Court basement has been re-racked to accommodate much extra material, largely Egyptian. Pot storage has been primarily concentrated in the North-east Basement, where fittings and facilities are being progressively upgraded. A new recording system for incoming archaeological material has also been devised in consultation with the Oxford Archaeological Unit to streamline registration. The Egyptian Inscription Store, which is to have a new door as part of the Forecourt development, has been extensively repaired and reorganised. The cleaning of the Classical sculpture and inscription collections has now been finally completed after five years of determined and highly effective effort by Kathleen Kimber.

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Gallery Refurbishment

Any reservations we may have had about having to evacuate the newly cleaned reserve collections of Classical sculpture and inscriptions from the Sunken Court to storage in the so recently redisplayed Randolph Gallery have been confounded by much favourable comment from the general public and crowned by an encomium from the Professor of Poetry in his Encaenia Oration. Romantic clutter, it would appear, appeals more than classical order. The major redisplay of sculpture begun some years ago has been completed by installations in the Medieval and Leeds Galleries.

The major refurbishment of the Hill Music Room, made possible by grants from the Michael Marks Charitable Trust and the Museums and Galleries Improvement Fund (Wolfson Fund), has, owing to several unexpected problems, taken very much longer than anticipated, but we are confident that the work will have been completed by the end of Michaelmas Term 1995.

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The Department of Antiquities has mounted a temporary exhibition of Egyptian objects in the Gordon Childe Room to compensate for the closure of the Egyptian Sculpture Gallery where some of the objects most used by the Education Service are normally displayed.

The Department of Western Art arranged a series of exhibitions, most of which were centred around our own holdings. A selection of pictures from the reserve collection was especially popular. To celebrate their seventy-fifth anniversary, the Society of Wood Engravers organised an exhibition entitled `Wood Engraving Here and Now'.

The Department of Eastern Art's series of temporary exhibitions in the Eric North Room has brought to the attention of the public a large number of objects not normally displayed, as well as loan material. Of particular interest and most colourful of all was the exhibition of ikat coats from Central Asia collected in 1868–9 by Robert Shaw, the first Englishman to visit Yarkand and Kashgar. This collection formerly belonged to the old Indian Institute Museum.

Through the generosity of the Perry Foundation, the department was able to display part of the foundation's collection of Japanese nineteenth and twentieth century ceramics by the Kozan workshop. This exhibition followed its only other showing, at the Walters Art Gallery, Baltimore. It was accompanied by a catalogue by Kathleen Emerson-Dell, entitled `Bridging East and West; Japanese Ceramics from the Kozan studio'.

Once again the department acknowledges the generosity of Mrs Phyllis Nye in providing funds for the production of information leaflets to accompany temporary exhibitions.

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Education Service

At the beginning of the year Lady Sykes (see below) was succeeded in the post of Clore Education Officer by Mrs Kathy Booth Stevens. Activity of the Education Service remains undiminished and a regular programme of tours and events have been arranged over the year, catering for 3,500 adults and students and 10,000 school children, 84 per cent from the state system. The number of school parties shows, however, a decrease of 15 per cent over last year, probably due both to education cuts and the necessary closure, owing to building operations, of some of the more popular galleries, such as those devoted to Egyptian antiquities. A further 12,000 visitors registered for party admissions without guides, of which 5,500 were British school parties.

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According to the electronic recording device the overall number of visitors to the Museum for the twelve months ending on 31 July 1995 was 176,084. This decrease of just over 10 per cent over the previous year is undoubtedly due to the building operations connected with the development of the forecourt.

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Owing to the building works it was not possible to arrange the usual freshers' tour, but this annual event will be reinstated as soon as possible.

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In November 1994 Lady Sykes resigned as Clore Education Officer in order to take up a new teaching post at Kellogg College. She was responsible for establishing single-handed the Education Service in 1981. Her determination, verve, and energy have developed it into one of the most active and wide- ranging programmes to be found in any museum in this country. It is probably true to say that her proposal, based on her experience at the Victoria & Albert Museum, to set up an education service in the Ashmolean was initially accepted more with an air of tolerance than with any marked enthusiasm, but with remarkable speed Michelle Sykes built up a close and harmonious relationship with the curatorial staff, who have happily volunteered to assist her with her programmes. She also attracted and trained a devoted and professional group of guides, who will continue under her successor, Mrs Booth Stevens, to serve schools and the community. The munificent donation made by the Clore Foundation can largely be seen as a tribute to what Michelle Sykes achieved in the Ashmolean.

Mrs Kathleen Kimber retired on 31 July after forty-one years' service in the conservation laboratories of the Department of Antiquities, where her renowned skills in all aspects of object restoration were exercised with patient application and quiet determination far from the public eye. Then suddenly five years ago, when she emerged with her steam-cleaner to undertake the huge task of conserving the collection of Classical sculpture and inscriptions, initially in the Randolph Gallery, she became a public figure. Visitors were fascinated. She found herself immediately at the cutting edge of the Museum's public relations, dispensing information, dispelling misapprehensions and hopefully recruiting one or two youngsters to a career she has pursued so well for so long.

The award of an MBE to Mrs Anne Stevens in the New Year's Honours List acknowledges her many years of work as a dedicated volunteer during which she has built up the modern print collection. A cursory glance at the list of acquisitions in recent Annual Reports indicate the extent of her contribution. Her services will be much missed when she retires from the Museum in the autumn. The release of the post of the fourth Assistant Keepership in the Department of Western Art will bring the staff of the Department back to strength. The appointment of Mr Colin Harrison to the post will also revive interest in the collection of British eighteenth- to nineteenth century drawings and watercolours which have been somewhat neglected since the departure of Dr David Brown. The decision by the General Board to fund a new post of registrar and documentation officer in the Department of Western Art will bring welcome relief, particularly to Dr Whistler whose time has been largely tied up in recent years with the routine administration of loans. The post will also ensure that the work of documenting the collections will continue after the funding which has supported Mrs Magyar as a part-time documentation officer runs out at the end of September.

Mrs Helen Brown retired on November 30th after thirty-six years in the Coin Room. During her tenure of office, some 28,000 coins were added to the Oriental series. However, it is Helen's personal qualities, above all of kind and learned humanity, which will be missed even more than her enormous contribution to the growth of the collections. A display outlining the growth of the whole range of the Oriental collections from 1958 to 1994 has been mounted in the Coin Room exhibition area.

It was decided to allocate the vacancy left by Mrs Brown's departure to Greek coinage which, owing to the dire effects of retrenchment, had been without a specialist curator for a decade.

Dr W.L. Treadwell has assumed sole responsibility for the Islamic series, but sadly there is now no Far Eastern or Indian expertise within the department. The pain of retrenchment has now been relocated rather than remedied.

Thanks to a generous donor (Mr J. Kagan) and help from the faculty of Literae Humaniores, the Museum was able to re-appoint immediately (see Annual Report 1993–4). Mr H.S. Kim (Harvard University and Lincoln College) was elected as Assistant Keeper and University Lecturer in Greek numismatics and took up the post on 3 October.

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The drop in visitors resulting from the external building works has led to a corresponding drop in bookstall turnover. One consequence of this has been a temporary curtailment of the Museum's publishing projects, funded as they are, largely from bookshop profits. Nevertheless, in the course of the year a further title, Andrew Topsfield's Indian Paintings from Oxford Collections, was added to the series of Ashmolean Handbooks and three other new titles were published: Jaromir Malek's ABC of Egyptian Hieroglyphs, Audrey Briers' Sporting Success in Ancient Greece and Rome and Lora Urbanelli's The Wood Engravings of Lucien Pissarro, the last with the aid of a generous grant from the Paul Mellon Centre for Studies in British Art, towards the colour illustrations.

As this Report goes to press, four titles are in an advanced stage of production—including Ursula Aylmer's Oxford Food and a revised edition of The Treasures of the Ashmolean Museum. Publication by the University Press of Volume VI of the Catalogue of Collection of Drawings in the Ashmolean—Dr Whiteley's French Ornament Drawings of the Sixteenth Century—is also scheduled for winter 1995.

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