The preservation of police records for future research: Why it is important, what is failing and lessons that can be learned
Public Money & Management: published August 2021
This short debate paper examines the question of regional police force records not being covered by the Public Records Act and the impact this will have on police accountability and the ability to undertake future research.
Investigating the murder file: a biographical analysis of creation, survival and impact
PhD thesis published May 2021; available at: http://oro.open.ac.uk/76139/
My history PhD thesis examines the point at which police information becomes first archived records and then historical documents. Drawing on the materiality of the archives, the biographies of the files and the importance of memory it examines how murder files were created by detectives and then transformed into work place souvenirs in order to preserve a sense of collective organisational identity or to act as aide-memoires for later autobiographies. It was this, or the notoriety of the crime that often facilitated their release into the public domain, rather than a systematic process of police archiving and preservation. And this is an important finding of the thesis: the wide-scale loss of policing records preserved in the public domain from the 1980s onwards, the causes for this and the undoubted effects this will have on the future study of policing.
Murder cases, trunks and the entanglement of ethics: the preservation and display of scenes of crime material
Crime and the Construction of forensic objectivity from 1850, edited by Alison Adam, published 2020, pp.279-301
My chapter explores the materiality of recording serious crime and the police record, examining the agency and entanglement of objects as they move through time and space. It focuses on murder files because they often survive as ‘accidental tourists’ in record offices and may be accompanied by baggage in the form of forensic evidence. The framework of the chapter is four historic murders which occurred between 1924 and 1934 in the South East of England. The chapter concentrates on the materiality of the surviving evidence: the bodies of all the women were left in trunks and at least one of these trunks, along with murder weapons and blood-stained clothing, has survived in a museum and been displayed as an artefact.
Tying the knot: the material culture of the Turkish hand-knotted carpet in England
MRes dissertation published October 2011
The Turkish hand-knotted carpet in the West has been described as an object of desire, its representation in art closely scrutinised by carpet scholars, and many books written about it for collectors and novices alike. It has rarely been examined, however, as a biographical object, or as an object that has been present in England for hundreds of years and, as such, has developed its own unique material culture. My MRes research brought together its origins in Turkey and the background of the Ottoman Empire; the causes of its arrival in England and the lives of key players in its status as an object of desire. It also continued the narrative into the C21 through field-work at sites currently containing Turkish carpets, in order to develop an understanding and insight into how the carpet is used and perceived as a cultural object. The conclusions drawn were that the carpet is ideally placed to develop links between collections that need to expand their visitor types in terms of ethnic minorities, and those ethnic minority members who do not presently and have not traditionally frequented museums in the UK.
A draft report on the conservation of an early 19th century polychromed carved wood figure of St Tobias
A report for my final year BSc (Hons) Conservation and Restoration project at London Guildhall University in 2001.
The report covers early research and testing prior to conservation. I wrote this 20 years ago now but it may be of interest to someone as the provenance of this little carving is interesting. Tests on the materials used indicated he originated from Northern Europe or Spain; supporting this, Alexandra Kosinova, then sculpture conservator at the Victoria and Albert Museum suggested that the presence of glass eyes indicated that he may be Spanish. He was given to my parents as a wedding present in 1950 by the actress Muriel Martin Harvey, and having recently researched her background this strengthens the theory of a Spanish connection. My paternal grandfather, Vane Sutton-Vane, was a playwright, and my paternal grandmother, Jean Stirling, an actress, so it seems the statue had strong thespian connections. Muriel Martin Harvey’s mother was also an actress called Angelita Helena Maria de Silva Ferro, who was the daughter of a Chilean Consul called Don Ramon de Silva Ferro.
Report on the conservation and display of a dance crest from New Britain at the Horniman Museum, London
This report was written at the conclusion of a placement in the Conservation Department at the Horniman Museum in South London in 2000.
During my placement I worked on a Uvol dance crest – one of 75 which had been brought back from New Britain by the Dutch collector, Loed van Bussel in 1987. 11 of these crests were sold to The Musee des Arts d’Afrique et d’Oceanie in Paris; 9 to the Linden-Museum in Stuttgart, 6 to the Royal Albert Memorial Museum in Exeter (where some are on display in their Pacific gallery) and the remaining crests were sold to private collectors. The Horniman Museum acquired 8 crests from an art dealer in 1997. These crests are rare, fragile and transient – few survive as they are traditionally thrown into a river at the end of the dance ceremony or Sing Sing, a ceremony which only happens once every 25 years.
W.G. Rogers and the restoration of the great house carvings: did he help or hinder their survival?
BSc (Hons) Restoration and Conservation final dissertation, 2001
As Grinling Gibbons’ tercentenary is being celebrated from 2021 to 2022, I have resurrected this paper. W.G. Rogers was a flamboyant Victorian carver, voracious dealer, collector of antiquities and self-publicist. He also, however, devoted much of his life to surveying, documenting and in some cases restoring the rapidly disintegrating and forgotten works of the great carver, Grinling Gibbons. With the birth of modern conservation techniques much of this experimental work is now frowned upon – but should this be the case? In researching this paper I was especially grateful to The Tankerdale Workshop for their contemporary conservation reports; as well as to David Esterly and David Luard of Luard Conservation for their comments; to Joyce Stephenson, descendent of Rogers, who holds family photographs and papers.
Funded projects and consultancy work
Below are some examples of projects I have worked on in between my academic research. Select each project box for further details …
The Crime & Punishment Collections Network (CaP)
2016 to 2017
The Open University, History Department, 2014
The Thackray Medical Museum, Leeds, 2013
“I’m writing to let you know tomorrow I am giving a presentation on how we are using volunteers to promote and use the dementia resource you worked on … I will of course be crediting the fantastic work you did on the project … I am very happy with everything you’ve done, and will be sending over a formal letter of thanks and evaluation … You have made an excellent resource and have also been lovely to work with, very dedicated and you have really done a fantastic job” LRS – Curator
Devon & Cornwall Police: Driving Heritage, 2006 to 2008
Small museums like the Devon and Cornwall Constabulary Museum have launched new mobile museum services this summer. Like a kind of cultural meals on wheels, these museums are getting to large numbers of people that they wouldn’t normally reach. Which makes a mobile museum a powerful tool, especially for small rural institutions. ‘We are a tiny museum with really limited funding,’ says Angie Sutton-Vane, the collections officer at the Constabulary Resource. ‘We have this fantastic collection, but it was all in store and we couldn’t get funding to open it to the public.’ So, with the help of £40,000 from the Heritage Lottery Fund, they started Driving Heritage, a transit van that transports exhibitions to schools – Aaron Davies, Museums Journal, 107/9, pp.34-35, 2007
Towner Art Gallery, Eastbourne, 2002 to 2003