In the News | ‘Prize Papers’ in UK’s National Archives

Posted in resources, the 18th century in the news by Editor on March 13, 2023

Photograph from The Prize Papers Project.

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From The NY Times (and Art Daily) . . .

Bryn Stole, “Long-Lost Letters Bring Word, at Last,” The New York Times (9 March 2023). Researchers are sorting through a centuries old cache of undelivered mail that gives a vivid picture of private lives and international trade in an age of rising empires.

In a love letter from 1745 decorated with a doodle of a heart shot through with arrows, María Clara de Aialde wrote to her husband, Sebastian, a Spanish sailor working in the colonial trade with Venezuela, that she could “no longer wait” to be with him.

Later that same year, an amorous French seaman who signed his name M. Lefevre wrote from a French warship to a certain Marie-Anne Hoteé back in Brest: “Like a gunner sets fire to his cannon, I want to set fire to your powder.”

Fifty years later, a missionary in Suriname named Lene Wied, in a lonely letter back to Germany, complained that war on the high seas had choked off any news from home: “Two ships which have been taken by the French probably carried letters addressed to me.”

None of those lines ever reached their intended recipients. British warships instead snatched those letters, and scores more, from aboard merchant ships during wars from the 1650s to the early 19th century. . . .

Poorly sorted and only vaguely cataloged, the Prize Papers, as they became known, have now begun revealing lost treasures. Archivists at Britain’s National Archives and a research team at the Carl von Ossietzky University of Oldenburg in Germany are working on a joint project to sort, catalog, and digitize the collection, which gives a nuanced portrait of private lives, international commerce, and state power in an age of rising empires. The project, expected to last two decades, aims to make the collection of more than 160,000 letters and hundreds of thousands of other documents, written in at least 19 languages, freely available and easily searchable online. . . .

The full article is available here»

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From The Prize Papers Project:

The objects in the Prize Papers Collection were impounded by the High Court of Admiralty of the English and later British Royal Navy between 1652 and 1817, and they are now held by The National Archives of the UK.

The Prize Papers were collected a result of the early modern naval practice of prize-taking: capturing ships belonging to hostile powers, dealing severe blows to their military, political and economic capabilities. This practice had its heyday in the 17th and 18th centuries, and so the collection proves a fascinating insight into the formative period of European colonial expansion. . . .

The practice of prize-taking resulted in a vast, extraordinary and partly accidental archive of the early modern world, contains documents from more than 35,000 captured ships, held in around 4088 boxes and 71 printed volumes. The Prize Papers Collection includes at least 160,000 undelivered letters intercepted on their way across the seas, many of which remain unopened to this day. These are accompanied by books and papers on all manner of legal, commercial, maritime, colonial, and administrative matters, often embellished with notes and doodles. Documents in at least 19 different languages have been identified so far, and more languages are likely to be discovered as the project progresses. Alongside this written material is a variety of small miscellaneous artifacts, including jewelry, textiles, playing cards, and keys.

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In June 2022, the project published the first of the Prize Papers from the War of the Austrian Succession (1740–48), with papers from ten French ships.

The project has a YouTube site with a handful of video presentations, including a fascinating session on letterlocking.

Reception of Greenough’s Statue of George Washington

Posted in the 18th century in the news, today in light of the 18th century by Editor on February 20, 2023

Stereo card view of the crowd at the inauguration of Rutherford B. Hayes, on the east front grounds of the U.S. Capitol, surrounding Horatio Greenough’s statue of George Washington, in 1877 (Brady’s National Portrait Gallery, Washington, D.C./Library of Congress). Commissioned in 1832 to mark Washington’s 100th birthday, Horatio Greenough’s sculpture of the first president was installed in the U.S. Capitol Rotunda in 1841. Two years later the 12-ton statue was moved outside to the building’s East Plaza, where it stood until 1908, when it was moved to the Smithsonian Institution castle on the National Mall.

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An interesting article from The Washington Post for the wider context of contested public sculpture (here presented for a large, general audience). Unfortunately, it doesn’t address this particular controversy in terms of people’s expectations of how a historic figure (in 1841, still a recent historic figure) should have been represented and thus might reinforce persistent misconceptions of nineteenth-century attitudes toward nudity in art generally. The larger question of monumentalizing the lives of real people could bring the history of Greenough’s work into conversation with the initial reception of Hank Willis Thomas’s recently installed memorial for Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and Coretta Scott King, The Embrace, at Boston’s 1965 Freedom Plaza. For the latter, there has, of course, been lots of coverage, but I like this article by Jessica Shearer, “What Do Bostonians Think of the New MLK Monument?,” HyperAllergic (25 January 2023). CH

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Marble statue of Washington seated with raised right arm and bare torso, holding a sheathed sword in his left hand.

Horatio Greenough, President George Washington, completed in 1840, marble (Washington DC: Smithsonian Institution).

Ronald G. Shafer, “The First Statue Removed from the Capitol: George Washington in a Toga,” The Washington Post (22 January 2023).

Slowly, some of the U.S. Capitol’s many statues and other artworks honoring enslavers have been slated for removal, most recently a bust of Roger B. Taney, the chief justice who wrote the Supreme Court’s Dred Scott decision denying Black people citizenship. But the first statue Congress voted to remove from the Capitol was one of George Washington [in 1908]—not because Washington was an enslaver, but because the statue was scandalous. The first president was portrayed naked to the waist in a toga with his right finger pointing toward the sky and his left hand clasping a sheathed sword. . . .

The full article is available here»

Tallying Enslavers and Confederates Depicted at the U.S. Capitol

Posted in the 18th century in the news, today in light of the 18th century by Editor on February 19, 2023

John Trumbull, General George Washington Resigning His Commission, 23 December 1783, installed in the Capitol in 1824, oil on canvas, 12 × 18 feet (Washington, DC: Capitol Rotunda). As noted in The Post article, 19 of the 31 people identified in the painting were enslavers.

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From The Washington Post:

Gillian Brockell, “Art at Capitol Honors 141 Enslavers and 13 Confederates. Who Are They?,” The Washington Post (27 December 2022). The Post examined more than 400 statues, paintings, and other artworks in the U.S. Capitol. This is what we found.

As part of a year-long investigation into Congress’s relationship with slavery, The Washington Post analyzed more than 400 artworks in the U.S. Capitol building, from the Crypt to the ceiling of the Capitol Rotunda, and found that one-third honor enslavers or Confederates. Another six honor possible enslavers—people whose slaveholding status is in dispute. . . .

Just as governments and institutions across the country struggle with the complex and contradictory legacies of celebrated historical figures with troubling racial records, so too does any effort to catalogue the role of the Capitol artworks’ subjects in the institution of slavery. This analysis, for example, includes at least four enslavers—Benjamin Franklin, John Dickinson, Rufus King, and Bartolomé de las Casas—who voluntarily freed the people they enslaved and publicly disavowed slavery while they were living. Other people, such as Daniel Webster and Samuel Morse, were vocal defenders of slavery but did not themselves enslave people; artworks honoring them are not counted in The Post’s tally. . . .

All 11 states that joined the Confederacy have at least one statue depicting an enslaver or Confederate. But the homages to enslavers are by no means restricted to these states: Except for New Hampshire, all of the original 13 states have statues depicting enslavers or possible enslavers.

Massachusetts, for example, is represented by John Winthrop, who is best known for proclaiming a “shining city on a hill” but who also enslaved at least three Pequot people and, as colonial governor, helped legalize the enslavement of Africans.

Both of New York’s statues honor enslavers. One is Declaration of Independence co-writer Robert R. Livingston, who came from a prominent slave-trading family and personally enslaved 15 people in 1790. He also owned brothels that housed Black women who may have been enslaved. The other is former vice president George Clinton, who served under Jefferson and Madison and enslaved at least eight people in his lifetime. . . .

The full article is available here»

Current Archaeology Awards, 2023

Posted in on site, the 18th century in the news by Editor on February 15, 2023

From the magazine Current Archaeology (with awards announced February 25) . . .

Current Archaeology has announced nominees for its fifteenth annual awards. The 2023 awards celebrate the projects and publications that made the pages of the magazine over the past 12 months, and the people judged to have made outstanding contributions to archaeology. These awards are voted for entirely by the public—there are no panels of judges—so we encouraged you to get involved and choose the projects, publications, and people you wanted to win.

Nominees appeared in the following categories:
• Archaeologist of the Year
• Book of the Year
• Research Project of the Year
• Rescue Project of the Year

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Campaign chest of abolitionist activist Thomas Clarkson, which included West African textiles and other objects that he used to argue against the slave trade. It was given to Wisbech & Fenland Museum in 1870 (Photo: Wisbech & Fenland Museum, Sarah Cousins).

Among the Nominees for Research Project of the Year:

From West Africa to Wisbech: Analysing 18th-Century Textiles in Thomas Clarkson’s Campaign Chest
Margarita Gleba (University of Padua), Malika Kraamer (University of Leicester), and Sarah Coleman (formerly Wisbech & Fenland Museum, now National Horseracing Museum), Current Archaeology, issue 383
Can the study of an abolitionist collection of West African textiles weave new threads into the story of cross-cultural contacts in the era of the Atlantic slave trade?

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Exterior view of the house.

Roger Morris, Marble Hill House, Twickenham, 1724–29. As noted at Wikipedia, “the compact design soon became famous and furnished a standard model for the Georgian English villa and for plantation houses in the American colonies.” Having opened in May 2022 following the restoration, Marble Hill House is currently closed for the winter, with plans to reopen in April.

Among the Nominees for Rescue Project of the Year:

Restoring Marble Hill: How Archaeology Helped Revive a Georgian Gem
English Heritage, Current Archaeology, issue 388
Ongoing restoration work at Marble Hill in Twickenham and recent investigations of its grounds have revealed the fabric of the Georgian building alongside the story of its owner, Henrietta Howard.

HMS Invincible: Excavating a Georgian Time Capsule
Daniel Pascoe / Bournemouth University, Current Archaeology, issue 389
Investigations of the wreck of HMS Invincible, which sank off Portsmouth in 1758, have shed illuminating light on what life was like on board this 18th-century warship, and within the Georgian Royal Navy.

Lessons from Canterbury: Saving Heritage with New Approaches to Urban Development
SAVE Britain’s Heritage, Current Archaeology, issue 389
SAVE Britain’s Heritage have recommended a more historically sympathetic approach to urban development in response to the scale and height of new buildings proposed for Canterbury’s city centre.


Huge New Discovery of Notes on Hegel’s Lectures

Posted in books, the 18th century in the news by Editor on December 20, 2022

From The Guardian:

Sara Tor, “Manuscript Treasure Trove May Offer Fresh Understanding of Hegel,” The Guardian (29 November 2022).

One of the papers from a trove of 4,000 notes on Hegel, found by Professor Klaus Vieweg (Photograph: Marko Fuchs/Copyright Archiv und Bibliothek des Erzbistums München und Freising).

Library discovery of undocumented transcripts of German philosopher’s lectures like ‘finding new Beethoven score’

A biographer researching the German philosopher Hegel (1770–1831) has uncovered a massive treasure trove of previously undocumented lectures that could change perceptions regarding one of the leading figures of modern western philosophy. More than 4,000 pages of notes on Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel’s lectures were found by Klaus Vieweg in the library of the archdiocese of Munich and Freising.

“The discovery of these manuscripts is comparable to finding a new score by Beethoven or a previously unseen painting by Constable,” said Vieweg, a professor at the Friedrich Schiller University Jena in Germany.

He said an early reading of the notes had hinted at a fresh understanding of how Hegel formed his influential ideas on aesthetics, the philosophy around beauty and art, and how he analysed Shakespeare’s plays to help develop his ideas.

The transcripts are thought to have been written by Friedrich Wilhelm Carové, one of the first students at Heidelberg University to be taught by Hegel during the philosopher’s time there between 1816 and 1818. Hegel’s ideas and works are notable for their formidable difficulty. The British philosopher Bertrand Russell described him as “the hardest to understand of the great philosophers.” Vieweg hopes the new find might bring clarity. The papers will now be compiled into an annotated edition by a team of international experts, headed by Vieweg and Christian Illies, a professor of philosophy at the University of Bamberg.

“Major sections of Hegel’s work are only known through his lectures, so scholars have long been trying to find transcripts,” said Illies. “Several were found and published in the 19th and 20th centuries, but over the years uncovering new material has become less and less likely.”

Vieweg’s find is probably the single largest of its kind ever made. It was unearthed after a reader of his recent biography on Hegel pointed him to the archive of Friedrich Windischmann. Windischmann was a professor of Catholic theology in Munich whose father, Karl Joseph Hieronymous Windischmann, was a philosopher and friend of Hegel. A letter between Hegel and Karl Windischmann shows that Carové gave the set of manuscripts to the latter as a gift.

Although research on the material has only just begun, there has already been one significant find: the boxes contain a transcript from one of the very first lectures Hegel gave on aesthetics. Currently, any knowledge of Hegel’s thoughts on aesthetics originates from much later lectures given in Berlin. These were published after his death by his student Heinrich Gustav Hotho using a combination of lecture transcripts and Hegel’s own notes. As there have been no other sources to compare this with, questions have arisen as to how far this material was influenced by Hotho. The discovery of early lectures, therefore, could help to finally clear up the uncertainty. . . .

The full article is available here»

In the News | Russia Steals Potemkin’s Bones

Posted in the 18th century in the news, today in light of the 18th century by Editor on November 6, 2022

A domed sandstone church with a portico of four Tuscan columns and heavily rusticated walls.

Cathedral of St. Catherine, Kherson, Ukraine, 1781–86. Dedicated to Catherine of Alexandria, the patron saint of the reigning empress, it was one of the earliest churches built in ‘New Russia’ (Photo by Sven Teschke, July 2004, from Wikimedia Commons).

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So many twenty-first stories are also eighteenth-century stories. From The NY Times:

Marc Santora, “Why Russia Stole Potemkin’s Bones From Ukraine,” The New York Times (27 October 2022). The 18th-century military commander and lover of Catherine the Great helped conquer Ukraine and looms large in the version of history the Kremlin uses to justify the war.

With Ukrainian forces bearing down on the occupied port city of Kherson this week, the Kremlin’s puppet rulers dispatched a team to an 18th-century stone cathedral on a special mission—to steal the bones of Prince Grigory Aleksandrovich Potemkin.

Unfinished oval portrait, depicting a man's face shown in three-quarters profile, looking to the right side of the canvas.

Johann Baptist von Lampi the Elder, Portrait of Russian Fieldmarshal Grigory Potemkin, 1790s (Moscow: State Tretyakov Gallery).

The memory of the 18th-century conqueror is vivid for those in the Kremlin bent on restoring the Russian imperium. It was Potemkin (1739–1791) who persuaded his lover, Catherine the Great, to annex Crimea in 1783. The founder of Kherson and Odesa, he sought the creation of a ‘New Russia’, a dominion that stretched across what is now southern Ukraine along the Black Sea.

When Russian President Vladimir Putin invaded Ukraine in February with the goal of restoring part of a long-lost empire, he invoked Potemkin’s vision. Now, with Putin’s army having failed in its march toward Odesa and threatened with ouster from Kherson, his grand plans are in jeopardy. But among Kremlin loyalists, the belief in what they view as Russia’s rightful empire still runs deep.

So it was that a team descended into a crypt below a solitary white marble gravestone inside St. Catherine’s Cathedral. To reach Potemkin’s remains, they would have opened a trapdoor in the floor and climbed down a narrow passageway, according to people who have visited the crypt. There they would have found a simple wooden coffin on a raised dais, marked with a single cross. Under the lid of the coffin, a small black bag held Potemkin’s skull and bones, carefully numbered.

Kremlin proxies have made no effort to hide the theft—quite the contrary. The Russian-appointed head of the Kherson region, Vladimir Saldo, said that Potemkin’s remains were taken from the city, on the west bank of the Dnieper River, to an undisclosed location east of the Dnieper, as Ukrainian troops edge closer.

“We transported to the left bank the remains of the holy prince that were in St. Catherine’s Cathedral,” Saldo said in an interview broadcast on Russian television. “We transported Potemkin himself.”

Local Ukrainian activists confirmed that the church had been looted and that, along with the bones, statues of venerated Russian heroes had been removed. By the count of historian Simon Sebag Montefiore, author of the book Catherine the Great and Potemkin, it was the ninth time Potemkin’s restful peace had been interrupted. . .

The full article is available here»

Statue of Elizabeth Freeman Unveiled in Massachusetts

Posted in anniversaries, on site, the 18th century in the news by Editor on August 24, 2022

On Sunday (21 August) a statue of Elizabeth Freeman (ca.1744–1829) was unveiled in Sheffield, Massachusetts, as reported by the Associated Press:

Brian Hanlon, Elizabeth Freeman, 2022 (Photo from the artist’s Instagram, hanlonstudio1). As noted by @PhyllisASears at Herstorical Monuments, there is also a sculpture of Freeman at the National Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington, DC.

The story of an enslaved woman who went to court to win her freedom [in 1781] more than 80 years before the Emancipation Proclamation had been pushed to the fringes of history.

A group of civic leaders, activists, and historians hope that ended Sunday in the quiet Massachusetts town of Sheffield with the unveiling of a bronze statue of the woman who chose the name Elizabeth Freeman, also when she shed the chains of slavery 241 years ago to the day.

Her story, while remarkable, remains relatively obscure. . . .

The enslaved woman, known as Bett, could not read or write, but she listened. And what she heard did not make sense.

While she toiled in bondage in the household of Col. John Ashley, he and other prominent citizens of Sheffield met to discuss their grievances about British tyranny. In 1773, they wrote in what are known as the Sheffield Resolves that “Mankind in a state of nature are equal, free, and independent of each other.”

Those words were echoed in Article 1 of the Massachusetts Constitution in 1780, which begins “All men are born free and equal, and have certain natural, essential, and unalienable rights.”

It is believed that Bett, after hearing a public reading of the constitution, walked roughly 5 miles from the Ashley household to the home of attorney Theodore Sedgwick, one of the citizens who drafted the Sheffield Resolves, and asked him to represent her in her legal quest for freedom, said Paul O’Brien, president of the Sheffield Historical Society.

Sedgwick and another attorney, Tapping Reeve, took the case. Women had limited legal rights in Massachusetts courts at the time, so a male slave in the Ashley household named Brom was added to the case. The jury agreed with the attorneys, freeing Bett and Brom on August 21, 1781. . . .

The full article is available here»

Fort Ross in the News

Posted in on site, the 18th century in the news by Editor on April 22, 2022

Orthodox Holy Trinity St. Nicholas Chapel at Fort Ross State Historic Park, Sonoma County, California. Occupying historic lands of the Kashaya Pomo tribe, the site’s first chapel, built in the mid-1820s, was destroyed in the 1906 earthquake. In 1970, a reconstructed version burned. Shown here is the latest chapel, built in 1973, which continues to be used for Orthodox worship services. (Photo by Frank Schulenburg, via Wikimedia Commons, December 2016). For how the Russian invasion of Ukraine is dividing leaders of the Russian Orthodox church, see Jeanne Whalen’s recent reporting for The Washington Post.

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From The Washington Post:

Jason Vest, “‘Russia’s Jamestown in America’—and the Oligarch Who Has Helped Fund It,” The Washington Post Magazine (12 April 2022).

Since Vladimir Putin loosed Russian troops on Ukraine, there hasn’t been much pity for Russian oligarchs, who have seen their funds seized with alacrity. But there exists in America, thanks in part to a now-sanctioned Putin-allied billionaire, the most genuinely Russian landmark in the Lower 48. It’s called Fort Ross—or Fort Russ, as the Russians called it, way back in 1812, when it was founded. Today it’s a California state park and on the National Register of Historic Places. Overlooking the Pacific Ocean from high, craggy cliffs, the nigh-forgotten outpost—a challenging two-hour drive north from San Francisco—has lately garnered more attention than usual as something of a historic curiosity. . . .

Established in 1909 as one of the first entries into the California State Park system, today Fort Ross scrapes by with a staff of 11 and a budget of about $500,000. It is, in tandem with nearby Gerstle Cove in Salt Point State Park, long a favored family or school field-trip destination for Northern Californians. . . .

Sarah Sweedler, chief executive of the Fort Ross Conservancy notes at the end of the article:

“We have gotten a few weird emails,” she says. “But we’ve also gotten some supportive emails. Hopefully common sense will prevail. . . . Fort Ross is a rich story that goes way beyond the Russians. It’s a part of California history that’s ours—everyone’s.”

From Wikipedia:

Fort Ross is a former Russian establishment on the west coast of North America in what is now Sonoma County, California. It was the hub of the southernmost Russian settlements in North America from 1812 to 1841. Notably, it was the first multi-ethnic community in northern California, with a combination of Native Californians, Native Alaskans, and Russians. It has been the subject of archaeological investigation and is a California Historical Landmark, a National Historic Landmark, and on the National Register of Historic Places. . . .

War in Ukraine | On Ukraine’s Cultural Heritage and Art Now

Posted in the 18th century in the news by Editor on March 22, 2022

A selection of essays addressing the crucial role of art and culture in the war . . . Information on sites where one can contribute include Forbes, UNICEF, The Art Newspaper, HyperAllergic, and the Global Heritage Fund.

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From The Conversation:

Gauvin Alexander Bailey, “Ukraine: Heritage Buildings, If Destroyed, Can be Rebuilt But Never Replaced,” The Conversation (14 March 2022).

The tragic loss of life and desperate living conditions caused by the Russian invasion of Ukraine have gripped the world’s attention. However, another threat looms for the country’s heritage architecture, including United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) World Heritage monuments of global significance. These buildings lie directly in the line of fire as Russian forces advance on Kyiv and increase bombardments near Lviv. UNESCO Director-General Audrey Azoulay has called for the protection of these testimonies to the country’s “rich history.” . . .

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Bailey’s essay includes a link to Evan Rail’s article:

Evan Rail, “‘This Is Everyone’s Culture’: Ukraine’s Architectural Treasures Face Destruction,” The New York Times (11 March 2022). The country’s vast array of historic buildings, artworks and public squares are an integral part of Ukraine’s cultural identity. Amid the violence of war, many are being reduced to rubble.

Russia’s invasion of Ukraine brought searing images of human tragedy to witnesses around the world: thousands of civilians killed and injured; broken families, as mothers and children leave in search of refuge while fathers and other men stay behind to defend their country; and millions of refugees having already fled to neighboring countries, after just two weeks of war. In addition to that human suffering, a second tragedy comes into focus: the destruction of a country’s very culture. Across Ukraine, scores of historic buildings, priceless artworks and public squares are being reduced to rubble by Russian rockets, missiles, bombs and gunfire. . . .

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From The Washington Post:

Max Bearak and Isabelle Khurshudyan, “‘All Art Must Go Underground:’ Ukraine Scrambles to Shield Its Cultural Heritage,” The Washington Post (14 March 2022).

Emptying a museum is a gargantuan task, and the entire workforce of the Andrey Sheptytsky National Museum in Lviv had been at it for a week before the final piece—a century-old portrait of the museum’s namesake—was taken down, leaving the last of its walls bare.

Ihor Kozhan, the director of the grand gallery opposite Lviv’s opera house, explained the rush. “There is an egomaniac in Moscow who doesn’t care about killing children, let alone destroying art,” he said. “If our history and heritage are to survive, all art must go underground.”

Across Ukraine, artists, gallerists, curators and museum directors are desperately but carefully unhooking, wrapping and stashing away the country’s hefty cultural endowment as Vladimir Putin’s onslaught closes in. Statues, stained-glass windows and monuments are being covered with shrapnel-proof material. Basement bunkers are crammed with paintings. . . .

Saving art was secondary only to saving lives, many of those interviewed said, because Ukrainians’ pride in their culture serves as a deep well of inspiration for its resistance to invasion. Putin has made it clear that he considers Ukraine to be part of greater Russia, a contention artists here say denies Ukraine’s distinct heritage.

“With each invasion, some loss of culture is inevitable,” said Taras Voznyak, director of the Lviv National Art Gallery. “Putin knows that without art, without our history, Ukraine will have a weaker identity. That is the whole point of his war—to erase us and assimilate us into his population of cryptofascist zombies.” . . .

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From The Washington Post:

Peggy McGlone, “A Lab in Rural Virginia Is Racing to Preserve Ukraine’s Cultural Heritage,” The Washington Post (19 March 2022).

In the southwest corner of rural Virginia, about 5,000 miles from the war zone, a small but mighty team of archaeologists, historians and high-tech mapping experts are using sophisticated satellite imagery to help to protect Ukraine’s cultural heritage. Housed in the Virginia Museum of Natural History in Martinsville, the Cultural Heritage Monitoring Lab is the museum world’s version of a war room: a network of computers, satellite feeds and phones that represents one of the newest tools being employed to protect national treasures threatened by natural disasters or geopolitical events.

Created last year in partnership with the Smithsonian Institution Cultural Rescue Initiative—a world leader in this field—the lab is compiling imagery of Ukraine’s cultural sites to help track attacks on them. The goal is to quickly alert officials in Ukraine of damage, in case action can be taken—perhaps to protect artifacts exposed to the elements, or to board up stained-glass windows in the wake of a direct hit on a church—and to document the devastation.

“It’s a 24/7 operation,” director and archaeologist Hayden Bassett said, adding that the staff of six has been working 12 and 18 hours at a stretch to maintain their rapid response. “Even though we might not be staring at a screen at 3am, our satellites are imaging at 3am.”

Using their database of 26,000 cultural heritage sites—including historic architecture, cultural institutions such as museums and archives, houses of worship and places of archaeological significance—Bassett and his team of art historians, analysts and techies have identified several hundred potential impacts in the conflict’s first few weeks. . . .

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From NPR:

Lauren Frayer and Olena Lysenko, “How Some People Are Trying to Make Art, Not War, in Ukraine Right Now,” NPR Morning Edition (17 March 2022).

[Lyana] Mytsko [director of Lviv Municipal Arts Center] says artists and musicians keep contacting her and asking how they can help. Here’s what she tells them: “Art is not an extra little thing—a sidebar—in this war. Putin has said Ukraine is not a real country—that it doesn’t have a real culture of its own. Go out and prove him wrong” . . . .

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From i:

Isabella Bengoechea, “Ukraine War: Cancelling Russian Culture Is a Mistake and Helps No One But Putin, Say Art Lovers,” The i Paper (21 March 2022). Alex Beard, Chief Executive of the Royal Opera House, told i: “Swan Lake is for everybody.”

Since Russian bombs began falling on Ukraine, the world has united to make known its disgust for Vladimir Putin’s regime through sanctions targeting Russia’s economy, its business, military and its elites. However, high culture, traditionally a jewel in the crown of Russia’s soft power, has not escaped scrutiny. Russian performers have been dropped. Musicians have been told to denounce Mr Putin. Performances of Russian works have been cancelled—literally and figuratively—across the West. Vissi d’arte has been tried and found wanting, as the theatre of war bleeds into the concert halls and opera stages of the world.

This month, the Cardiff Philharmonic Orchestra cancelled a Tchaikovsky evening because of the conflict, while the Russian composer’s 1812 Overture was dropped from the Royal Albert Hall’s Classical Spectacular concerts, by Japan’s Chubu Philharmonic, by the Akashi Philharmonic and the Zagreb Philharmonic.

Switzerland’s Théâtre Bienne Soleure replaced Tchaikovsky’s Ukraine-based romantic opera Mazeppa over concerns about depicting war on stage, while the Polish National Opera cancelled a performance of Modest Mussorgsky’s opera Boris Godunov, about the downfall of a murderous tsar. Then two university ensembles, Trinity Orchestra and UCD Symphony Orchestra, said they would remove all music by Russian composers from the repertoire.

“This is a mistake,” said Maksym Tymoshenko, President of the Ukrainian National Tchaikovsky Academy of Music in Kyiv, whose musicians made headlines this month staging an outdoor concert in the city’s Independence Square. Mr Tymoshenko told i: “We disagree with banning Russian music. We don’t think it’s appropriate or reasonable. That you cannot perform great works of art, whether 1812 or others, is very twisted logic. Modern Putin’s Russia has nothing to do with the great Russian culture. By banning it we are not doing anybody a favour.” . . .


In the News | Wreck (Perhaps) of Cook’s HMB Endeavour Found

Posted in the 18th century in the news by Editor on February 6, 2022

The HM Bark Endeavour Replica, on display at the Australian National Maritime Museum, Darling Harbour, Sydney (Photo: Wikimedia Commons, November 2017). The ship, on of two replicas, was completed in 1994.

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From The New York Times:

Manan Luthra, “Captain Cook’s Ship Caught in Center of a Maritime Rift,” The New York Times (4 February 2022). After researchers in Australia reported finding the wreck of the Endeavour off Rhode Island, their U.S. partners issued a startling rebuke.

When the British explorer James Cook set out in 1768 in search of an “unknown southern land” called Terra Australis Incognita, he sailed on a navy research vessel called the HMB Endeavour. More than 90 people were on board the ship, described by some historians as homely but sturdy.

Two years later, it dropped anchor off the east coast of what is now Australia, precipitating two centuries of British control. It would go on to transport British troops during the American Revolutionary War, and meet its demise in 1778, part of a fleet of ships that historians believe sank off Rhode Island.

For more than two decades, a team of Australian and U.S. researchers have been scouring the waters in search of the wreckage.

Then, on Thursday morning, 254 years after Cook set sail, archaeologists at the Australian National Maritime Museum announced that they were “convinced” they had identified the final resting place of what the museum’s chief executive and director, Kevin Sumption, called “one of the most important and contentious vessels in Australia’s maritime history.”

But soon after the news conference in Sydney, there was an unexpected response from the museum’s American research collaborator, the Rhode Island Marine Archaeological Project.

From Rhode Island, where it was still the middle of the night, a terse statement appeared on the project’s website. It called the identification of the wreckage “premature” and the Australian museum’s actions “a breach of contract between RIMAP and the ANMM for the conduct of this research and how its results are to be shared with the public.”

The dueling statements raised several questions. Did the Australians jump the gun, announcing the finding without the Rhode Island group’s approval? Why had they chosen to hold their news conference at a time seemingly inconvenient to their American research partners? What, exactly, did the breach of contract consist of? And most important: Had the wreckage of Cook’s famous ship finally been discovered, or not? . . .

The full article is available here»

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