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HERFORUM  July 2006

HERFORUM July 2006


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Re: Rejoinder - Great Balls of Fire


DURHAM Brian <[log in to unmask]>


Issues related to Historic Environment Records <[log in to unmask]>


Thu, 20 Jul 2006 11:02:59 +0100





text/plain (213 lines)

Kiddies - I sat this one out till yesterday.  The separation of

observation from inference is sound both scientifically and

philosophically.  Doesn't matter what you call the entries, so long as

they are one or the other.


`Recognition event' is six syllables, and inevitably gets contracted to

`rec-event' (often misspelled `recent'!) and ultimately just `event'.

As we are seeing from Jeremy, the last one opens the way to conflating

it with `historical event', so full circle.  Re-using the term

`monument' for an `interpretation' or `model' seemed (do I remember) to

arise from conflation with part of the 1960's Benson/Cook term `sites

and monuments' for the prototype heritage record, but I am pretty sure

Don never saw this as a separation of observation from interpretation.

For the Fire of London exemplar, Pepys' factual description is a record,

and hence in current parlance a `recognition event'.  It therefore ranks

alongside a modern archaeologist's record of an extensive City fire

horizon with typical late 17th-cent ceramics associated.  If however

Pepys had speculated who started the fire, without any reference to an

evidence-based judicial process, that would belong to the realm of

`interpretation', and would be a `model'.  Schliemann's excavations may

be historical events Phil, but his factual account of what he found is a


Other disciplines would have called a convention to resolve this, maybe

it could still happen as a session for an IFA conference.  All it would

need is a table of synonyms for `observation' versus synonyms for

`interpretation', I would vote for fairly basic terms like `record'

versus `model'. - Brian  

-----Original Message-----

From: Issues related to Historic Environment Records

[mailto:[log in to unmask]] On Behalf Of LAKE, Jeremy

Sent: 19 July 2006 11:58

To: [log in to unmask]

Subject: Re: Rejoinder - Great Balls of Fire

I agree with Phil. We have made something very straightforward very


An Event is something that happened - a fire, a battle: its extent is

subject to interpretation that can be tested by the evidence.

The definition of monument is in itself subject to interpretation. It is

a  physical thing (as a building, a hill fort, an industrial or military

site or even as buried archaeology with high potential to reveal

evidence about past societies/technologies etc) but it has the ability

to both reflect and inform the understanding of the past by us or

others. It is a physical thing, but like landscape - in itself the

result of human and natural interaction - is open to a diversity of

views and interpretations, whether its preservation affords value to

society etc. I personally would like us to drop monument and work from

less 'antiquarian' definitions of the broader historic environment -

whether hedges, woods, roads, buildings, smelting mills or whatever.

Language needs to be clear, and I must confess that if I was external to

the HER community I would be mightily confused, rather maddened and even

feel excluded by the type of language that is bandied about. My wife and

friends would likewise tell me to get real!


-----Original Message-----

From: Issues related to Historic Environment Records

[mailto:[log in to unmask]] On Behalf Of CARLISLE, Phil

Sent: 19 July 2006 10:27

To: [log in to unmask]

Subject: Re: Rejoinder - Great Balls of Fire

Dear Neil

I have to disagree. The labels we attach to the monument in a record ie

what we think it is or want to call it, whether house, burial, bridge,

castle or ditch is the 'Interpretation' not the monument itself. The

monument itself is, was and, to my mind, always will be a 'thing'. 

If my four year old asked me what we were doing at the weekend and I

said we were going to visit some interpretations he would be slightly

confused, whereas my wife would probably try to slap some sense into me

and tell me to stop talking rubbish.

Conversely If I said we were going to visit something (ie some 'thing')

Fred would more than likely be excited and ask what we were going to

visit, the answer to which, given his current fascination, would

inevitably be a castle!

I think the recent email traffic on this discussion list has also shown

that the use of the term 'Event' in the archaeological sense is


I would rather see types of event - historical events, activities (ie

archaeological investigations etc.).

In fact in the NMR AMIE database 'Activities' is the name of the table

in the database used to record 'Events' (in the investigative sense).

The OED (bless it!) gives the primary definition of an event as

'Something that happens; an occurrence, an incident.'

In this respect both Schliemann's excavations and the Great Fire are

events. And I would also argue that Schliemann's excavation is also an

historical event!

What do we think the general public would understand by Events in the

Monument - Event - Archive model? I would argue that they would expect

to see historical events rather than investigations carried out on a


As more and more information from HERs and the NMR is made available

over online we have to ensure that it's public-friendly and as such we

have to speak in a language that they understand otherwise we'll be

constantly pointing users to our FAQ or glossary pages to explain the


Also if, as you say Neil, monuments are not things but merely

interpretations then why so we persist in talking about the Monument -

Event - Archive model and not the Interpretation - Event - Archive


As for Themes we use this in 'Viewfinder' to group photographs which

depict similar things eg. Childhood, Crime and Punishment, Bomb Damage,

People (active) and People (posed).

So again let the gods of confusion reign!


Phil Carlisle

Data Standards Supervisor

National Monuments Record Centre

Kemble Drive



+44 (0)1793 414824


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-----Original Message-----

From: Issues related to Historic Environment Records

[mailto:[log in to unmask]] On Behalf Of Neil Campling

Sent: 19 July 2006 08:38

To: [log in to unmask]

Subject: Rejoinder - Great Balls of Fire

Dear all,

We are in the middle of a major campaign called "History Matters".  Why

then don't we know our own history?  I refer everybody to the notes made

of the ALGAO SMR Sub-committee Event -Monument Seminar held on 13

October 1998.  All of what we have been discussing was set out at that

seminar, and the majority of curators have been working on that basis

since then.  

Phil asks "If monuments are not 'things' then what are they?".  As I

said in my previous e-mails, they are "interpretations".  Simon asks  "I

cannot see why it cannot be an event albeit an historical one, how would

you classify the excavations of Troy by Schliemann?"  In my previous

e-mail, I noted the confusion between recording events and historical

events.  Under the Monument - Event - Source schema, an Event is defined

as "a single episode, i.e. using a single investigative technique of

data collection, over a discrete area of land".  Schliemann's excavation

at Troy would thus be an Event (or series of Events).  The Great Fire of

London would not be so under this definition.  

The 1998 seminar identified that it would not be possible to interpret

some information to produce a Monument, or that it might be hard to put

some data derived from Events into a coherent, i.e. Monument, form.  But

this is exactly what Ed was talking about in his e-mail when he said he

wanted to "explore *new* concepts that MIDAS Heritage (the 2nd edition

title) will extend into, beyond the EMA model".  I think Theme is a good

starting point for this new category / concept for data or information

that does not fit easily into the EMA model.




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