CA 404 Letters – October

Your thoughts on issues raised by CA.

Short of storage

First, I wish to tell you how much I enjoy reading the ‘Sherds’ article each month. Second, with reference to the column’s discussion of museums in CA 401, we need to build or reuse an industrial building to make a giant National Museum of artefacts for museums that do not have the storage facilities. If it was primarily for researchers, and also raised money for its upkeep through allowing the public to see its collections, displayed according to region and with updates on any research outcomes, this could be the answer.

Photo: Collin Kinnear CC BY-SA 2.0

I recently went on a visit to Marischal College Museum to see the Pictish Stones that they do not have the room to display. One was too big to include in our visit, as there was no way of moving it out of storage to a place where we could view it.

I am aware that the situation will be getting worse as museums close. I understand that the Town House Museum in Brechin, Angus, is one that is on the closure list (ABOVE). The other museums in nearby towns, which would need  to store the artefacts from Brechin, are already short of storage space.

Barbara Thompson, North Yorkshire

Fan of footnotes

I can only applaud John Blair (and ‘Sherds’) for championing footnotes as opposed to in-text citations (CA 402). At their best, footnotes are beneficial not only to authors, but also to readers, who are given the option of either focusing on the main thrust of an argument or narrative, or delving down into a more nuanced, qualified, or contextual appraisal of the evidence.* And, far from being ‘old- fashioned’, they might be seen as having anticipated the introduction of hyperlinks, which allow the reader who is more interested in a subtopic than in the author’s main theme to explore that specific point in greater detail.

I remember, as a 7-year-old, reading one of Tove Jansson’s  Moomin books, and encountering my first ever footnote (not, of course, a citation, but an authorial clarification). Although initially baffled, I soon worked out the principle: it was like coming to a fork in the path, and being able to choose whether to press ahead along the main route, or stray off on a diversion before looping back. I’ve been hooked ever since. 

Oliver Harris, London

* For the key role played by footnotes in the development of historical scholarship, see Anthony Grafton, The Footnote: a curious history (1997).