Dead Dolphin ashore May 2016

Dead Dolphin ashore May 2016

Sunday, 31 March 2013

A very familiar story and the Ramsgate situation.

I am slowly but surely building up a network of people who share similar concerns regarding missing art and artifacts in Thanet. The problem is not just confined to TDC as KCC are also displaying signs of appalling neglect.Recently I received an email and have listed bullet points for the reader to consider.

  • "I spent a lengthy time in Ramsgate Library. I was told at Ramsgate that the photographic archives had only recently been categorized by volunteers, sounds great I though. There were many folders that had titles but were empty, strange that. I asked - why are these folders empty? I was told that these must have been stolen recently and happens a lot/no surprise. For example a folder marked "Billie & Florrie Hamilton" under the people section ( ballroom dancers and proprietors of Granville House 1950`s ) was empty. Where had they gone! Who would take it? Nothing has cropped up on Google images or ebay as yet.  Well, folder after folder are now empty, and since nothing is scanned its gone forever.   The "Ramsgate, John Le Mesurier" folder contents have gone walkies. Also, I found a reference to an oil painting of Edward Buss, Chief Constable of the Ramsgate Borough Police Force for 25 years (1880`s) being held in the Ramsgate library collection. I fear that it was destroyed in the fire but nobody knows for certain on that, and no photograph was ever taken of it."
  • "It`s now not possible to use Ramsgate Library for research, as they have so little material. The Kelly`s guides are incomplete in both Ramsgate/ Margate libraries. Microfiches for certain years have gone. As Margate Library is a Gateway Centre, the world and his wife now enter the place, and chancers go upstairs (people who wouldn`t typically use libraries) to try the cabinets to find an open one in a sort of lucky dip."
  • "The maps in Ramsgate library are permanently unlocked and in a mess. The worst part is that the staff have an indifferent attitude in Margate/Ramsgate, for they no longer employ an archivist since the death of Penny Ward, but volunteers with learning difficulties etc. "  (Penny Ward died in 1998 )                                                               
  • At Margate  " Last year in Margate library I found an envelope containing WW1 soldiers medals and letters on the floor of the glass cabinet - tossed in.  To be sure, anybody could have taken them if they desired.  I was very shocked and even angry that people donate artifacts and bequeath documents to KCC in good faith and they treat them with disregard. 
  •  I have found many books in Margate library that have had engravings sliced away with a sharp blade " That sounds familiar as the same thing has happened at the Margate Museum. Perhaps I may be a bit cynical but could this be the work of the "someone" who in the past has unrestricted access to both archives in the past and there are not many people who have had that luxury.
All this makes grim reading and it does vindicate my position on art and artifacts in Thanet. Most of my recent posts do highlight Margate and though the situation is bad it can be rectified. All is needed is for Councillors to accept there is a problem and do something about it. It may mean admitting there were some bad decisions made in the past, it could also mean admitting to loses. But once the problems have been sorted and the collection has been stream lined into a controlled manageable collection what is left would still will be one of the best sea side history collections in Europe and a first class cultural visitor attraction.

Sadly to say the real problem is at Ramsgate and I think the situation is dire. Like the author of the above text I have been in Ramsgate library and I have also enquired about items lost in the fire like records etc., and what went up in smoke and what was salvaged. The staff I have spoken to have not been at all helpful and I get this feeling they like to keep certain people at arms length. But then I have been down this road before and I do find some areas of Ramsgate's heritage very aloof.

I think the situation at Ramsgate is dire because if Ramsgate Maritime themed items are taken out of the equation and left for the Maritime Museum to deal with you will find there is very little on anything else in the public domain relating to the history and heritage of Ramsgate. I know there are some very good private collections in Ramsgate and some really clued up historians but that is far as it goes and the Ramsgate public have no real access. Michaels's bookshop does produces excellent books which is a god send.

The key to a public collection really does come down to what Thanet District Council has on it's books and I think the first port of call has to be what has happened to all the TDC items taken from Albion House that are in storage at Margate.

To the left is the numbers of all the prints and pictures that were once in Albion House and removed by TDC. Once again this was another reason why I put a FOI request into TDC in 2006 so I could identify the prints to the numbers. But it was refused.
I have identified print 7094 as Ramsgate Sands, 1800's view J & E Howard, print 7095 as Eastcliff Lodge drawn by Vernon K Hood December 1805 for the Beauties of England and Wales collection and engraved by W.Cook and print 7103 as being "The town Quay at Ramsgate" drawn by Joseph Fussell produced for the English topographer series of Kent 1828 - 1831 and engraved by E.Duncan.
If any of the Margate auditors are reading this they are in the Custom House so you will not find them in TDC storage.

Another TDC list I have are the loans of prints and paintings from TDC to RTC in 2011. On the list are a number items that have no list numbers and the description of some items is very poor. I am really amazed at this description.

"Coloured print in gold frame

Vulcan paddle tug towing lifeboat out of Ramsgate harbour
58H x 83W cms
Some damage to frame
picture is in fair condition, some damp and dirt
backing in poor condition."

Actually I think this description alone really does sum up neglect at TDC. This is not a print but a oil painting on board, it is by William Broome and it is well documented on Google as the Vulcan towing the Bradford to the wreck of the Indian Chief 1881.It has no list number and when it arrived at Custom House it was still damp. 

One thing I have noticed about the RTC custom house collection is condition. This small collection excluding three oil paintings with provenance and a few modern repro prints given to the Mayor came from the Borough of Ramsgate then passed onto the Ramsgate Charter Trustees then became the property of Ramsgate Town Council. In this collection only one print has no visible defect. So what does that tell me, neglect or poor storage. No, what it tells me is that at sometime in the past someone has sorted through the collection leaving the poorer condition ones behind.

Finally this one is for Ramsgate watchers archives, this print is in the RTC collection.

Ramsgate from East Pier

Drawn by J.Styles surveyor 61 High Street Ramsgate
Couloured by Baldwin
Engraved by R.G Reeve
3 Gough Square
Printed by P.R Tomkins
Published September 24th 1830

feel free to download it is public property

Friday, 29 March 2013

Margate cultural survey

I can honestly say I have been receiving an increased amount of emails following my recent postings. I would like to thank those who have sent in "missing" items concerns. 

I have also received a cultural survey that I have been asked to forward to those of you who care about a culture led regeneration in Margate.

Dear Community Group ,

Uwe Derksen, a research student at the University of Kent, is conducting research into public perceptions of Margate and Folkestone, with particular reference to culture-led regeneration. He has developed an on-line questionnaire, which can be completed in reference to either town and is aimed at those who live and/or work in either Margate or Folkestone.

I would be very grateful if you could distribute the link to this survey to your members, so that they can complete it: 

I've pasted the introduction to the survey below, to give an idea of what it covers.

Thank you for participating in this research and your interest in completing this survey. The online questionnaire should only be completed by you, if you live, work, or live and work in either Folkestone or Margate. The questionnaire has a number of questions about how you perceive the town relevant to you. I am interested in your views about Folkestone or Margate, about the cultural offer in each, and the benefits it may have for the towns. The questionnaire therefore has a number of questions relating to your awareness of the cultural offer in the town relevant to you and your perception of the town. For the study it is important to gather views from a wide range of people who live and/or work in the towns. The survey therefore has a number of questions relating to you and your circumstances. The research is conducted by Uwe Derksen, a research student at the University of Kent

The survey is completely anonymous; the personal identity of respondees, won't be known. The questionnaire will be available from February 2013 to April 2013. Thank you for participating in this research by completing the online questionnaire, which should take no longer than 20 minutes. Please note that there are no 'right' or 'wrong' answers.

Please let me know if you would like any further information about the survey or the research,

Very many thanks and Best wishes,


Carole Day
Research Assistant
University for the Creative Arts
01843 825293

Thursday, 28 March 2013

More red meat .

On this issue of the TDC the management of the TDC art and artefact collection and the way is has been managed or should I say mismanaged This fact should make interesting reading.
From 1994 to 2007 the East Kent Maritime Trust received a minimum grant of £1.3 grant funding to manage both the Maritme Museum and the TDC collection at the Margate Museum. It was not specified what proportion of the funding was to be earmarked for each venue. As stated previously no audit was taken of the collection by TDC when the Museum closed and EKMT vacated the premises. So given the current situation that confronted the Friends of the Margate Museum and the Council officer in charge when the Museum reopened in 2011. Perhaps TDC should start looking at what exactly was our money  spent on  and surely this must be scrutinized.

I am starting to think that even though some of my concerns can date back decades I just have this feeling that I could get knocked back as they could be classed as historic. So I am concentrating on the year 2005 a year before my FOI request to TDC leadership.

In 2005 TDC paid a grant of £100,000 for the EKMT to manage both the Maritime Museum and the Margate Museum, so what was the current state at the Margate Museum then.

  • The Museum was being run by someone who had no Museum experience.
  • There was nobody present at the Museum with conservation experience.
  • Donations of items were being accepted and no receipts given.
  • People were coming in enquiring about certain items, they could not be found.
  • The George Philip Hoare wartime scrapbook was found to have been looted of most of it's photographs.
  • Items were being accepted into the collection that have no relevance to the Thanet.
  • The backroom had racks of paintings and prints poorly stored and suffering from neglect.
  • The book collection was not cataloged in any recognizable library system. 
  • TDC items were found not to be on any list.
  • The back store room was also being used to store items from other TDC locations that were unrecorded or in any managed syatem
  • Photographic negatives were decomposing.
  • The archive were 90% photocopies very little original material.
  • Some items were listed under three numbers.

The list goes on. This prompted me to ask for a FOI request from TDC and request help from the Margate Charter Trustees this was denied.

All these faults were confirmed when the Museum reopened in 2011 and the 2012 audit began. Recently I have been coopted onto the executive of the Museum friends group to assist to help establish some provenance on some items. One thing I do not want is anything to be swept under the carpet.

Tuesday, 26 March 2013

Conspiracy theories

I have to make this clear that when I had the meeting with the two senior Councillors regarding my Freedom of Information request for the list of the art and artifacts (June 2006) owned by Thanet District Council that they were acting on advice given to them by council officers. Considering that they had only been in control of TDC since 2003 and some of my concerns date back to the nineties and beyond I hardly hold them responsible for anything undervalued, neglected, missing, wrongly listed and unlisted in the TDC collection from those periods. In a way I could also be held responsible as I was chairman of the joint museums committee that oversaw Museums when I was a TDC member.
However they did deliberately block me from obtaining the information I wanted by stating  that I could identify donors in breach of the data protection act. Something I found ridiculous because the foundations of the collection came from the Rowe bequest (1926) and the Parker collection (1929). Even when I tried through the Margate Charter Trustees  for help in the matter this was also blocked. Within a year of my FOI request they were working on closing the museum. When  the closure was announced I wrote to TDC offering to reopen the Museum using volunteers in the same way as the Museum is run today, this was also refused. In October 2008 the museum closed and nothing was audited, the museum remained dormant until there was a change of leadership of TDC . The Museum reopened in 2011 using volunteers  and auditing started in 2012. Resulting in  all my worst fears have coming to light. Now that this problem now has a high profile TDC cannot bury it again, especially now that firm evidence regarding the problems with the 2005 to 2008 period have emerged.

Monday, 25 March 2013

I have made an error in dates

I have been going through my records and I have come across a letter I sent to the Mayor of Margate in November 2007 appealing for his help regarding the situation at the Margate Museum detailing my concerns about the collection. The reply I got was that my concerns were noted and no action taken.

However I have found that my freedom of information request was in June 2006 and not 2005 as I originally thought. It was refused under the data protection act. Sorry about that.

Also I have found my note on the returns of the loans from the judges chambers at Maidstone. It appears 18 loaned prints were returned and of that 18 it was found that 12 could not be found on the "new" data base and in effect did not exist. Some of these were oil paintings with value and they were added to the new list.

I should add that I have a copy of the collection management, acquisition and disposal policy for the TDC collection dated 27th November 1991. In the list TDC own 17,000 miscellaneous sea shells, 10,000 photographic negatives and prints from the Sunbeam and East Kent Times collection, 143 volumes of newspapers and 500 paintings and prints and  this document is signed by the chief executive. Regarding the paintings and prints the count to date at the museum is 680 prints and paintings plus they have a missing list. So where on earth did TDC get this 500 figure from for the chief executive to sign. I rest my case.

Stolen property or legit

Some time back I bought this fine selection of silver spoons after an exchange of emails from some people in Shoreham . They had not the faintest idea what they were or the provenance. However, I do,
they are civic spoons from the Borough of Margate collection. They were commissioned in the 1960's and they have the correct James Dixon & Sons hallmark and because of this I paid well above the market value in cash to secure them. Traditionally these spoons are given as civic gifts to visiting dignitaries or local people for achievement. Like reaching a 100th Birthday. This tradition is still carried on today by the Margate Charter Trustees. On rare occasions single spoons do appear on the internet probably passed on or from house clearances. So to come across a group of them is something that  just does not happen .There maybe a perfectly legitimate explanation but on the other hand I am well aware of a 1990's situation when the Margate Charter Trustees did lose audit controls on these little blighters. I think more investigation is needed - keep you posted.

Sunday, 24 March 2013

Loading a gun.

Items stolen from museums is nothing new and I know of two collections locally that have had items go awol. The important thing is that measures are put in place to prevent this from happening.
In the past the reliance has been on paper records and a vigilant curator that knows his collection. So with today's modern technology items can be photographed and the data stored with ease with more than one person having a copy to help monitor collections.

 During the nineties art and artifacts in TDC care were transferred from paper records to a electronic data base. Unfortunately for TDC the paper records inherited from the Borough of Margate were unreliable. A fine example I have got is an example of the correspondence regarding the ownership of the carved furniture in the Tudor House.
 In fact the transfer onto a data base was a nightmare because the very roots of the collection date back to the Rowe bequest in 1926 and the Parker collection in 1929.
 During the Second World War Museum items were stored in private homes for "safe" keeping and I can assure the reader that the record keeping of who had what was not a priority in 1940. From the end of the war up until local government reorganization in 1974 the numbering system would change on more than one occasion and this is evident with items at present  having at least four identification numbers. However as I have stated on many occasions after local government reorganization in 1974 the whole lot went into storage based on unreliable records.In the years from 1974 to the setting up of the Margate museum items were written off as damaged due to poor storage, stolen or missing due to poor record keeping. So anything that went on in the past was  forgotten and the new data base would be based on physical stock present. This turned out to be a dangerous game because items would turn up and there were no record of the item. One such example was when loans were returned from the closed Judge's quarters at Maidstone and records on some of the items items could not be found anywhere and they were re listed. I was even informed of two items in private premises with TDC identification and the person who had them had no idea of their origin but as he didn't want them so they were returned to the Museum.

I haven't mentioned this to anybody  before except to my inner circle of historians but during that period I had a secret meeting with a Council officer in the coffee shop in the centre to discuss the matter. It was arranged by email and I duly turned up. To be honest I was not sure if he was instructed to meet me or just fishing. So I gave him the full SP of most of what I have written above. I even used a bit of bluff by over elaborating on some areas of what I knew. He took it all on board and he asked me what I knew about TDC numbering systems for items in storage. This was followed by a viewing of TDC items stored under  the basement in the Post Office over the road in Cecil Square. All I can say I have never seen so much chaos in all my life. There were rows of old planning files in drop down folder storage and they had no way of knowing what was in each file without reading each one individually  That was where I can across the files on the Ramsgate air raid tunnels that included ARP and Ciivl Defence documentation. As for everything else in storage it was just stored in piles.

So what was the outcome of my "secret meeting". Even though I kept emailing the Council Officer he never returned my emails. However, the museum started to receive items from other council locations with most of it stuffed in boxes. All  pictures were added to the racks in the back room of the museum and items were literally put into cupboards or in stacked in any available space. Once again many items had no provenance or listing number.

Getting back to my original thread about items being stolen from Museums all I can say with a system run like  I would think even the most neutral observer would be feeling a bit cynical by now.

Finally here is a little story.
In the late summer of 1998 the Margate Charter Trustees held a centenary exhibition at the old town hall to commorate  the opening of the building. In the upstairs committee room many old items relating to old Margate were on display on the tables. This included a wartime scrapbook that belonged George Philip Hoare who was Mayor in 1940. George Hoare was also a commercial photographer and there were many photographs in the book. Halfway through the book were four photographs taken of four different views of Cecil Square taken during a war weapons week during the Second World War. The public were free to view the book under my watchful eye. Some people had just viewed the book  and the room was empty and I left the book opened on that page. In walked a prominent public figure and I left him looking at the book while I did something else in the room by putting items straight. He left the room no one else entered the room but I noticed he had closed the book so I opened it to lay it out. I opened on the war weapons week page and to my dismay two photographs had gone. He had taken them. I immediately reported this to the Mayor who dismissed my concerns. I felt quite angry as I knew this was a case of working class Tony Ovenden up against a so called local public figure come Freemason and all that. So I had to back off as it was my word against his, even though I knew he could be caught with them in his possession.
This did not stop me from keeping tabs on this guy and I was really concerned as he had full access in the Margate Museum.
Eventually the George Hoare scrapbook was donated to the Margate Museum and guess what. The two remaining photographs were to disappear with many of the other photographs in the album.

Saturday, 23 March 2013

It's going to scrutiny

One of the points I have asked to be looked at by the TDC overview and scrutiny committee is why was the collection at the Margate Museum not audited when the EKMT vacated the Margate Museum after fourteen years management in 2008. Especially when a few years earlier it was pointed out that there are problems within the collection that TDC leaders  chose to ignore.
 Even putting my concerns aside who on earth in their right mind would leave an organisation to manage assets for fourteen years and then do not audit the assets when they the ownership is returned. It does not make any business sense at all and even the most neutral observer would regard this as a very poor decision. Personally I think it is that bad it is almost as if it is deliberate. As to why an audit did not take place I am sure Cllr Ian Driver will get to the bottom of this.

The departure of the EKMT from the Margate Museum was a ruthless decision  something I would equate to a Rachman landlord evicting a tenant. The dirty deed was done at such a speed it would have made a Ninja assassin proud. It didn't even allow the EKMT to remove any of its assets and the curator of the museum who happened to leave his medication behind even had to make an appointment to get it back.
The final months of the EKMT at the museum is very patchy and by then I had been sent into exile for expressing dissent at the TDC decision to close the venue which was deemed as political such was the set up at the time. However I did have a number of loans returned to me of which I then donated to the Margate Museum  in 2011.

I have made a lot of emphasis on what went on in the past from the 1974 changeover from the borough to district and some periods in between . I now thinking that perhaps during the final six months of EKMT period and the closure from 2008 to 2011 should be an area for investigation.
When the current audit was proposed I did have a look at the ascension register of items donated to the Margate Museum that covered the years up until closure. Unfortunately I did discover that pages were missing and it was so obvious the system had collapsed. Fortunately before the closure I did manage to record the collection on display on my camcorder of which I made a unedited DVD that I have now given to TDC as an act of good faith. I should also add that even under this cloud I have donated items to the Margate Museum and TDC collection because I have every faith in the current set up at the Museum and at TDC.

Thursday, 21 March 2013

A missing print found.

When Roy Ford became the Mayor of Margate  in 1998 this led to many changes on how the Margate Charter Trustees worked. One of the changes was image, especially the hospitality offered to visiting dignitaries. So the whole decor of the Mayors parlour was changed along with the office layout.
This soon led to a complete audit and sort out of all assets held by the Margate Charter Trustees. The downstairs vault that had a become a convenient store for the unloved and unwanted items was cleared out . Amongst  all the items "discovered" in the vault was a print titled "Margate from the Dane" circa 1850. The print showed all the signs of  neglect and had damp stains. There was no list  number or any other identification that could establish its provenance. I even checked with the Margate Museum and they drew a blank.
The good thing was that the Charter Trustees fell in love with the print and decided to have it restored and re framed. I cannot remember who did the restoration but end result was truly amazing. The rescued  print now hangs on the wall in the Mayors parlour and is one of the many prints that is admired by visitors.
Using Margate Historical Society archives I was soon to establish that this print was part of the Rowe bequest.
Now considering that the Rowe bequest was bequeathed to the Borough of Margate and was transferred to the ownership of Kent County Council and Thanet District Council in 1974. The question I ask is how can such print be missing from any audit when both authorities should have an audit list of all the items they acquired from the Rowe bequest.
Lets face it , if this item can just disappear from the Rowe bequest it does raise the question how many items have suffered the same fate in the past.

Tuesday, 19 March 2013

The Rowe Bequest

In 1926 a Doctor Arthur Rowe bequeathed to the Borough of Margate his collection of literature, artwork and archaeological remains . Excluding the archaeological objects the collection is as follows.

Books, pamphlets & excerpts          536
Portfolios                                           11
Prints and illustrations                       569
Manuscripts                                       72
Maps                                                 40
Posters, programmes, guides etc.,     534
Book of views                                    40
Photographs                                     154
Plans                                                  36
Original works of art                           66
Bound Acts of Parliament                    16
Music                                                    1

Total                                               2075

All these items became assets of either the Kent County Council and Thanet District Council on 1st April 1974. I am not sure of the distribution of the archaeological remains but most of the collection which is a library collection went to Kent County Council. Thanet District council did receive a number of items and I do possess a list of 77 items.

Museum theft ?

This weekend I had a very interesting chat with someone about Museum thefts in Thanet and it reinforces my fears that Museum thefts have been going on for years. One of the greatest victims has to the Rowe Bequest a collection artwork and archaeological  finds made my Doctor Arthur Rowe who bequeathed his collection to the Borough of Margate. The collection was then past on to TDC and KCC, it is a well known fact that if every item had to be checked off to the original list there would be a deficit.

Drawing attention away from the Rowe bequest I have cases that can be proven all from the Margate Museum which I must stress have been discovered since the Museum reopened 2011. This no reflection on the Friends of the Margate Museum or the TDC officers working on the audit at present.

Case A, Many years ago I persuaded the curator of the Museum at the time to start a collection of Comic postcards. I purchased the album and did the rounds picking up some very good examples. Some I paid through with my own money and  some with EKMT funding. It was not a spectacular collection but it was significant. This folder is nowhere to be seen , in fact hardly anyone has ever seen it. It has gone, vanished and my verdict is Theft ?

Case B, There is an album full or smuggling prints and other images in the collection. Or should I say was as someone has been through the album with a pair of scissors and cut many out. My verdict Theft ?

Case C, There was an original Beatles program from when they appeared at the Winter Gardens in the sixties. It has been replaced by a photocopy. My verdict Theft ?

Saturday, 16 March 2013

"some of it is not worth much"

It has been a busy week for my teeny weeny little blog with emails, telephone calls and a batch of nasty comments aimed at John Worrow. Putting the stupidity aside my favourite quote of the week has to be "most of it is not worth much" referring to the TDC collection in storage at the Margate Museum. That not surprisingly came from a TDC source.
That probably is the case with a lot of items but that is still no excuse to treat an authentic Victorian print of Ramsgate that carries a value of £15 to £20 as if it is last weeks Isle of Thanet Gazette  left in a heap somewhere in the house. Perhaps some people at TDC need reminding that this is England, this our heritage, it is unique and it is a public asset worth saving regardless of value. Deep down I do not see this as a party political issue even though a political leader told me a load of porkies in the past. I do not blame council officers either, it is just an awful situation TDC has got itself into. All is needed is firm positive decisions because at the end of the day all this heritage just cannot be left neglected in a storage room at Margate forever.

I have started winding down my searches around the Margate sea defence works now the work is completed and the only time I will search that area will be after certain weather conditions. The new sea defence does look impressive and I can just picture it in rough weather as well as a hot summers day. Deep down the beach comber side of me is thinking that perhaps the alterations to tide flow will provide an amber trap arising from westerly winds and only time will tell. Tomorrow I start another mission and I have applied for another licence from Natural England and it will involve about three months worth of searches on the coast.For the first time in my life there is a possibility I might not find on the coastline what I am looking for,but given the diversity of the Thanet coastline  I am bound to find something else of interest.

Thursday, 14 March 2013

A bit more background.

There is no way I will back off over the way Thanet District Council have handled the collection of art and artifacts it owns, simply because the past and present evidence of neglect is so over whelming . However one thing I must add is that the Margate Museum is not to blame and neither are the the volunteers.
The museum opened in 1987 and when it was set up most of the items were piled up in boxes in the cells of the current building and stored in the back room upstairs. They had been there since 1st April 1974 when TDC  came into being. The task of the staff was to sort through the boxes of items that have not been stored in controlled conditions and record the items. With attention to detail everything was then recorded to how it should be. Some items had decomposed so badly they had to be disposed of like negatives and some prints that were kept in one of the cells that was damp.The work was ongoing for many years and even when the EKMT took over recording and evaluation was still taking place, everything was how it should be.
In the years 2005 to 2007 TDC started to store items from other TDC facilities in the back room. Once again boxes of items appeared, prints and paintings all TDC owned showing signs of neglect just kept coming in. The racks were soon to be full of prints and paintings many unlisted. Eventually the back room was full and a stench of decay was present. The collecting habits of the curator at the time did not help either as he accepted all and everything. In some cases  no paperwork was issued so numerical identification went completely out of the window on the newly acquired items. This all added to the chaos imported into the Museum by TDC. I started to notice many discrepancies and eventually my access to parts of the museum became very restricted. I even wrote to TDC about my concerns and had a meeting with the then leader and his deputy who dismissed my concerns in June 2006.
When the Museum closed in 2008 it was a case of closing the doors and everything remained in situ. The collection suffered terrible neglect and to make things worst there was no audit.
The museum was to eventually to reopen in 2011 by the Friends of the Margate museum. The main fabric of the collection on display was fine and with a lot of hard work the day to day running of the museum was back on track. However there is  a major problem with all the items in storage that really has nothing to do with the friends group or the day to day running of the Museum,.
By late 2012 an audit took place using volunteers from the Friends of the Margate Museum revealing the worst case scenario.
As a museum consultant put it, "it was the worse case of collection management i have ever seen". TDC really do need to get a grip.

Tuesday, 12 March 2013

TDC must get its act together.

Recently there was an article in the Isle of Thanet Gazette about a Rowlandson print "discovered" in the Margate Museum by volunteer auditors auditing the TDC art and artifact collection held at the Museum. The print is of some considerable value and the only provenance it has, is that it was bought in 1913 for 13 guineas. It has no collection number and there are no other details. Some people may regard this a stunning discovery but personally I think this discovery is appalling because all it does is highlight what poor custodians TDC have been of the art and artifact collection it owns.This item is a Council asset it has a value so where are the controls that monitor such items like audits and accurate recording for the asset register.
This is nothing new with Thanet District Council and this part of a long list of discrepancies that I have come across since 2003 and since then I have had a Freedom of Information request denied and even had a meeting with Cllrs Ezikiel and Latchford when the headed TDC to discuss the problem . I have been told many things in the past regarding the collection  only to find out the opposite so the recent audit by the Cllr Hart administration is welcome as all my worst fears are being vindicated. Such as poor conservation of items, misidentified items,missing items and lack of basic controls.
 I have now written to Cllr John Worrow  chairman of the Governance and Audit committee to look at why this valuable council asset has not been audited up until recently.

Everything I do is based on researched fact so the chances of slipping up are remote and this is something I have come across that may be of interest. The old Borough of Margate once held a collection of 9251 prints and illustrations and 288 works of original art.Of that total 8542 prints and illustrations and 192 original works of art belong to what is known as the Parker collection. In Margate library they have the Parker collection listing - volume form. So what are the chances are for every single item in the Parker collection being accounted for.

I am really concerned about the Ramsgate items in the TDC collection especially the condition of some items and to use the word neglect would be an under statement. I am led to believe that once the entire collection is audited Ramsgate items will go back into storage. This is something I believe is totally unacceptable to the people of Ramsgate. It should have the same pride of place like Margate Museum gives to its art and heritage items they have on display. This is a matter I have brought up with Ramsgate Town Council that they should intervene or at the very least act as brokers to ensure a large part of the Ramsgate items in the TDC collection are  eventually on display  in Ramsgate in the future or at the very least looked after with more care.

Monday, 11 March 2013

Latest piece of Sperm Whale bone find.

This photograph is one of the latest pieces of Sperm Whale bone I have found on the Pegwell Bay Hoverport site, Ramsgate, Kent. It measures 300 mm long and 40 mm at the widest point and is a result of the disposal of the carcass of the Sperm Whale that beached itself in Pegwell Bay in March 2011. I found it in the Autumn of 2012 and it had been laying in silt for over 18 months.
The honeycomb effect is far different from the previous pieces of dense Whale bone that I found in abundance in 2011 and I am not sure which part of the whale it is from.
 I have washed it in fresh water and have dried it naturally as not to damage any data it may hold. It will eventually end up in one of the licensed collections of Sperm Whale bone recovered from the stranding and they  are located at the Monkton Natural History reserve and at the Wingham Wildlife Park.

Friday, 8 March 2013

Amber - the hunt continues

These past few weeks I have turned my attention to  hunting Amber and Amber Gris . On average I am now finding two or three pieces of Amber a trip mostly measuring in the 10 to 15 mm range with colours ranging from butterscotch, honey and dark. There is now a noticeable change in the flotsam with whelk egg sacs, mermaids purses and dog fish egg sacs present on the strand line  This is proving useful as it helps me measure where the Amber is more likely to be deposited. Another interesting find that is turning up on the shore are European sea cowrie shells but I am leaving them as I find them as my focus is entirely Amber and Amber Gris.This year I am better prepared than previous years as I have bought a load of sample tubes with screw on lids to store the Amber. Hopefully this year  I should keep better control recording  and grading what I find. It may sound as if I am making a meal out of this but I have had days when I have found thirty plus pieces and by the end of a month I have a container of the stuff and end up forgetting where I found some of it.
Thanks to you tube and Google I have been looking around world looking at how Amber is found on other coastlines. I am fascinated at the way it is retrieved elsewhere from the sea and I certainly like this Danish method of netting Amber and it does have possibilities. At the same time I have also been looking a Whale standings, Whale bone finds and Amber Gris finds on the internet.
 One thing I picked up on a forum was just how strict the CITIES convention is being enforced throughout the world regarding items from Whales. It appears in America some guy obtained a container of Spermaceti oil that would be classed as antique by today's standards before any conventions where made. However he dispensed it into small containers and tried to sell it. His enterprise earned him a $2000 fine.
Recently I came across another chip of Whalebone from the Sperm Whale stranding two years ago at Pegwell Bay from when the carcass was cut up with chain saws so when I get a few more pieces I will have to inform Natural England.