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Southport Reporter® covering the news on Merseyside.

Date:- 21 May 2007

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TO celebrate Museums and Galleries Month in May, BT's heritage initiative, Connected Earth, has announced its top 10 telecommunications artefacts of the past. The huge collection of historic objects, which is dispersed in museums across the country, will be on display for the 1st time through a new online catalogue available at online. The catalogue has been launched to bring together almost 3,500 telecommunications items from throughout British history. It has artefacts ranging from a 1894 transatlantic submarine telegraph cable, to a manual switchboard which connected the last ever manually operated call back in the 1970s. Also on the list is an electrophone table from 1905, which was used to listen to live opera, theatre and church services down a telephone line, long before the invention of the radio.  The new joint catalogue is the only telecommunications specific catalogue in Britain and, for the 1st time, full colour images of the items will be available online.  David Hay, head of BT Heritage, comments:- “The fact that this online catalogue is being produced is another indication that the Connected Earth Partnership is invaluable in terms of providing preservation and access to the history and future of telecommunications. The only way people could access the items before was actually to go in person to the museums, which for many people was simply not possible. Now the collections are available on the internet in a virtual form. The collection will therefore be made available to people with little or no previous experience of the subject.”  With email and text messages embedded into our daily lives, many will have no idea what communicating without these devices involved. This new online catalogue provides a comprehensive record of telecommunications throughout the generations, bringing to life for visitors how communication has shaped the world.  It’s not possible for all items in the catalogue to be on display in the galleries, so many pieces have been stored in Connected Earth’s partner museums, meaning some equipment will be on show to the public for the very first time via this online catalogue.  David continues:- “The collection should appeal to a wide range of people. Visitors will be able to use this fantastic tool to find out which artefacts are held in which museum. The catalogue can be used as a teaching aid, and students will be able to learn more about the history and development of the telecommunications industry.”

The Top 10 telecommunication items in the collection are:-

1. Electrophone Table (1905) Used to listen to live opera, theatre and church services down a telephone line, before the advent of public radio broadcasting.

2. K4 Kiosk (1927 – 1935) The K4 ‘Vermillion Giant’ combined a K2 kiosk with stamp machines and a letter box to form a ’24-hour post office.’

3. Manual Switchboard (1976) The switchboard used by operator Agnes Dewar to make the last manually connected call in the UK in October 1976.

4. Hughes Printing Telegraph (1858-c1920) David Hughes’ invention to send and receive text rather than Morse code

5. 250,00th Manchester telephone (1953) The Lord Mayor of Manchester’s telephone and 250,000th connected by the Post Office in the Manchester area.

6. Cook & Wheatstone Portable Double-Needle Telegraph (1838) Early emergency communication from the railway lines (rather than stations).

7. Roadphone (1983 - 1990s) The largest working telephone in the world was used by British Telecom for charity fundraising and exhibitions.

8. Cable Test Desk from Taplow (1926 – 1960) A high specification instrument introduced in 1920s and as accurate as today’s cable testers..

9. Elevation Screw from Uther (1968 - 2005) Uther was the second antenna to be built at Goonhilly, the world’s largest operational satellite station.

10. First Transatlantic Submarine Telegraph Cable (1858) A small cross-section of the original cable laid from County Kerry to Newfoundland.

Museums and Galleries Month has been held every year since 2000, and aims to promote museums and art galleries across the UK. The initiative is organised by The Campaign for Museums, a registered charity, with support from Museums Libraries and Archives Council (MLA) through its Renaissance programme and Arts Council England. MGM is also supported by museums, galleries and arts organisations throughout the UK.

The Connected Earth website is packed with interactive games and interesting facts to help people learn about how telecommunications developed. It provides visitors with audio and video clips, 3-D images, interactive demonstrations and photographs. To access Connected Earth, founded by BT, log onto and learn about how telecommunications in the 21st century compares to using telegrams, carrier pigeons or even tom-tom drums during years gone by.


GOVERNMENT cultural diversity policies are unwittingly creating a ghetto for black and Asian artists by pigeon-holing them according to their ethnicity.

Sonya Dyer, a black artist based in London and a member of the Manifesto Club Artistic Autonomy Group, is publishing new research that shows cultural diversity policies aimed at increasing participation by ethnic minorities in the visual arts sector are having the opposite effect.

Sonya Dyer said that:- "It is unusual for me to meet a non-white person working in arts administration whose job does not involve diversity, outreach, community, or similar.  Many black and minority ethnic artists are cut off from the mainstream and effectively treated as second class because diversity schemes create ghettos connecting them almost exclusively with other non-white practitioners, instead of the wider network of powerbrokers in the mainstream art world."

Her report finds that culture minister David Lammy has pressured national museums and galleries to set targets for black and ethnic minority (BME) staff - and that 2 national museums (the British Museum and the National Portrait Gallery) have already done so. She is concerned that official policies end up placing greater emphasis on artists’ ethnicity over their talent and ability, and can be patronising to artists.

This report comes at a time when cultural diversity schemes are booming in the arts sector:-

In 2002, Arts Council England designated £29 million to black, Asian and Chinese-led organisations from its lottery-funded Arts Capital Programme; and has committed 10 percent of its Grant for Arts awards to black and ethnic minority artists and arts organisations.

The Arts Council runs two main 'positive action' schemes called Inspire and decibel, which offer internships at prestigious galleries and museums but only to ethnic minority arts professionals. The budget for decibel was around £10 million, over five years; the budget for Inspire is £411,000 per year.

The Museums, Archives and Libraries Council (MLA), which funds local museums, will make diversity programmes a mandatory condition for funding in 2008.

But Dyer argues that such government-led targets fail to get to grips with the real reasons why BME people don’t enter the arts. Very few graduates from non-white backgrounds choose to study a 'creative arts' subject at university but this is because of class, not race. The majority of black people, like white working class people, cannot afford the typically low-paid work in the arts.  Dyer suggests that instead of singling black people out forspecial help, a new 'colour-blind' approach is needed where opportunities are offered to all people struggling to pay their way through a career in the visual arts.

This would be fairer to everyone in the arts and also improve the confidence of black artists to get their work seen. Pigeon-holing them as needywill only stigmatise them and keep them apart from the mainstream.

Dyer concludes that a wider and more honest debate is needed in the arts sector:- '"e need a greater understanding that practitioners from black and minority ethnic backgrounds are as 'diverse' as any other sections of the population."

The report features interviews with black arts professionals critical of these schemes and who agree there should be a new approach.

Zoe Whitley, curator of contemporary projects at the V&A, notes that there are several black curators in the mainstream museum sector, yet these examples of success are not generally those heralded by the diversity sector:- "Invisibility is placed upon you. There are [black] people but nobody knows about them because they are in the mainstream."

Niru Ratnam, director of Store Gallery and former Inspire coordinator at Arts Council England, noted the tokenism of some placements:- '"the (trainee) curators tended to be given "culturally diverse" projects to work on at their institutions.... I did get the feeling that this is all very DCMS/David Lammy driven rather than being any deep-seated intellectual commitment."

, an artist and strategy consultant, and consultant on the Arts Council’s decibel scheme, says:- “People feel they have to fit an agenda…We are complex people. Complexity needs to be built into the system as well.”

Jatinder Verma of the prominent South Asian theatre company, Tara Arts, said:- "Sonya's essay is an important contribution to the growing feeling of unease about the state of modern British culture, where - as she details convincingly in her essay - 'diversity' is all-too often a euphemism for stasis...I think hers is a voice that Arts policy makers will be foolish to ignore."

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