Select Committee on Science and Technology Written Evidence

Memorandum by the Heritage Lottery Fund


  HLF is the UK's leading heritage funder, distributing the heritage share of National Lottery proceeds. It is the only heritage organisation that both operates UK-wide, and funds all types of heritage—including built heritage; museums, libraries and archives; natural heritage; industrial, maritime and transport heritage; and the heritage of language, dialect and cultural traditions.

  HLF currently distributes 16.66 per cent of the money for good causes and since 1995 has committed £3.3 billion in 18,000 awards to heritage projects. The aims of the Fund are to:

    —  conserve and enhance the UK's diverse heritage;

    —  encourage more people to be involved in and make decisions about their heritage;

    —  ensure that everyone can learn about, have access to, and enjoy their heritage; and

    —  bring about a more equitable spread of our grants across the UK.


  The parent body for HLF is the National Heritage Memorial Fund (NHMF), set up by the National Heritage Act 1980 with wide powers to fund heritage throughout the UK in memory of people who have given their lives for the UK. The NHMF operates as a fund of last resort, saving items of national importance that would otherwise be lost. In its 25 years it has awarded £220 million for more than 1,200 projects.


  Science is important to the work of HLF in a number of ways. It routinely helps us and our applicants to determine the best course of action for the repair or conservation of a heritage asset; information technology helps people to experience and enjoy heritage both at sites and on the worldwide web; we are a major funder of the heritage of science, engineering and technology at sites and in our public collections; and many of our projects support the public understanding of science by enabling the public to participate in scientific activities.

  Our approach to conservation is distinctive. We believe that understanding is a vital part of conservation and we therefore ask larger conservation projects to prepare a conservation management plan for their site or collection; this is a single document which brings together information from different scientific disciplines before key decisions are made about the future of the heritage. In addition, we support the costs of the investigations, scientific surveys and other specialist work necessary to plan a heritage project.

  We also believe that conservation disciplines should collaborate. Many heritage projects involve more than one kind of heritage: for example, the restoration of a public park will often include work to historic structures as well as the landscape and biodiversity; and many museums, archives and libraries occupy heritage buildings. In such a situation, there can be competing priorities: for example, achieving the environmental conditions needed for the collection within a historic building. We therefore ask applicants to consider all aspects of the heritage in an integrated way.


  Conserving and enhancing our heritage is one of HLF's three strategic aims and we are the largest funder of heritage conservation in the UK. Since 1994 we have invested over £1 billion in the conservation of more than 9,000 historic buildings. We have given £680 million to land and biodiversity projects and more than £1 billion to museums, libraries and archives, where many projects have included the conservation of nationally and internationally significant collections. Awards totalling £90 million have supported archaeological projects.

  There is no other major funding source for the conservation of the United Kingdom's built and natural heritage. Without our continuing investment it would not be possible to conserve iconic heritage assets at risk, for future generations.

  For example, major grants have enabled historic ships, including the Mary Rose (awarded £5.3 million), the Cutty Sark (£13 million) and the SS Great Britain (£8.8 million), to be restored, interpreted and opened up for the public. On a smaller scale, but still of national importance, a grant of almost £800,000 is helping to conserve and create access to the unique medieval Newport ship. Our grant of £9.2 million helped the British Film Institute to save the world's leading collection of early moving images, conserving more than 60 million feet of film, which would otherwise have been lost.

  Two of these historic ships are good examples of the application of innovative technology in HLF projects.

  The SS Great Britain, the world's first iron-hulled, steam-powered, screw-propeller ocean liner presents challenges for conservators as severe iron corrosion is endangering the very fabric which makes her unique. Conservators have constructed a glass "sea"—a horizontal glass plate—at the ship's water line to provide the roof of a giant airtight chamber surrounding the ship's lower hull. The environmental humidity beneath the glass plate is tightly controlled as Cardiff University researchers, working with the ship's curators, have calculated that by reducing the humidity to just below 20 per cent—roughly equivalent to levels in the Arizona desert—corrosion can be stopped. This technology has implications not only for conservators, but potentially in other areas such as contemporary ship and vehicle industries.

  The Cutty Sark is the last surviving example of a clipper built for the China tea trade, and is one of only three surviving composite-built vessels—that is a vessel with a wrought iron frame to which teak and rock elm strakes were fastened. The wrought iron is actively corroding and long-time deterioration of the timber planking has also occurred. If the deterioration continues unchecked there is a real risk that the ship will disintegrate. Samples of the rot were analysed by Imperial College who identified the decay as electrochemical. Portsmouth Museum Service undertook an experiment to see if it would be possible to halt the corrosion on this composite vessel as previously had been possible on an all-steel vessel. Following the success of this experiment, the Cutty Sark conservation project will treat the frames and floors where the corrosion is severest by electrolysis.

  It is unlikely that either of these major conservation projects could have gone ahead without funding from the Heritage Lottery Fund.


  HLF has also provided a significant level of support for the heritage of science, engineering and technology in the United Kingdom, both at heritage sites and in museums.

  To March 2005 HLF had funded 990 projects in the industrial, maritime and transport heritage sector, totalling £590 million. Amongst other things, that funding has helped conserve 42 locomotives, 44 historic ships, 22 watermills and 29 windmills. We have also supported the repair of major pieces of technology such as the Anderton Boatlift. Industrial sites of international significance such as Ironbridge and Blaenavon, now recognised as World Heritage Sites, have benefited from HLF support to preserve them and make it possible for the public to visit and understand their importance to our heritage and economy.

  We have also supported many of our museums of science and industry with an investment of over £154 million to date. We are helping to create the innovative Darwin Centre II at the Natural History Museum in London; we have supported all branches of the National Museum of Science and Industry, including the National Museum of Photography, Film and Television in Bradford and the National Railway Museum in York; and among smaller museums with specialist collections we have made awards to the Rotunda, a geological museum in Scarborough, the Porthcurno Telegraph Museum in Cornwall, and the Hunterian Museum at the Royal College of Surgeons as well as the three national mining museums of England, Scotland and Wales.

  HLF is helping one of our most important scientific institutions, the Royal Institution, to restore and open up the row of four 18th-century townhouses which it has always occupied, to improve the storage of its significant collections, and to enhance public access to science research activity and the work of scientists. Our grants have also made possible enhanced public access to heritage sites associated with the work of scientists such as Down House, the home of Charles Darwin, and Edward Jenner's home, now a museum, in Gloucestershire.


  One of HLF's three strategic aims is to ensure that everyone can have access to and learn about our diverse heritage. We have funded many projects which make innovative use of technology for access.

  HLF is helping organisations overcome the barriers that prevent people with disabilities experiencing heritage sites and museums. We have funded a virtual reality tour of Anne Hathaway's cottage in Stratford-on-Avon, a timber-framed thatched cottage which is largely inaccessible to people with limited mobility, and at Tyne and Wear Museums we funded a project to create hand-held visual guides for people who have a hearing impairment, where information is presented in British Sign Language.

  Digitisation of documents in our heritage collections is greatly improving public access and reducing the need to handle rare and fragile original material. Hundreds of unique local newspapers have been preserved and made accessible by the Newsplan project; awards totalling more than £6 million have enabled The National Archives to put online seven million catalogue entries for documents in more than 400 different archives throughout the country; many community heritage projects have created web-based collections of photographs and other heritage material that local people value and want to share more widely.


  In 2000 HLF carried out research which found serious gaps in a wide range of skills across all heritage areas. As well as shortages of heritage craft skills the research identified problems in skills development for conservators. As a result we put in place a number of initiatives including more encouragement for applicants to include skills apprenticeships and training for volunteers in projects and a requirement for projects over £1 million to have a training plan.

  Recognising a growing lack of specialist heritage skilled workers, we launched a Training Bursary Scheme in 2004. To date we have awarded £7 million to 10 partnerships which will offer traditional training apprenticeships and work-based learning placements at heritage sites. For example, the Institute of Conservation will award 60 bursaries in a UK-wide scheme for object, textile and paper conservation; and the Institute of Field Archaeologists will offer 32 bursaries in archaeological skills including desk-based assessments, geophysical survey, human remains, artefact research and conservation. Hampshire County Council will offer 16 bursaries in traditional engineering conservation skills for road vehicles in collections, including steam-powered vehicles, cars, commercial vehicles and bikes.


  One of our aims is to enable more people to participate in decisions about our heritage. We have funded a wide range of projects where people acquire the necessary skills and experience through scientific investigations of heritage.

  The York Archaeological Trust is helping people to get involved in recording their local heritage, using geophysical equipment and historical sources, and experts are training the public in fieldwork, finds identification and conservation. At West Blyth the local community is studying the sea fishery, the health of the North Sea, the sand dune system and the sea defences. During National Insect Week, 180 primary school children from inner city Bradford are investigating insect life by doing fieldwork, helped by entomologists from the Royal Entomological Society and at Benjamin Franklin House in London a Student Science Centre will enable young people to re-create important experiments from Franklin's time in London.


  The Heritage Lottery Fund's investment of more than £3.3 billion in the heritage of Britain has been underpinned by the scientific investigations required to plan and manage both large and small conservation projects and has funded major conservation projects that have employed new and innovative scientific techniques. In addition a not insignificant share of this investment has ensured that our scientific and technological heritage will still exist for present and future generations to enjoy. The Government is currently consulting on the future shares of Lottery income for the good causes; it is vital that we at least maintain our share in order to continue to support conservation and public involvement at this level.

13 February 2006

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