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Research project aims to shine light on the plight of endangered crafts

Devon stave basket making - photo by Hilary BurnsThe Heritage Crafts Association is pleased to announce a new six-month research project that will provide a major update and expansion of its groundbreaking Red List of Endangered Crafts, first published in 2017.

The first Red List of Endangered Crafts, authored by Greta Bertram, was the first to rank traditional crafts by the likelihood they would survive the next generation. It brought the plight of these skills to national attention, with coverage on the BBC One Show, BBC Radio 4 Woman’s Hour, and across national news and online media. It identified 45 endangered and 17 critically endangered crafts, which, for reasons such as an ageing workforce and a lack of effective training routes, faced an uncertain future.

On secondment from his doctoral research on craft heritage at the University of Exeter, former HCA Trustee Daniel Carpenter will take up the role of Research Manager for the project, supported by the South, West and Wales Doctoral Training Partnership. The work will dovetail with that of the HCA’s recently-appointed Endangered Crafts Officer Mary Lewis, whose post, funded by The Dulverton Trust, has been created to identify and develop interventions to improve the prospects of such crafts.

The 2017 version of the Red List is available to view at www.heritagecrafts.org.uk/redlist. If you would like to contribute information for the new version, please email Daniel Carpenter at redlist[AT]heritagecrafts.org.uk. The updated Red List will be published at the HCA Conference on 9 March 2019.

HCA Red List Research Manager Daniel Carpenter said:

“We have always known that heritage crafts evolve over time, adapting to changes in technology and fashion… and some die out altogether. My main hope for this next phase of the Red List is that it will allow us to decide which practices of cultural importance we collectively wish to save while we still can… rather than sleepwalking towards further extinctions without having the opportunity to make those informed choices. Over the next few months I will be developing the research methodology and reaching out to craft practitioners to renew and supplement the existing data, with both accuracy improvements and real world changes. Please feel free to contribute by contacting me at redlist@heritagecrafts.org.uk.”

HCA Chair Patricia Lovett MBE said:

“Traditional crafts are a vital part of the UK’s intangible cultural heritage (ICH)… not our monuments and historical artefacts, which are already well-protected by heritage professionals, but the living knowledge, skills and practices used to create them… along with many of the other things we treasure in this country. While we campaign for the UK to ratify the UNESCO Convention on ICH safeguarding (we are one of only 18 countries in the world that hasn’t), we will continue to catalogue our endangered craft heritage and focus attention on that which we are in danger of losing, so paving the way for the UK to join the rest of the world in protecting this important element of our shared culture.”

Download a copy of the press release

Photo: Devon stave basket making, by Hilary Burns

University of Lincoln uses virtual reality to provide experience of heritage crafts

The University of Lincoln has developed a new system to use virtual reality technology to train young blacksmiths, saying that it wants to get more people involved in trades that are in danger of disappearing. Using their virtual blacksmith’s forge, users can experience the basic principles behind blacksmithing, and the hope is that young people might go on to take it up for real.

Click on the video below to play (UK only)

iPlayer story on University of Lincoln

 

Eventually the university hopes to develop a virtual village that will allow users to experience a whole range of traditional crafts, and even receive one-to-one training from experts all over the world. The Heritage Crafts Alliance (set up in North Yorkshire in 2011 to focus on building crafts, and not to be confused with us) are quoted in the Look North report as supporting the project.

Heritage crafts need to embrace technology and new sections of society if they are to survive and this development look very interesting, though for me the sensation of actually being present in the environment and the interaction with the materials are vital factors in the lure of heritage crafts, and it will be a long time before technology can replicate this. If this is to become a teaching tool, is it even possible to convey the types of tacit knowledge that make up these craft skills without these sensuous factors present?