Bath Preservation Trust’s museums may be currently closed but that hasn’t stopped them engaging with people of all ages via social media.
I spotted a tweet – on Twitter – from the Herschel Museum – pointing up the ‘Bath Heritage Plaque Challenge’ which is an online encouragement to get young people interested in the history behind these commemorative objects which document some of the important men and women who once lived in the city.
There are over one hundred of them in Bath on buildings which might be where the ‘celebrity’ was born or lived or worked.
The challenge suggests researching the person on a plaque of their choice but also designing a new style plaque. The winners will feature of the Trust’s social media pages.
Bath’s bronze plaques date back to 1898 when councillor Thomas Sturge Cotterell – who was to become mayor of the city and one of its most famous promoters – proposed erecting ‘mural tablets’ on houses once occupied by notable men and women of the 18th and 19th centuries.
He produced his own initial list of 44 names and the plaques were designed to appear in sympathy with the Georgian architecture they were attached to.
While some of those commemorated are still well known there are others today’s visitors will never have heard of. The bronzes have become dull and unreadable over any distance.
I have said before that maybe it is time to come up with a different design and look for some slightly more contemporary people who could be ‘honoured’ in this way.
Bath’s World Heritage Site Advisory Board has been looking at how to re-energise the heritage plaque scheme and make the selection of individuals selected for commemoration more balanced and diverse.
Professor Barry Gilbertson – who is Chair of the Advisory Board – has said: ‘The vision is that Bath will continue to be recognised as a city that values, respects and promotes its heritage of famous residents – extending Sturge Cotterell’s legacy into today’s world for the benefit of future generations of our residents and visitors alike.’
He told me: ‘We believe that Bath’s Heritage Plaques might, themselves, where relevant and appropriate, become the focus of future positive interpretation on commemorative anniversaries, as some plaques were in the past, in Edwardian times.
It was a ceremonial practice which we think may not have been resurrected when society and attitudes changed following the First World War.”
Meanwhile, there has been much discussion of late about the city’s connections with the Slave Trade and maybe we should be looking for a plaque or piece of modern sculpture to at least acknowledge this?