Reading my notes on Wickham’s work on ranking collections again yesterday, I was reminded to have another look at the classification table used by the Public Monument and Sculpture Association in data collection for its National Recording Project. Set up in 1997 and continuing until 2003 this research project, supported by the Heritage Lottery Fund, aimed to create a detailed catalogue of British public sculpture and monuments and to disseminate this material as an online resource and via a series of publications.
The resulting database includes both historic (from 1200) and contemporary sculptural works, including architectural details and functional pieces. Each record includes the following standard fields:
- Type (e.g. sculpture, marker, statue, fountain)
- Name of sculptor
- Date of design
- Year of unveiling
- Location details (address, physical description e.g. “amongst trees on bank”, OS Ref, postcode)
- Listing status
- Duty of care (e.g. local authority)
- Name of commissioner
- Notes (physical description and full details of commissioning history, if known)
- Physical condition
- Element details (materials and physical dimensions)
- Assessment of condition (surface and structural, including any vandalism)
While recording a huge number of art works (9,300 nationally) and a high level of detail (sometimes almost amounting to a ‘biography’) this project seems scrupulous in not making any attempt to rank or compare the works it records.
The North East volume of the catalogue – Public Sculpture of North-East England – published by Liverpool University Press (2000) and researched by Paul Usherwood, Jeremy Beach and Catherine Morris at Northumbria University, will be one of the key starting points for my research into the NewcastleGateshead Collection.