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Source: (consider it) Thread: Felbrigg Hall lanyards
Sipech
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As reported by the BBC (with link to source) some staff at a National Trust property have been asked to wear rainbow badges & lanyards to support a campaign of sexual equality. A handful have chosen not to do so.

Was it then right that they have been taken away from public duties?

It strikes me as having parallels with the bakery case, where freedom of expression is being played off against equality. I can understand and support the gesture of encouraging staff to support the campaign, but it seems a bit heavy-handed. If someone chooses not to wear a rainbow, who is harmed?

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mr cheesy
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Not really. It is a privilege to volunteer for a charity, not a right. If the charity tell you to do something, you do it. If you can't do it, then they can decide that you may not be able to volunteer in the way that you want to - it is as simple as that.

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lilBuddha
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The volunteers are representing the Trust, not themselves. They were justifyiable removed for not supporting the campaign. It is hilarious to me that they are working at an estate that wouldn't likely be part of the National Trust were its last owner not gay. And yet they won't wear ribbons. Hmmm.

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Baptist Trainfan
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I cannot see why anyone should not want to support equality of opportunity for all people - whether or not they personally endorse their lifestyles.

On the other hand, it's hardly the sort of thing that NT members would have expected to be asked to do when they signed up.

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Bishops Finger
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On a slightly different, but maybe related note, I understand that members of the Celestial Church of Christ are not permitted to wear red items of clothing, unless required to at work e.g. as part of a uniform. I guess the reasoning is that, at work, they are their employer's representative, and not their own.

IJ

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no prophet's flag is set so...

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"feeling uncomfortable"

That is never enough. Feeling uncomfortable is an opportunity for growth.

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John Holding

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As I read the story, part of the reason some feel discomfort is that they believe the outing of the former owner after his death, and the NT's use of his being gay, to be antithetical to what he wanted. He'd stayed in the closet by his own choice, being a highly private person, long after it would have been easy for him to come out. The promo film outed him, and the NT is apparently using his being gay as a part of its promo. Some of those who knew him feel that's wrong.

And I'm not sure -- really not sure, in either direction -- why it's part of the NT's mandate to be campaigning for gay rights, which don't seem to me from afar to have a whole lot to do with historic properties.

John

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Pomona
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quote:
Originally posted by John Holding:
As I read the story, part of the reason some feel discomfort is that they believe the outing of the former owner after his death, and the NT's use of his being gay, to be antithetical to what he wanted. He'd stayed in the closet by his own choice, being a highly private person, long after it would have been easy for him to come out. The promo film outed him, and the NT is apparently using his being gay as a part of its promo. Some of those who knew him feel that's wrong.

And I'm not sure -- really not sure, in either direction -- why it's part of the NT's mandate to be campaigning for gay rights, which don't seem to me from afar to have a whole lot to do with historic properties.

John

The NT don't just cover historic properties, though, but public history more generally (also lots of places that would come under natural history, such as areas of natural beauty). Recognising LGBT history and historical people is a really important part of LGBT rights anyway.

You can't out a dead person.

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Jane R
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John Holding:
quote:
As I read the story, part of the reason some feel discomfort is that they believe the outing of the former owner after his death, and the NT's use of his being gay, to be antithetical to what he wanted. He'd stayed in the closet by his own choice, being a highly private person, long after it would have been easy for him to come out.
He died only two years after homosexuality was decriminalized. I doubt it would have been as easy as you imply for him to come out, as an old man in a rural community, even in the late 60s. It wasn't easy even in the mid-80s when I was at university. I know someone who didn't come 'out' until she was in her 30s because she was worried about what her family would think, and lesbianism has never actually been illegal in this country.

I note that the 'long-term volunteer' interviewed by the BBC here has not actually seen the film herself, only heard that it was 'distasteful'. Also that only 10 of the 350-odd volunteers felt strongly enough over the issue to refuse the lanyards.

Oh, and what Pomona said. Mr Wyndham Ketton-Cremer is beyond earthly cares now. Should historians conceal the truth about him because some people will find it uncomfortable?

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Albertus
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I always feel rather uncomfortable when big institutions - companies or third sector ones- suddenly decide that they're very publicly going to embrace a cause, and ask their staff or volunteers to display an alignment with it, even when the cause is- as is this one- one which I generally support. I always suspect that this is at least as much to do with a keen eye for public image as it is with any genuine conviction,
One of the reasons I gave up my National Trust membership, admittedly over 10 years ago, was what I saw as the the Pravda-like tone of many of its membership publications. It is I suspect a deeply authoritarian and conformist organisation.

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Here in Caprica City, many straight people celebrate Pride the same way non-Wiccans celebrate Hallowe'en and atheists celebrate Christmas. Par-tay! However, there's always voices reminding us that Pride is supposed to be a protest, not a commercialized celebration, kind of like how some folks are "Jesus is the reason for the season" folks.

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Baptist Trainfan
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Well, the National Trust has now changed its mind.
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Ricardus
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In my organisation, we have the option of wearing rainbow lanyards to show solidarity with LBGT issues. The theory is that if a gay person joins the team then they can know their colleagues are supportive and they can Be Themselves.

If the rainbow lanyards were compulsory, it wouldn't mean that colleagues are supportive, it would mean that colleagues are maintaining the company dress code.

IOW: I agree that the National Trust has the right to expect volunteers to wear rainbow lanyards, but I'm not convinced that doing so achieves what they want it to achieve.

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Jane R
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Ricardus:
quote:
If the rainbow lanyards were compulsory, it wouldn't mean that colleagues are supportive, it would mean that colleagues are maintaining the company dress code.
I think you have put your finger on the reason why I felt vaguely uncomfortable about this... even though I don't agree with the people who wanted to keep the owner of Felbrigg Hall in the closet 50 years after his death.
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Louise
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It's noticeable that the people not happy who are quoted in the various stories are all (so far as I can see) over 70.

quote:
The YouGov survey also revealed generational divides in attitudes towards gay rights - with older people less likely to support gay sex, same-sex parenthood, and inclusive relationship education.

Seventy-eight per cent of people aged 18 to 24 said that gay sex was natural, while 69 per cent of those aged 65 and above believe it is not.

Three quarters of those aged above 65 were opposed to same-sex inclusive relationship education compared with 74 per cent of those aged 18 to 24 who supported the policy.

The Independent

National Trust volunteers are often retired. However the younger visitors and people the National Trust needs to become members and volunteers in the future are much less likely to be anti-gay, and quite a few of them will be LGBT people themselves who want to see their history celebrated, not erased to suit the prejudices of an older generation who were complicit in keeping them and people like the late owner in the closet.

Also one of the challenges of public heritage work is reaching out beyond the usual suspects to minorities who might think a historical site or event is not for them (see also the Chalke Valley History Festival which managed to have more speakers who had served in the Wehrmacht than non-white speakers)

If a National Trust property wanted to celebrate Black History month and talk about a stately home owner who kept his family with a black woman secret because of taboos against interracial marriage at the time, I don't think anyone would support people who opted out of the marketing because they thought that ought to be covered up or the role of the black family members not celebrated. Public history which seeks to address the erasure of persecuted groups and to make public properties welcoming to people who are not straight white well-off older middle-class folks is an important matter.

I suppose the good thing about the reversal is that someone going there now will know from the lanyard or absence of it whether their guide is anti-gay or not, but on the other hand they now know they will encounter homophobes there... so it probably undoes all the effort the National Trust have made to be welcoming and inclusive. If you were black would you want to visit a stately home with black history when you knew a bunch of the guides were racists who thought the black history should be kept in the closet?

I've come across cases where marketeers have urged stupid trendy things on older well-informed volunteer guides and where the marketeers should have been told where to go, but in this case the guides who have refused to be welcoming to LGBT visitors about the LGBT history of the place are sadly in the wrong.

[ 05. August 2017, 18:31: Message edited by: Louise ]

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Louise
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crossposted - But I think there is a difference between front-of-house public service jobs and being 'part of a team' internally and getting to know who is supportive. Visitors are coming to a stately home for a few hours - the job of front of house staff is to make them feel welcome for that period and to subsume their own views on the public for their stint of duty and to project the welcoming image their company wants to give while imparting historical information.

I've done similar public-facing heritage jobs. You meet the company's standards of customer care when you are up front on duty and if that means showing the company is LGBT inclusive with a lanyard, or friendly to visitors who want information in Gaelic by giving bilingual greetings/wearing a badge, or promoting accessibility for people with disabilities by pointing out what facilities are available in your opening spiel, then that's what you do. It's not about your own personal prejudices when you're on duty, it's about the company values you're meant to be embodying and projecting or you shouldn't be working in front-of-house duties for that company.

[ 05. August 2017, 18:18: Message edited by: Louise ]

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lilBuddha
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Perfect, Louise. Both posts.

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So goodnight moon, I want the sun
If it's not here soon, I might be done
No it won't be too soon 'til I say goodnight moon

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Baptist Trainfan
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It does strike me that a major failing here was that the NT seems to have treated the volunteers as if they were employees, with the policy imposed upon them without consultation. Irrespective of the specific issue, that's bad enough in an employer/employee situation. But (as those of us who participate in churches know only too well) it can be disastrous when working with volunteers, who can simply decide to "walk" at any moment.
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SvitlanaV2
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quote:
Originally posted by Louise:


National Trust volunteers are often retired. However the younger visitors and people the National Trust needs to become members and volunteers in the future are much less likely to be anti-gay, and quite a few of them will be LGBT people themselves who want to see their history celebrated, not erased to suit the prejudices of an older generation who were complicit in keeping them and people like the late owner in the closet.

This makes it sound as if they they need to phase out the older volunteers and get in younger ones. The Grim Reaper just doesn't come around fast enough these days!

Does the application form make every volunteer sign up to an agreed set of values? This would sort the wheat from the chaff.

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lilBuddha
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quote:
Originally posted by Baptist Trainfan:
It does strike me that a major failing here was that the NT seems to have treated the volunteers as if they were employees, with the policy imposed upon them without consultation. Irrespective of the specific issue, that's bad enough in an employer/employee situation. But (as those of us who participate in churches know only too well) it can be disastrous when working with volunteers, who can simply decide to "walk" at any moment.

What would this consultation entail?
Were the troubled volunteers going to change their minds? Was the trust?
How about an optional lanyard?

I don't think homosexuality is at all right, despite the obvious irony of where I am volunteering

I object to the lanyard, not homosexuality. Why, some of my best friends are homosexual

--------------------
So goodnight moon, I want the sun
If it's not here soon, I might be done
No it won't be too soon 'til I say goodnight moon

- A. N. Parsley, D. Mcvinni

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Louise
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quote:
Originally posted by Baptist Trainfan:
It does strike me that a major failing here was that the NT seems to have treated the volunteers as if they were employees, with the policy imposed upon them without consultation. Irrespective of the specific issue, that's bad enough in an employer/employee situation. But (as those of us who participate in churches know only too well) it can be disastrous when working with volunteers, who can simply decide to "walk" at any moment.

Yes, that's a good point - if your charity/business model relies on people doing things for free out of the goodness of their hearts then to what extent can you expect them to sign on to your values and go along with orders from above they don't like?

But if your charity has been upfront that inclusion/equality is a core value, then it shouldn't come as a surprise to people when they're expected to proudly back those values in public. They should have been trained and been brought on board with these core values long before a glimpse of a lanyard.

[ 05. August 2017, 19:35: Message edited by: Louise ]

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lilBuddha
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quote:
Originally posted by SvitlanaV2:

Does the application form make every volunteer sign up to an agreed set of values? This would sort the wheat from the chaff.

It isn't about the volunteers values. Their values are not on display. They are representatives of the trust.

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So goodnight moon, I want the sun
If it's not here soon, I might be done
No it won't be too soon 'til I say goodnight moon

- A. N. Parsley, D. Mcvinni

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lilBuddha
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quote:
Originally posted by Louise:

But if your charity has been upfront that inclusion/equality is a core value, then it shouldn't come as a surprise to people when they're expected to proudly back those values in public. They should have been trained and been brought on board with these core values long before a glimpse of a lanyard.

The predominate demographic or NT volunteers is old, white people. How many do you think are amenable to inclusivity?

--------------------
So goodnight moon, I want the sun
If it's not here soon, I might be done
No it won't be too soon 'til I say goodnight moon

- A. N. Parsley, D. Mcvinni

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Curiosity killed ...

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I would have to sign up as interested in volunteering (so have a log in to myvolunteering) to get to the full application form to be a volunteer for the National Trust - the voluntary sector is a huge organisation, but there is a disclaimer on the employment forms that requires a signature to agree to follow the policy of the National Trust.

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lilBuddha
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quote:
Originally posted by Curiosity killed ...:
I would have to sign up as interested in volunteering (so have a log in to myvolunteering) to get to the full application form to be a volunteer for the National Trust - the voluntary sector is a huge organisation, but there is a disclaimer on the employment forms that requires a signature to agree to follow the policy of the National Trust.

The the objectors wanted, and were granted, an exemption. Bad form, bad precedent.

--------------------
So goodnight moon, I want the sun
If it's not here soon, I might be done
No it won't be too soon 'til I say goodnight moon

- A. N. Parsley, D. Mcvinni

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Albertus
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quote:
Originally posted by Jane R:
Ricardus:
quote:
If the rainbow lanyards were compulsory, it wouldn't mean that colleagues are supportive, it would mean that colleagues are maintaining the company dress code.
I think you have put your finger on the reason why I felt vaguely uncomfortable about this... even though I don't agree with the people who wanted to keep the owner of Felbrigg Hall in the closet 50 years after his death.
Yes, spot on, Ricardus, thank you. I also wonder- I don't know the detail- whether the NT are imposing an early C21 narrative of what being gay is about onto an early/midC20 experience.

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Louise
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quote:
Originally posted by lilBuddha:
quote:
Originally posted by Louise:

But if your charity has been upfront that inclusion/equality is a core value, then it shouldn't come as a surprise to people when they're expected to proudly back those values in public. They should have been trained and been brought on board with these core values long before a glimpse of a lanyard.

The predominate demographic or NT volunteers is old, white people. How many do you think are amenable to inclusivity?
In this case wasn't it actually quite a smallish, though significant group who refused to go along with it and were re-assigned? Polling shows education level and other things bear on social attitudes to inclusivity too - there are plenty people here who buck the demographic trend. Though you can see why demographics are part of the problem and why recruiting more people from outside that demographic would really help (and that's probably something that this campaign was aimed to help do)

( And Svetlana, that is a bad faith reading of my post - charities dealing with a demographic divide on an issue have to be willing to challenge attitudes which hurt the public they are there to serve, and which endanger the future health of the organisation, even when that means the current membership have to come out of their comfort zone)

I'm also, in general, not a fan of making people work cheap or for free and then expecting exactly the same of them as paid employees however perhaps if volunteer training about core values had been done properly then people would have learned earlier in the process that they needed to support inclusive outreach to volunteer there .

And now they've backed down from that and have given a very bad message - apparently it is fine to volunteer there and not to be inclusive because the National Trust is scared to challenge the kind of homophobia which wants to keep LGBT history in the closet.

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Louise
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quote:
Originally posted by Albertus:
quote:
Originally posted by Jane R:
Ricardus:
quote:
If the rainbow lanyards were compulsory, it wouldn't mean that colleagues are supportive, it would mean that colleagues are maintaining the company dress code.
I think you have put your finger on the reason why I felt vaguely uncomfortable about this... even though I don't agree with the people who wanted to keep the owner of Felbrigg Hall in the closet 50 years after his death.
Yes, spot on, Ricardus, thank you. I also wonder- I don't know the detail- whether the NT are imposing an early C21 narrative of what being gay is about onto an early/midC20 experience.
Given the volume of academic secondary and primary source history and recorded oral history that exists on the subject and plenty of sources from people who lived and described exactly that experience - (people who had the experience of being closeted in the 50s and 60s are still with us. I can think of two I know just for starters. I'm sure some are posting on these boards) - why would you assume that the National Trust curators would be academically incompetent and not know how to properly contextualise key material for their interpretation?

[ 05. August 2017, 20:42: Message edited by: Louise ]

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SvitlanaV2
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quote:
Originally posted by lilBuddha:
quote:
Originally posted by SvitlanaV2:

Does the application form make every volunteer sign up to an agreed set of values? This would sort the wheat from the chaff.

It isn't about the volunteers values. Their values are not on display. They are representatives of the trust.
What I mean is, this kind of disagreement would be avoided if new volunteers had to sign a form agreeing to support/represent the values of the trust. The trust's position on sexual equality would be one of the values made explicit right from the very start.

[ 05. August 2017, 20:47: Message edited by: SvitlanaV2 ]

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Albertus
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I'm not assuming that, I'm just wondering whether it was happening. There's a fairly universal tendency to for each generation to see the past in terms of its own time: that's very hard to avoid and I accept that it's part of what historiography (is that the right word?) is about. But I think that important nuances may be lost. This seems to me to be particularly a danger where you are dealing with a subject like this (or other aspects of 'inclusivity') where there is a risk of falling into thinking that we are terribly enlightened and understand it properly and that previous generations were groping in the dark.
It may well be that the NT historians are sophisticated enough to handle this. But in an awful lot of public history nowadays there is a tendency to miss the point that even within living memory people may have thought about and found ways of living things, including their own sexuality, which were subtly different from how people today would think and live.

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Curiosity killed ...

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I would be very surprised if the volunteers do not sign forms saying they follow the policies of the National Trust. It's a very formalised volunteering process with trained volunteer managers and a lot of guidance and clarity.

The National Trust are very transparent about their employment requirements even for quite low level jobs (I've used their vacancies and job application forms to build teaching materials before now)

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lilBuddha
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quote:
Originally posted by Albertus:
- I don't know the detail- whether the NT are imposing an early C21 narrative of what being gay is about onto an early/midC20 experience.

Instead of mentioning he was gay, they should wink and talk about his love of theatre? Perhaps wink and mention he was ever so fashionable?

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Louise
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quote:
Originally posted by Albertus:
I'm not assuming that, I'm just wondering whether it was happening. There's a fairly universal tendency to for each generation to see the past in terms of its own time: that's very hard to avoid and I accept that it's part of what historiography (is that the right word?) is about. But I think that important nuances may be lost. This seems to me to be particularly a danger where you are dealing with a subject like this (or other aspects of 'inclusivity') where there is a risk of falling into thinking that we are terribly enlightened and understand it properly and that previous generations were groping in the dark.
It may well be that the NT historians are sophisticated enough to handle this. But in an awful lot of public history nowadays there is a tendency to miss the point that even within living memory people may have thought about and found ways of living things, including their own sexuality, which were subtly different from how people today would think and live.

Proper and nuanced contextualisation is the job of historians and curators - speaking as someone who worked for over a decade as a curator and who has a background in academic history. If you 'wonder' if someone is not doing this, you are impugning their core job skills. The research for that film was done by Professor Richard Sandell of the University of Leicester and his team. He's professor of Museum Studies with a long record as a curator. If you're going to impugn his work and imply he's been deeply unprofessional in this case, then please provide some evidence.

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Eutychus
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Late to this, but I agree with Ricardus.

quote:
Originally posted by Louise:
I suppose the good thing about the reversal is that someone going there now will know from the lanyard or absence of it whether their guide is anti-gay or not, but on the other hand they now know they will encounter homophobes there...

Absent any quotes from the employees in question, to me it appears to be a ridiculous leap to go from "not wearing a lanyard" to "homophobe". There were excellent reasons for not doing so in this instance other than homophobia.

quote:
Originally posted by Louise:
if your charity has been upfront that inclusion/equality is a core value

It seems to me that if you need to have a rainbow lanyard round your neck you are having to make a special effort to exhibit "inclusion/equality". If I have a "core value" I shouldn't need to wear a special badge to prove it; I should embody it.

Which would you prefer: platoons of rainbow-lanyarded NT volunteers tut-tutting at PDA on the part of LGBT visitors, or actual acceptance of diversity?

It is not the same as a badge displaying a particular skill such as speaking a foreign language which is intended to assist visitors with specific needs during their visit (or if it is, it's absolutely not "contextualisation").

All the more so in that this was not a Trust-wide decision to put their values on display, but related to the historic content of one site. To my mind the job of the NT staff is to preserve historic sites and facilitate visits to them. They are custodians, not commentators (any commentary belongs in a museum display or event).

If I visit a NT site (I've just got back from one or two) I expect the staff to help me with practical issues (actual example: providing UK change for the pay and display meter) and otherwise be as unintrusive as possible, not foist political messages on me, whether they are ones I approve of or not. They are there to serve, not militate, whatever the cause.

[ 06. August 2017, 06:18: Message edited by: Eutychus ]

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Edith
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A question: Oxburgh Hall (NT) in Norfolk was owned by a devout Catholic family and has a Priest's hole.

If a special exhibition was mounted there, to celebrate the fact that Catholics are no longer persecuted as they were in penal times, would the volunteers be expected to wear a lanyard in gold and white with a cross?

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Jane R
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Edith:
quote:
If a special exhibition was mounted there, to celebrate the fact that Catholics are no longer persecuted as they were in penal times, would the volunteers be expected to wear a lanyard in gold and white with a cross?
I don't see why not, although I doubt that the Trust would want to go to the expense of providing special lanyards for one exhibition at one house. These things cost money, you know. And it's difficult, if not impossible, to visit Oxburgh and remain unaware of the history of Catholic persecution... heck, they make a point of letting people go into the priest hole.

Being Catholic in England has been legal for considerably longer than being a gay man has.

Svitlana, you obviously missed CK's post on the subject of volunteers being required to abide by the NT's policies. However the problem doesn't seem to have been with the new volunteers, but with a group of older people who'd been volunteering there for years. I am reminded of the situation with the York Minster bellringers... though refusing to wear a lanyard is not as serious an issue as safeguarding.

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SvitlanaV2
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Jane R

I did read CK's post. From what you've added it sounds as though the problem stems from volunteers who'd been there for a long time and hadn't signed the new document. So it does seem that the NT needs to weed out the old-times.

In the past, the NT has had a bit of an old-fashioned, slightly posh image, and I suppose it needs to modernise. This cloud could have a silver lining for them; it does show that they're making efforts to leave the past behind, in a manner of speaking.

[ 06. August 2017, 10:13: Message edited by: SvitlanaV2 ]

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SvitlanaV2
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* old-timers.
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Eutychus
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quote:
Originally posted by Jane R:
Being Catholic in England has been legal for considerably longer than being a gay man has.

And this - since when homosexuality has been legal in England - is relevant to Felbrigg Hall how?

[ 06. August 2017, 12:37: Message edited by: Eutychus ]

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Curiosity killed ...

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There was a Radio 4 programme on last night looking at the The Myth of Homosexual Decriminalisation that pointed out quite how recent decriminalisation has really been - 6 years ago in Northern Ireland, 2003 in England and Wales. Section 28 enacted in 1988 definitely made it harder to be homosexual until 2003; the original 1967 act was hedged with conditions - privacy and age of consent, being two of them.

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lilBuddha
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quote:
Originally posted by Eutychus:
Absent any quotes from the employees in question, to me it appears to be a ridiculous leap to go from "not wearing a lanyard" to "homophobe".

Absent any quotes, it is the obvious and most likely reason.
quote:

There were excellent reasons for not doing so in this instance other than homophobia.

Alright, list them.

quote:
It seems to me that if you need to have a rainbow lanyard round your neck you are having to make a special effort to exhibit "inclusion/equality".

Kinda the whole point of any campaign is to make a special effort.
quote:

If I have a "core value" I shouldn't need to wear a special badge to prove it; I should embody it.

If you actually have that core value, you likely wouldn't object to the lanyard.
quote:

Which would you prefer: platoons of rainbow-lanyarded NT volunteers tut-tutting at PDA on the part of LGBT visitors, or actual acceptance of diversity?

So, you would dismiss the volunteers instead of reassigning them for the duration of the campaign?
quote:

It is not the same as a badge displaying a particular skill such as speaking a foreign language which is intended to assist visitors with specific needs during their visit (or if it is, it's absolutely not "contextualisation").

Warm up your argument before stretching it this far. You are correct in that they are not the same. You are incorrect in thinking this matters.
quote:

All the more so in that this was not a Trust-wide decision to put their values on display, but related to the historic content of one site. To my mind the job of the NT staff is to preserve historic sites and facilitate visits to them. They are custodians, not commentators (any commentary belongs in a museum display or event).

As stated above, this is not accurate. The man who donated this site, Ketton-Cremer, was gay. This makes it part of the history of the site. It is relevant.

[ 06. August 2017, 13:36: Message edited by: lilBuddha ]

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Louise
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quote:
Originally posted by Eutychus:
Late to this, but I agree with Ricardus.

quote:
Originally posted by Louise:
I suppose the good thing about the reversal is that someone going there now will know from the lanyard or absence of it whether their guide is anti-gay or not, but on the other hand they now know they will encounter homophobes there...

Absent any quotes from the employees in question, to me it appears to be a ridiculous leap to go from "not wearing a lanyard" to "homophobe". There were excellent reasons for not doing so in this instance other than homophobia.

quote:
Originally posted by Louise:
if your charity has been upfront that inclusion/equality is a core value

It seems to me that if you need to have a rainbow lanyard round your neck you are having to make a special effort to exhibit "inclusion/equality". If I have a "core value" I shouldn't need to wear a special badge to prove it; I should embody it.

Which would you prefer: platoons of rainbow-lanyarded NT volunteers tut-tutting at PDA on the part of LGBT visitors, or actual acceptance of diversity?

It is not the same as a badge displaying a particular skill such as speaking a foreign language which is intended to assist visitors with specific needs during their visit (or if it is, it's absolutely not "contextualisation").

All the more so in that this was not a Trust-wide decision to put their values on display, but related to the historic content of one site. To my mind the job of the NT staff is to preserve historic sites and facilitate visits to them. They are custodians, not commentators (any commentary belongs in a museum display or event).

If I visit a NT site (I've just got back from one or two) I expect the staff to help me with practical issues (actual example: providing UK change for the pay and display meter) and otherwise be as unintrusive as possible, not foist political messages on me, whether they are ones I approve of or not. They are there to serve, not militate, whatever the cause.

Ah if you've not seen the quotes or heard the interview on Radio 4, you're missing quite a bit.

Yes there are quotes, one of them was on Radio 4 doing the full 'I'm not homophobic but'


For example: national trust ordered volunteers to wear gay pride badges. As the Regius Professor of Law at the University of Glasgow James Chalmers put it (who'd earlier been talking about the law and decriminalisation)

quote:
My favourite part of the National Trust pride badge kerfuffle. Why do you think a gay man who died in 1969 was "intensely private", Mike?

There's a group of about ten whom Holmes is speaking for and the contextualisation (film, presumably content of tours) that the lanyard is there to promote is what they really object to - they don't want Robert Wyndham Ketton-Cremer's sexuality mentioned at all

quote:
“Wymondham-Cremer would’ve turned in his grave to know what’s happening. He was an intensely private man, he was never open about his sexuality...

“The National Trust looks after grounds and buildings, they do not have the right to research their benefactor’s private lives to suit the needs of a marketing campaign. It’s abhorrent.”

It's put in anti-marketing terms but they are refusing to incorporate new research on minority history into how the property is presented.

They're not just objecting to the lanyard: if they were saying we wont wear the lanyard - it's marketeering and next thing they will be making us all wear poppies or whatever, but we will support the history and will do our damnednest to give great tours sensitively putting forward this history - as they are volunteers and not paid professionals, I'd have some sympathy but that's clearly not what it's all about. They want to erase the history and not wearing the lanyard (which is the 'I'm wearing this - ask me why/ or if you know what it is, feel free to ask about LGBT' symbol) is part of that.

When you are putting forward previously erased history, then yes you do have to make a special effort to exhibit "inclusion/equality".

I think you missed the context to my Gaelic example - which I picked for a reason (and not French or German etc.) there are people in Scotland who still attack the use of Gaelic, presenting heritage in it, and any attempt to make provision in it - in fact there was a public stushie about this in the context of National Museum's Jacobite exhibition recently. Where minority histories are contested, then yes, it's good practice to make an effort and to draw attention to it so (1) people from that groups feel included, visible and able to attend your exhibition and know they wont be attacked or have their history erased (2) everyone has their attention drawn to and learns about a previously hidden history they might not have been aware of.


quote:
Which would you prefer: platoons of rainbow-lanyarded NT volunteers tut-tutting at PDA on the part of LGBT visitors, or actual acceptance of diversity?
But they've made it clear they're not accepting, lanyard or no. And again I've done public heritage front of house duty. You don't sit there and tut-tut - even when the person who has come in assures you he is the rightful Earl of Blankety-Blank and your organisation has been involved in a major conspiracy to hush up his claims to the title. (How very interesting Sir and what records do you think might show this? This is how you call them up... a real example which is why I don't say what title was claimed). If your volunteers are that unprofessional, you need to spring the money for professionals or get new volunteers who can do the job.

I don't even know where to start with the false dichotomy between preservation and presentation - everyone front-of-house is part of the presentation and we're talking about volunteer guides here who do the interpretation - of course they have to be on board with the history being put forward, especially on sensitive sites where particular new interpretations may have to be highlighted.

Refusing to market minority histories or to do outreach to minorities is not apolitical and value-free - it's a value judgement - favouring a prejudiced status quo ante* - which was that these histories were not worth telling or worse that they should be hushed up or considered shameful and not celebrated. It's taking the side of those with privilege and prejudice and agreeing that they should not be in any way discomfited in the service of promoting minority history, or then it will be pejoratively labelled 'political'. Meanwhile the worrying political ramifications are ignored of the stance that minority histories should not be promoted or only somehow 'passively' shown on an interpretation board or a label somewhere while the guides refuse to speak about it because they think it's icky and not the sort of thing 'people like us' talk about. And of course, that makes sure only 'people like us' feel welcome at that establishment.

What you are suggesting (or saying) you want to see is also political - but it's political not only in a way which disadvantages minorities but also in a bad way where new research-based historical interpretations which challenge myths could also be side-lined by being deemed 'political' as a means of silencing them, and therefore not to be promoted and marketed as outreach.

To take an example, National Trust for Scotland has done an excellent job of the interpretation of the Culloden Battlefield which draws on excellent historical research to show that this really was part of a British civil war and not Scotland versus England for Scottish Independence. That was in the days before marketing using lanyards was much of a thing - but if they'd publicised the new interpretations with a lanyard showing a rose and thistle intertwined and Mike McTourGuide of the NTS volunteers commented 'Everyone knows it was Scotland versus England for our independence - whatever happened to tradition? It's a Unionist conspiracy.' and refused the lanyard to show he would be refusing to tell his tour groups the new research-based interpretation, you're saying that's fine and tour groups should get told the old fashioned stuff, even if it's both wrong and promotes bad feeling against English people because it would be 'political' or 'politically correct' to contradict Mr McTourguide, the lanyard rebel, or ask him to get on board with the new historical findings?

What if Mr McT hates Gaelic and thinks it ought to die and all Scots history worth relating can be done from English language sources and thus refuses to mention the new exhibits on Gaelic poetry about the battle?** Oh dear there's an arty ribbon with a line from McMhaighstir Alasdair as part of the new campaign - but it's 'political' to stop McTourguide both refusing to wear it and insisting on ignoring any Gaelic literature connected to the battle to his tour groups, if people ask he will tell them that it's irrelevant and shouldn't be mentioned... how will Gaelic speakers feel to get this treatment from McT at a site where Gaels fought on both sides and the battle left important impacts on their culture?

Saying 'let them read the interpretation boards. I don't want to hear any 'politics'' is basically saying you're fine with letting folk like the fictional Mr McTourguide rule the roost where they are entrenched and with not promoting or marketing the new more accurate, more inclusive interpretations of history which upset the McTs, but which are key to the public understanding of controversial history and to making minority groups whose history is deemed to be trivia or shameful by the McTs of this world feel welcome.


*the previously existing state of affairs.
** You may think I'm kidding but there is an extremely famous and eminent Scottish History professor who takes exactly this attitude and who attacked a friend of mine, a native Gaelic speaker, for having written his Phd in Gaelic!

[ 06. August 2017, 17:42: Message edited by: Louise ]

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Louise
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quote:
Originally posted by Edith:
A question: Oxburgh Hall (NT) in Norfolk was owned by a devout Catholic family and has a Priest's hole.

If a special exhibition was mounted there, to celebrate the fact that Catholics are no longer persecuted as they were in penal times, would the volunteers be expected to wear a lanyard in gold and white with a cross?

Anti-Catholic persecution is sadly still a live issue in Scotland - along with its mirror-image sectarian attacks on protestant loyalists. There is an anti-sectarian charity called 'Nil By Mouth' which works to oppose both sorts of sectarianism and has a #KissBigotryGoodbye campaign. If it had a well-known ribbon, I'd think it would be an idea worth pursuing for an appropriate site to link in with that. But the obvious one - the convent which was the site of the famous Morningside riot against an eucharistic congress by Protestant Action isn't in NTS hands.

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Eutychus
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Of course all presentation of history is political, and yes the quotes add context. Still, I'd be more sympathetic if this was happening at, say, Bletchley Park and related to Alan Turing, where there is plenty actually in the historical record to work from in terms of discrimination, than some through-the-wrong-end-of-a-telescope reconstruction which, at the end of the say, appears to be wholly speculative.

The poppy example is a good one: I don't like them either!

The issue of how to manage volunteer staff, and what can be imposed on them, is another question entirely.

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Karl: Liberal Backslider
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quote:
Originally posted by lilBuddha:
quote:
Originally posted by Albertus:
- I don't know the detail- whether the NT are imposing an early C21 narrative of what being gay is about onto an early/midC20 experience.

Instead of mentioning he was gay, they should wink and talk about his love of theatre? Perhaps wink and mention he was ever so fashionable?
"Funny he never married"
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Louise
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quote:
Still, I'd be more sympathetic if this was happening at, say, Bletchley Park and related to Alan Turing, where there is plenty actually in the historical record to work from in terms of discrimination, than some through-the-wrong-end-of-a-telescope reconstruction which, at the end of the say, appears to be wholly speculative.
I'm sorry but that is an attack on the competence and professionalism of a scholar who states in his script quite clearly "The truth is, when researching Robert’s life, we find many accounts that openly acknowledge his homosexuality.” You like Albertus are accusing Professor Sandell who researched and oversaw this film of gross failings as a historian and curator. Neither of you have any grasp of the primary sources ( to my knowledge) - yet you both seem happy to imply that Sandell must be in some way grossly mis-stating and misinterpreting his findings or they must be irrelevant or ham-fisted attempts at political correctness overriding scholarship.

Here is the video.

If those accounts don't exist and don't explicitly say what he says they do, that's a massive and scandalous failure by a heritage professional. I don't have access to a footnoted account of this either but there's nothing in that video which sounds off or historically wrong to me, in fact the account of the problems of research which they have grappled with sounds spot on. That the research is difficult doesn't mean it can't be done and Sandell has gone on record in a very public way as saying they did find explicit evidence.

I know very well how much behind-the-scenes primary source work a curator would put into researching statements like that in a high profile video with a very famous presenter. To put one line like that in a video you might read several books or spend days in a archive. He could be wrong about those 'many accounts that openly acknowledge' but it's a big claim to make that he has really messed up on the scale you and Albertus are implying and you'd need at the least very good secondary work from other historians familiar with the primary sources to do it or to know the primary sources yourselves.

Find me other historians who've worked on the sources saying 'This is terrible, he's really messed up' and we'll have something to talk about - but you'll notice not one of these often quite hostile articles on the subject has got another scholar saying anything like 'Sandell is wrong about saying he has sources which state this openly. The sources do not support what he has said and he is interpreting what he has read quite wrongly.' Historians are not slow to speak up when they see big mistakes by other historians/curators.

Ketton-Cremer's sexuality appears to be relevant to the subjects he worked on as a historian and the way he handled them. It was probably relevant to his decision to leave Felbrigg to the public and to some of the contents of his library and perhaps also to his poetry. He was one of hundreds of thousands of people affected in one way or another by the anti-gay climate of the UK in the 20th century, to say that shouldn't be mentioned at a venue where he is a key part of the story is just part of continuing to erase gay history. More than lanyards are at issue here.

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Leorning Cniht
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As far as Mr Ketton-Cremer's sexuality goes,one could ask whether it's relevant or not. Clearly it's relevant to his life, and to the reason he gave Felbrigg Hall to the NT, but is that interesting?

Basically, why is Felbrigg Hall interesting? Why does the NT want it? I notice that it claims to be an unaltered 17th century house with noticeable Jacobean architecture and a Georgian interior.

Its most recent owner isn't relevant to that at all.

But Mr. Ketton-Cremer is of minor interest in his own right. He had some modest reputation as a biographer and historian, and so it makes sense to have an exhibit about him in his home. And that puts the details of his life, including his sexuality, firmly in play.

Mr. Ketton-Cremer is not sufficiently interesting in his own right for his home to be worth preserving, but given that his home is a notable building, he's worth more than a footnote.

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mr cheesy
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quote:
Originally posted by Leorning Cniht:


Mr. Ketton-Cremer is not sufficiently interesting in his own right for his home to be worth preserving, but given that his home is a notable building, he's worth more than a footnote.

I don't follow this logic.

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Leorning Cniht
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# 17564

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quote:
Originally posted by mr cheesy:
I don't follow this logic.

If he lived in a three-bedroom home in a suburb, he wouldn't even rank a blue plaque on the wall, let alone having his home preserved for the nation. The house isn't important because of him.

But now we have the house preserved by the NT, because the architecture is interesting. If he was some complete nonentity - perhaps the local GP - then he'd rank a footnote or a short paragraph in the brochure acknowledging his generous donation of this fine house to the NT.

He's more interesting than that. He's not sufficiently interesting to be a draw in himself - very few people are going to travel to see a Robert Ketton-Cremer museum - but he's more interesting than a footnote.

Posts: 4744 | From: USA | Registered: Feb 2013  |  IP: Logged
Eutychus
From the edge
# 3081

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quote:
Originally posted by Louise:
I'm sorry but that is an attack on the competence and professionalism of a scholar who states in his script quite clearly "The truth is, when researching Robert’s life, we find many accounts that openly acknowledge his homosexuality.”

I'm not denying his homosexuality. What I do find contentious is the extent to which his homosexuality in and of itself makes him a legitimate subject of a "Prejudice and Pride" event.

I said nothing at all about not mentioning his homosexuality and I'm not challenging the scholarship. My issue is not with the history but with the emphasis and its expression. All the more so in that so far as I can tell, there is no comparison with the case of Alan Turing, and as I said, if something similar were to happen at Bletchley Park I'd feel differently. I think an emphasis at a site with clear links to actual historic events of discrimination would be more effective and more appropriate.

There is a campaign in my city to dual name every single street in Breton as well as in French (activists recently removed all the offending signs and piled them up at the town hall front door). Much could be said about the Breton language and its wilful suppression, first by the Germans and later by De Gaulle, but the fact is that Breton was never a widely-spoken language where I live. The dialect that was spoken here has to all intents and purposes simply been willed out of existence by Breton language militants, in defiance of the historical facts.

Which is to say that I think that history is not infinitely pliable and that there's such a thing as overreach.

--------------------
One has to take part. Scary as it is. - Martin60
Jerusalem is a city without walls

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