The West Virginia Humanities Council observes National Preservation Month this May by bringing Sir Neil Cossons, distinguished historian, museum director and former chairman of English Heritage, to West Virginia for a speaking tour. English Heritage is the advisor to the government of the United Kingdom on the historic environment of England, from Stonehenge to manor houses.
On May 7, Cossons begins his tour with the 7:00 p.m. presentation of “A Future for the Past: Preserving the Past as an Asset for the Future” at the Jefferson County Courthouse in Charles Town. He will repeat the program on May 8 at 7:00 p.m. at West Virginia University’s Erikson Alumni Center in Morgantown and May 9 at 7:00 p.m. at West Virginia Independence Hall in Wheeling. The programs are free and the public is cordially invited to attend.
Cossons will discuss the philosophy and processes for historic preservation in England. He will examine what is preserved, why and how, consider new uses for historic buildings, and share examples of how communities have used historic places as the framework for creating the future in England and other countries.
Sir Neil was knighted in 1994 for his work with museums and historic preservation and has advised governments, museums, and preservation organizations in several countries. His visit to West Virginia was facilitated by his friend and colleague Dr. Emory Kemp, professor emeritus at West Virginia University. In addition to being former chairman of English Heritage, Cossons was the first director of the Ironbridge Gorge Museum – a World Heritage site in Shropshire encompassing 10 museums collectively telling the story of the Industrial Revolution, director of the National Maritime Museum in Greenwich, and has worked on a number of World Heritage nominations.
Officially known as the Historic Buildings and Monuments Commission for England, English Heritage cares for the National Heritage Collection of historic sites and monuments while serving as guardian of over 500,000 objects and 12 million photographs in their public archives. They protect an amazing range of properties, sites, and objects that include castles, shipwrecks, battlefields, and gardens such as the aforementioned Stonehenge, Hadrian’s Wall, Charles Darwin’s diaries and the Duke of Wellington’s boots.
Support for “A Future for the Past: Preserving the Past as an Asset for the Future” is provided by West Virginia University, Elizabeth Stifel Kline Foundation, Mr. and Mrs. Ogden Nutting, Jefferson Distributing, John Allen, Jr., West Virginia Division of Culture and History, and the Bavarian Inn. The Humanities Council also thanks Dr. Emory Kemp, the Honorable David H. Sanders, Arts and Humanities Alliance of Jefferson County, Harpers Ferry Historical Association, Preservation Alliance of West Virginia, Shepherd University Historic Preservation Program, and the Wheeling National Heritage Area Corporation.
For more information contact the West Virginia Humanities Council at 304-346-8500.