International Women’s Day 2021

March 8, 2021 Published by Chris Mahon

Women and World Heritage

As recently witnessed at the recent ‘Visitor Centres in a Changing World’ webinar, women are at the forefront of World Heritage management. The event was chaired by WH:UK Trustee Jane Gibson, from the Durham Castle and Cathedral WHS, who introduced: Patricia Alberth, Head of the World Heritage Office of the City of Bamberg and Chair of the International Association of World Heritage Professionals; Anna Wilson, Principal Consultant at the Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust and Prof. Teresa Anderson, founder and Director of the Jodrell Bank Discovery Centre, as 3 of the 5 speakers.

You can read Jane’s summary of the webinar HERE

On the World Heritage UK list of those we broadly identify as ‘World Heritage Site Coordinators’ in the UK and Overseas Territories, 66% are women.

Key individuals in the governance and activities of the organisation include Gillian Clarke as Secretary, Lesley Garlick as Membership Secretary and Jane Gibson again, who chairs the Communications Group. Not forgetting of course, the invaluable work of Beth Thomas as Finance Manager and Tiva Montalbano who has been leading the Resilience project until the end of March 2021. Jess Vining, who has been assisting in communications and volunteering should also be recognised here.

A few other significant players in the World Heritage community, past and present, appear below. Just a sample, but a small contribution to International Women’s Day 2021

Maud Cunnington – Stonehenge

Maud Cunnington CBE (1869 – 1951) was an archaeologist and one of the most significant early excavators of the Stonehenge and Avebury landscape. She led excavations across many prehistoric sites in Wiltshire, including the Sanctuary near Avebury, Woodhenge, and the Iron Age village at All Cannings Cross.

Maud was committed to bringing archaeology to a wide audience, opening up her excavations to visitors, writing popular books for children and giving public lectures. Maud was awarded with a CBE in 1948 for her services to British archaeology – the first woman archaeologist to receive the honour.  She was elected president of the Wiltshire Archaeological and Natural History Society in 1933, the first woman to hold the position. 

Maud, along with her husband Ben, purchased the land of Woodhenge and The Sanctuary and later presented them to the nation, ensuring the preservation of these important sites.  She left most of her wealth to the Wiltshire Museum, located in Devizes, enabling the Museum to employ its first professional curator. The Museum continues to honour Maud’s achievements and is home to much of her research and finds.


Find out more about Maud on TrowelBlazers
Objects Maud excavated displayed at the Wiltshire Museum

Brenda Swinbank – Hadrian’s Wall

Brenda in her BA robes. From Joyce Pettifer

Brenda was one of the first female professional archaeologists in Britain and only the third British Woman to be awarded a PhD in the archaeology of Britain.

Brenda was born in West Yorkshire in 1929, took an early interest in the past and, in 1946, went to Durham University to study Modern History. At Durham, Brenda choose Romano-British Archaeology as her specialist subject and was tutored by the archaeologist Eric Birley. This was the start of a long and distinguished career in Archaeology that saw Brenda undertake research on Roman sites across Britain. Involved in the excavation of many of the famous sites along Hadrian’s Wall including Corbridge Roman Town, the forts at Housesteads and Carrawburgh, as well as the Temple of Mithras, Brenda was an “competent excavator and field archaeologist”, as noted by Birley. Brenda has held a number of teaching roles in schools across the North, a lectureship in Archaeology at the University of South Wales and Monmouthshire (where she undertook excavations on Roman forts at Penydarren and Neath Grammar School) and a Research position at the University of York. Here, with Derek Phillips she undertook the post-excavation analysis of the excavations at York Minster and co-wrote two volumes based on the results. In 1958 Brenda was elected a Fellow of the Society of Antiquaries in London.

You can read more about Brenda and her work HERE

Bex Harvey – Durham Castle

In January 2019, University College Trust announced £10,000 of funding to commission an artist to create a new work for the Great Hall at Durham Castle. This project was titled ‘Heralding Women’ and it was created to celebrate over 30 years of women at University College. The first 49 female students at Castle in 1987 really paved the way for future Castle women through their determination to get involved in College life, and this commission was created to champion this.

The project was awarded to Artist and Arts Facilitator, Bex Harvey, who has been working on this commission since last year, and has decided to title the project ‘Women of Castle’.

Initially, her idea was to create large light boxes, (similar to a contemporary stained glass window to complement the fabric of the space) to fill with portraits of four women from Durham Castle, which would be placed within the Great Hall to celebrate women in portraiture. It very quickly became apparent to Bex that profiling four women would simply not be enough, and at present there are 11 confirmed women who are involved in the project;

  • Lynne Carrick (Secretary and Student Support 30+ years)
  • Ava Schumacher Reid (previous acting Vice Master and Senior Tutor)Anna Poulson (first female Senior Man)
  • Pippa Prevost-Jones (first black female JCR President)
  • Lynne Robinson (current Domestic Supervisor 25+ years)
  • Sappho (one of first known female poets- only female presence in the Great Hall)
  • Dame Margot Fonteyn (first female Chancellor)
  • Cecily Shaw (grew up and lived in Durham Castle and then worked there)
  • Jenny Dell (only female member of the University College Durham Trust)
  • Lynn Everson (one of the First ladies in 1987)
  • Elizabeth ‘Tippy’ Jackson (2019/20 Exec, Chair of Social Events)

Despite COVID-19, Bex has been working behind the scenes on the project, as shortly before lockdown she was able to conduct in-person and Skype interviews with a number of women, ranging from the local Durham area, to areas in the south such as London and Wiltshire and stretching all the way out to Australia! These interviews are made up of a range of students and staff, alumni, SCR members, current staff members within the domestic team, First Ladies, students working within gender awareness and activism as part of the wider network in Durham University, and many more. So far, Bex has transcribed over 30+ hours of recordings from interviews, which make up a 100+ page document; all of which is exciting material both for the catalogue that will accompany the physical installation, and the Castle archive in general. They will also contribute to the dialogue of an alternative historical tour of the Castle, which will focus specifically on the female contributions that have been made over the years, which Bex is currently planning.

The photographic shots of the living women profiles are underway, and Bex has completed two photoshoots of Lynne Carrick and Lynne Robinson prior to lockdown, and visits have been rearranged with Lynn Everson, Pippa Prevost-Jones and Anna Poulson for a more practical time in the future. Archival material of those being profiled who have passed away is currently being collated, scanned and enlarged to also be used within the project.

Moving forward, Bex hopes to begin construction on the light boxes themselves, which will be crafted from oak, to meet with the panelled decor in the Great Hall. Bex has almost finished designing an electronics system that will endeavour to react to the natural light in the Hall, ensuring that the photographic light boxes are lit from behind artificially when the natural light falls each day. Thus, they will be illuminated all day and night (and require no power, as they will charge during the day using solar panels).

Bex has also set up a dedicated Instagram account detailing the project
(@women_of_castle), where she is sharing updates about her work, and some behind-the-scenes videos of how the project was created. As part of the Alumni Reunion virtual weekend (11th-13th September 2020) Bex spoke on the Saturday afternoon on Zoom about her project, including a Q&A session about her influences and plans for the project in the current pandemic. As such, the project will be launched online due to COVID-19, and installed in 2021 when it is safe to do so, so that her work can be enjoyed by everyone