RMN’23 – Utilising Intangible Cultural Heritage to actively support rural crafts

Museum of English Rural Life’s Museum of the Intangible

The Spring 2023 Rural Voices Seminar Series continued with a thought-provoking session exploring rural crafts, some of which are becoming endangered, and consequently being added to the Heritage Crafts Red List.

Heritage Crafts is the national charity for traditional crafts skills and the only UNESCO-accredited ICH NGO in the UK focusing solely on the domain of traditional craftsmanship. Daniel Carpenter, Executive Director of Heritage Crafts, and Greta Bertram, Curator at the Crafts Study Centre, outlined the work of the organisation and the way in which it has partnered with museums to raise awareness of Intangible Cultural Heritage, as well as the challenges museums face in incorporating ICH into their offering in a way that actively supports the continuation of embodied craft knowledge, skills and practices.

Other useful resources that were shared included the online exhibition which grew out of the Stakeholders project, developed by The Museum of English Rural Life on the topic of basketmaking. This saw the museum working with The Basketmakers’ Association. The Museum of English Rural Life has also created a toolkit to enable other organisations to make their own museum of the intangible.

The recently-launched global campaign Wiki Loves Living Heritage was also referenced, as was some important ongoing work to gather information on Gypsy, Roma, Traveller, Showmen and Boater Crafts of Cultural Significance to be added to the Red List of Endangered Crafts in 2023.

This session was hosted by Dr Ollie Douglas, Curator at The Museum of English Rural Life, University of Reading with guest speakers Daniel Carpenter and Greta Bertram.

Daniel Carpenter has worked in the arts, crafts and heritage sectors for over 15 years. He was one of the founders of Heritage Crafts back in 2009 when he was working for Creative Lives (formerly Voluntary Arts) which exists to promote active participation in everyday creativity. He led Heritage Crafts’ Pre-Apprenticeship Pilot project in West Somerset in 2017, and was commissioned in 2018 to lead the research on the second edition of Red List of Endangered Crafts, before being recruited onto the staff team in 2019. He is a Trustee of Arts&Heritage and an Ambassador of The Fathom Trust.

Greta Bertram joined the Crafts Study Centre in 2017. Previous roles have included work on a variety of cataloguing and research projects at the University of Hertfordshire, the Polar Museum, University of Cambridge, and The Museum of English Rural Life, University of Reading.

She was a Trustee of the Heritage Crafts Association 2011–2018, during which time she conducted a major piece of research into the current state of traditional crafts in the UK to produce the ‘Red List of Endangered Crafts’. Her research interests include craft, especially basketry, intangible heritage, and the role of museums in supporting the transmission of craft and other skills.

Dr Ollie Douglas has worked at The Museum of English Rural Life, University of Reading, for over a decade where his role focusses on curation, interpretation, management, research access, and public engagement. During this time, he has both led and participated in numerous projects that have sought to reimagine rural heritage and museums in a range of creative ways. He sits on the Committee of the RMN and the Folklore Society. He is a previous President of the ICOM-affiliated International Association of Agricultural Museums. @OllieDouglas

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