Birds of a Feather
How quickly times change. During the ruminations about the development of an interest in industrial history and heritage, during the Golden Jubilee of BIAS in 2017, one narrative thread of the last 50 years stood out. This being that during the time BIAS has been in existence that much of the responsibility for investigation and overseeing applications for developments had been taken from the enthusiasts of BIAS to the public sector. By local authorities, professional archaeological organisations and the new industrial museums that have appeared since the 1960s.
In this scenario the original and comprehensive role of BIAS as laid out in its constitution has been reduced to that of an advisory body and a membership organisation. As it is, cuts to local authority staff – in conservation and in the local authority museums for example-have put the onus back onto voluntary organisations to once again, take up the slack, as it were.
As is evident from the restricted resources – in both manpower (and woman power), time and money-of organisation such as BIAS, this is not something any voluntary organisation can, these days, attempt alone. Across our area there are however a host of organisations with similar aims and interests – many of them entirely voluntary. They range from the independent industrial museums in places like Bath and Radstock, the conservation groups of the South Gloucestershire mines and the long established organisations such as BIAS, the Newcomen Society and the Society for the Preservation of Ancient Buildings. The Avon Industrial Buildings Trust – which sprung, so to speak, from the loins of BIAS- is yet another. Surely one way to counter the withdrawal of local authority provision for the interpretation, explanation and conservation of our industrial remains is for these organisations across this region, to work more closely in concert. To do what each does best and to keep one another informed – by way of a form of matrix of communication-of issues of common interest?
One suggestion – already adopted by some- is to ensure good electronic communication. Another might be to call an annual sub-regional meeting – along the lines of the regional conferences on industrial archaeology- within Avon to discuss matters of interest and provide the opportunity to keep one another informed of each organisations successes and failures. If we are birds of a feather, we should flock together. It shouldn’t be too hard.