Tag Archives: Architectural historians do it in the roofspace

Could Anyone Not On the Bus Please Raise Their Hand: A Guide To Conference Fieldtrips


It’s that time of year when academics can grab a break from their endless PowerPoint slides, passive-aggressive question sessions and lunch breaks with suspicious fish-based sandwiches, and instead be permitted into the real world to point at things in a somewhat organised manner. Like a school trip, bus loads of academics are driven from the lecture hall to archaeological sites, great buildings and art galleries, with a burning determination to show everyone around them that they absolutely ooze theory, methodology and object-based knowledge from every gland! Things can get pretty heated as they tear into poor display, conservation and interpretation; so here’s a few situations I have identified that you can be ready for!

P2000537Everyone will look at an interesting piece of medieval sculpture for a bit, then someone will realise it is a Victorian replica and the group will die a little inside

Well… it’s a very good pastiche


Seizing the opportunity, one eminent delegate will speak inside a building to the extent that they basically recite the entire manuscript for the book about it that they have never got round to writing

He’s been going for at least 35 minutes now, isn’t the wine reception supposed to be at six??


P2060052Instead of looking at a building, people will gather round a small model of it made by secondary-school children in the 1950s  and criticise its numerous inaccuracies

Of course, the layout of the monastic complex is conjectural to say the least; and that tracery of the infirmary is ludicrous for the documented date


KONICA MINOLTA DIGITAL CAMERAIf a number of scholars are invited to climb part of a stair-turret, they will ignore instructions where to exit it and proceed to ascend to the very top as if they might glimpse the court of heaven with God enthroned with His angels in splendour, when actually all they will find is a roof-space filled with asbestos

Now this just doesn’t seem safe, maybe I ought to go back down and not mention this


P2020195One conference delegate will criticise the liturgical arrangement of a church building but absolutely no one else will care

Look at the state of those riddel-posts
They look like drainpipes


P1560077There will be a significant digression about the appropriateness of light fittings

All 1960s, of course


P1240071Two insane people will look at something utterly insignificant as if it is the most exciting thing in all of creation

Is that..?

I think it is…!



13625143_10100333691940530_1400530738_nEven though every group is supposed to see the same things in a rota, people will hide the coloured sticker on their name badge and go with whatever group they feel like because they really don’t believe this is possible

Balls to that Anglo-Saxon tun, I’m going to the lady chapel roofspace first


P1770506Someone will be told by a guard not to get too close to an object when pointing at it and have their authoritative ego scarred for the rest of the visit

I wasn’t even that close… and it’s glazed anyway so I don’t know what their problem was frankly



P1630331An amateur guardian of a building will deliver an extended Ladybird book version of its history to an assembled congregation of eminent scholars who know more about it than anyone else on the planet, but everyone will be too polite to tell them to stop

And we have three windows at the east end, which symbolise the 3 at the beginning of our village dialling code

KONICA MINOLTA DIGITAL CAMERAIt will rain and people will make interminable jokes about the “English summer”

Even if the conference is abroad



13816950014_3797aa884f_b[1]You will be stuck between two people discussing the differences between Purbeck marble and other types of fossiliferous limestone which is interesting for the first ten minutes but then you realise decorum means you have no escape

In the en-delit shafting in the triforium? That’s blue lilas, surely




With more wonky arches