Living with Heritage: Lincoln, The Collection and Heritage Lovers (Xu Liyi, ITP 2018, China)

Hi, this is Xu Liyi again, from the Cultural Exchange Office at the Shanghai Museum (ITP 2018). Okan Cinemre (Anatolian Civilizations Museum, Turkey) and I had the most unforgettable week in Lincoln from 23 to 30 July.

Heritage is in the air.

Lincoln people are proud heritage lovers happily living with history in daily life. They definitely have lots of reasons for that.

July 23 was another rare hot summer day in England when we arrived in Lincoln. Hopping off the burning-hot train (air-conditioning out of service) with our lovely Rebecca Horton (ITP Coordinator), we were warmly greeted by lovely staff from The Collection: Art and Archaeology in Lincolnshire. Andrea Martin, Exhibitions and Interpretation Manager, arranged everything beautifully for our stay in Lincoln and ushered us into the wonderful world of Lincolnshire heritage. Dawn Heywood, Collections Development Officer, always smiles sweet smiles before she starts to speak. Antony Lee, Collections Development Officer, is a young curator but our knowledgeable leading guide for the Roman walk.

The first highlight of our visit, Lincoln Castle, has been a fortress for almost 1000 years. Our medieval wall walk with Andrea circulating the castle took in a stunning aerial panorama of the city. Climbing up the narrow spiral stairs leading to top of the Observatory Tower, we felt like we were standing on top of the world, reaching further city views and managing to keep smiling in the force of the wind while taking selfies. But the castle did have a dark side to it: during the 19th century, some criminals were hanged at the Cobb Hall to be witnessed by thousands of people crowding in the street just below after they were locked behind bars in the Victoria Prison right inside the castle. But times changed: what were once prison cells have been converted into a children’s playground, which is the most amazing part of the castle! Anita Fox, Learning Manager, together with her team designed a big package of children’s programmes both in Lincoln Castle and The Collection. By the way, the castle appeared in Downton Abbey season 3.

Lincoln Castle

A wall walk around Lincoln Castle with Becca Horton (ITP) and Andrea Martin (The Collection)

The Collection is the core of the Lincoln and Lincolnshire heritage network. Dawn gave us an almost object-by-object super VIP guided tour in the gallery. Later we bumped into a small archaeology ‘market’ in the orientation hall, where local archaeology communities displayed their work and their passion for heritage, as it was the week of the Archaeology Festival 2018. The museum is not a physically huge building: opened in 2005, it also has a children’s play space, learning studio, a lovely cafe, an auditorium, an exquisite shop, all fitting into a comfortably walkable size. We also visited the painting storage to view landscape paintings by famous Lincoln artists which were not on display. Further exploration to Lincolnshire Archives with Antony feasted us on archaeology findings, archive records and objects to handle. It is always an absolutely breathtaking moment for a museum person to view objects so closely and handle them with their own hands.

The Collection

Left: Gallery of The Collection; the bronze ‘hanging bowl’ excavated from the site of St. Paul-in-the Basil; the two 2000-year-old bronze boars will be soon on display in The Collection
Upper middle: Selfie with Becca, Dawn and Antony in the storage
Lower middle: The Collection Lincoln under the blue sky, a view from the lovely museum cafe
Right: Heidelberg man offers a real handaxe for visitors to touch; a boat found in the mud of the River Witham preserved for 2500 years

No visitor to Lincoln will miss the massive Lincoln Cathedral, a landmark of Lincoln seated on a steep hill. The cathedral was first built in the 11th century and has been renovated, expanded and rebuilt over more than 1000 years till today. It is interesting to observe the compromise of later structures added to existing parts and surprisingly experimental stone carvings everywhere from ground to roof. Antony and Dawn were wonderful companions to a heritage site and story-telling talents. Just free your imagination to hear the stories and legends behind this imposing building, so steeped in history. Again, the Westminster scenes in The Da Vinci Code were filmed in Lincoln Cathedral.


Views of Lincoln Cathedral

On evening of July 25, we had a stroll of Roman remains with Andrea, Dawn, Antony, and Rob White, a retired archaeologist. The tour began from the East Gate of Upper City, a horseshoe-shaped tower base built in AD 60. Now the stone ruins, excavated about 50 years ago, are preserved as an ancient monument. Antony spotted more Roman wall, towers, and basilica sites as we toured counter-clockwise around what was the Upper City in Roman times. The visibility of Lincoln’s abundant heritage really surprised me. But I love to see proud faces glittering every time they talked about the history and archaeological finds in their city.

Roman trail

Upper left: Remains of the Roman East Gate
Lower left: Newport Arch, the only surviving Roman gate in Britain still open to traffic
Right: Okan with Antony, Becca, Andrea, Dawn and Rob, studying a Roman well at St. Paul-in-the-Basil

You have no idea how much Lincolners love walks. They are really creative designers for the various heritage and memorial walk trails that link every historic site or monument together like a necklace. They even have a ghost walk! Come and discover it yourself.

Our visits were not only to museums and historic sites. We visited the team of the Historic Environment Record at Lincolnshire County Council with Ian George, Places Manager. They introduced their database mapping the historic sites and archaeological excavations all over Lincolnshire to give advice to land planning projects if any archaeological investigation is necessary. The most wonderful part is that the system and its accompanying research resources are open to the public.

Group Photo

Group photo with the Historic Environment Record Team

Andrea and her colleagues work beyond the walls of their museum on multiple sites and work actively with local communities. Everyone we met loves deeply and works enthusiastically for their local history and culture. The best way to protect heritage and carry on our traditions is to make heritage accessible to everyone in the community and make them die-hard fans of heritage.

You will not be surprised to find that Lincolnshire is home to many celebrities. Just to name a couple:
Alfred Tennyson (1809-1892), the Poet Laureate during Queen Victoria’s reign. If you visit the Tate Britain, you should be charmed by the beautiful yet grieving Lady of Shalott by John William Waterhouse, who was inspired by Tennyson’s poem of the same name.
And if you don’t know Tennyson, there is one bigger name: Isaac Newton. Ring a bell?

Thank you, Lincoln! Now we are off to the University of Nottingham Museum!