Towards a Collaborative National Framework and Research Agenda
Authors: Alex Buchanan, Harold Mytum and Stella Jackson, University of Liverpool
This report represents the conclusion to the Historic Built Environment Knowledge Exchange (HistBEKE) project to develop a national framework and research agenda for the (historic) built environment.
The project was commissioned in 2017 by Historic England, funded through Heritage Protection Commissions and carried out by a multi-disciplinary research team based at the University of Liverpool.
The project involved a review of current literature and wide-ranging consultation with the sector, including two surveys, seven roundtable discussion groups and a seminar day.
The recommendations contained in this document are intended to enable the creation of an initial research framework and to inform further discussion between Historic England and proposed partners to establish a sustainable network to develop the resource and maintain it into the future.
In summary, the project found that the sector would welcome a research framework to support research, facilitate knowledge exchange, and demonstrate the impact of research. The framework should managed by a Steering Group made up of representatives from key sector organisations. The framework should be a dynamic online resource, capable of regular update and directly responsive to sectoral needs. Addressing the problems of ‘lost’ knowledge and the need for knowledge exchange emerged as priorities for the sector and recommendations are offered for steps Historic England could take to support these endeavours.
HistBEKE is the ‘brand name’ for the project commissioned by Historic England in 2017 to develop a national research framework and agenda for the historic built environment. Funded through Heritage Protection Commissions, it has been led by a multidisciplinary team based in the School of Histories, Languages and Cultures at the University of Liverpool.
The objectives of the project were:
Research frameworks have been widely used in many disciplines, with the following aims and objectives:
The benefits of research frameworks include providing a good evidence base for future activities, promoting research (both existing and new), advocating for resources, facilitating knowledge exchange and saving time and resources by linking up research to enhance professional practice.
Research frameworks are widely used in archaeology, where they provide a focus for development-led work within the planning system. They complement the NPPF and associated Good Practice guidance, often providing the evidence base to ensure consistent and well-informed decision-making, and they also provide grant-giving bodies with a basis for prioritization and therefore a justification for funding. In addition to this, they aim to steer academic research, and help to inform community or local society projects.
A number of research frameworks and agendas pertinent to the built environment already exist, such as the Historic England Research Agenda (2017), which sets out a focused list of current research topics to guide and inspire research partnerships with others. Others have been created at a regional level, such as the series of regional historic environment research frameworks developed since the mid-1990s. A good recent example of these is the East Midlands Research Framework which is now available on line and sets out a series of agreed regional research questions and strategic objectives (http://archaeologydataservice.ac.uk/researchframeworks/eastmidlands/wiki/). Being online enables the framework to be easily updated with new content and ensures it is much more accessible. The ongoing revised edition of the North-West Research Framework is innovatively including a section on the built environment.
There are also site- or area-based frameworks, such as research agendas and strategies supporting World Heritage Sites (e.g. the Derwent Valley Mills WHS) and individual monuments (e.g. the Norton Priory Research Framework) or conservation area management plans. Whilst these frameworks include priorities for the historic built environment, these tend to be compressed into the last few pages or final chapter of the published document. Because the historical study of buildings has often been regarded as tangential to the discipline of archaeology – intersecting principally in the area of study known as ‘buildings archaeology’ – existing research frameworks do not fully serve the needs of architectural historians and others engaged in researching the historic built environment. Recent frameworks are more balanced in this respect than some of their predecessors, which were dominated by traditional archaeological priorities, but a lack of consistency across the suite of frameworks remains problematic.
Historic England set out a number of objectives in relation to the proposed framework which differentiate it from existing resources. It required the following characteristics:
A headline conclusion of Pye Tait in 2014 (p.12) was that broadening research frameworks to encompass the wider historic environment, including the built environment, would be welcomed, but the structure of the frameworks would need to meet a diverse range of needs. The research revealed that the diverse methodologies and information systems used within research frameworks have previously made it difficult to draw individuals from different disciplines together to produce a common approach. In particular, Local Authority Conservation Officers have felt excluded from or were ignorant of research frameworks or their potential (Pye Tait 2014, 26, 64, 66, 69). In line with objective 1, therefore, the development of this framework has sought to integrate the needs of key groups of players within built environment research, conservation and management, whilst respecting that differences in approach and the perceived importance of various factors may remain. The research has therefore identified a number of functions the sector requires of a research framework in addition to those identified by Historic England. The outputs of this project also have the potential to integrate built environment research framework with archaeological, ecological, and other conservation and management structures.
Although regional, site or area-based frameworks can include the historic built environment, much research in this field cuts across regional boundaries. Many architectural researchers engage with topics of national significance (for example the work of an individual architect or building type, regardless of geography), and assessments of significance (for example for listing purposes) usually take into account the national context. Additionally, creating a fresh series of regional frameworks for research on buildings would be a vast, expensive and lengthy task. It was therefore proposed by Historic England that a national framework would deliver most benefits, for the greatest number of people, in the shortest period of time and would lay foundations which might underpin future iterations of the future regional archaeological frameworks and could support the creation of separate regional, local or thematic frameworks devoted to the historic built environment.
In addition to the above features and characteristics, a key finding of the project was the need to facilitation of knowledge exchange. Knowledge exchange is a process which brings together researchers, those who use research and wider groups and communities to share ideas, evidence and expertise. The HistBEKE project found a very strong desire for knowledge exchange in relation to the historic built environment, as well as a number of obstacles to this in practice. Many of the gaps identified by participants as research needs can, in the light of the survey of researchers and literature review, be identified as gaps in relation to access to information. This issue is considered in the findings, analysis and recommendations, although it was not part of the original project objectives. As well as information, there is also embodied knowledge in the form of craft skills. Much of this knowledge is not published; it is practised, and with reducing numbers of craftspeople there is a clear need for it to be documented. Participants expressed concern about the loss of traditional craft skills and the associated impact on repairs and maintenance.
The project brief issued by Historic England divided the project into two stages.
3.1 Stage 1
Moving towards a research framework for the historic built environment:
3.1.1 By identifying who is currently undertaking research on the historic built environment (c. in the last 5 years). This was established as follows:
3.1.2 By identifying what research is currently being undertaken on the historic built environment (c. in the last 5 years).
This was established as follows:
3.1.3 By identifying any important gaps in historic built environment research coverage.
This was established as follows:
3.1.4 By identifying and setting out broad research themes to be developed.
This was undertaken as follows:
3.2 Stage 2
3.2.1 To produce a national framework
3.2.2 Develop an agreed structure and language to create a framework
3.3.3 Populate this with broad research themes.
3.3.4 To establish a research network to take the national framework forwards.
This was undertaken based on the research carried out as Stage 1 and the associated recommendations are listed below (see Sections 6 and 7).
3.3 Literature review
A number of areas were reviewed as part of this research strand, including published academic literature; ‘grey’ literature resulting from development management interventions; the research outputs of national organisations such as Historic England; Higher Education Institutes (HEIs); and other research frameworks/strategies The review of literature was undertaken as a desk-based exercise, using Refworks bibliographic software to curate the data and Microsoft Excel for analysis. Where an abstract, description or project summary was not provided or available, only the title and any associated keywords were analysed. A closed coding approach was used for consistency, using a pre-established scheme of categories. This was developed through the amalgamation of the various thesauri used by the heritage sector and managed by FISH (Forum for Information Standards in Heritage, see http://www.heritagedata.org/blog/vocabularies-provided/) . Additional terms taken from the Getty thesaurus were added to this, and the top-level building type categories were taken not from the FISH Monuments Thesaurus, but from the Historic England Listing Selection Guide titles, which those working in the historic built environment are all much more familiar with, although the terms are largely the same. The thesaurus was circulated to participants for comment and has been used as the basis for the classified bibliography. The following bibliographies, repositories and search engines were used:
It is nevertheless inevitable that the results of this method will not be comprehensive. Other sources which could be analysed should further resources become available in future include:
3.4 Baseline and follow up survey
Two online surveys were conducted, an initial baseline survey at the start of the project, and a second survey following engagement with the sector. Both were ethically approved by the appropriate University Ethics Committee (see 3.7). The aim of the baseline survey was to discover the baseline level of awareness and use of research frameworks by the historic built environment sector. An additional aim was to discover any knowledge gaps and topics for the research agenda. The second, follow-up survey aimed to assess whether there had been a change in respondent’s knowledge and awareness of research frameworks in comparison with the earlier baseline survey. In addition, it gathered views on the suggested themes, topics and structure of the framework that emerged from the previous survey and focus group workshops.
The two surveys were open to any individual or organisation working in the historic built environment sector in England. This includes, but was not limited to, the following groups:
A contacts list of individuals and organisations to email the survey to was developed and curated for the baseline survey using the following sources of information:
The survey was also promoted through social media, newsletters and mailing lists.
The contacts list was supplemented on an ad hoc basis following the baseline survey, and while identifying potential attendees to invite to workshops. In addition, a specific project mailing list was created and promoted to both baseline survey email recipients and social media networks, as well as being added to the HistBEKE website. Contact details for workshops attendees were also curated and those who opted in were added to the mailing list. Together, these formed the mailing list for the follow-up survey.
3.5 Focus Group Workshops
Seven regional focus group workshops were held in the Autumn of 2017 to find out from those across the built heritage sector what they would like the framework to both look like and include, how they might use it, and where the key knowledge gaps are that can be translated onto a research agenda. These followed on from the literature review and the Summer 2017 baseline survey, making use of the knowledge gaps and suggestions identified within these.
The objectives of the focus group workshops were to:
The workshops were delivered largely as Open Space sessions, with topics for discussion being suggested on the day by attendees. Following an introduction to the project, attendees were split into two groups for an initial discussion session set by the project team to discover whether attendees currently use research frameworks, and their thoughts on how HistBEKE might be structured to take into account any impediments to their use. During this session the project team grouped together suggestions made by delegates into four topics/themes which were then discussed in two further sessions. Attendees were able to choose which of the two topics in each session they wanted to discuss, and could move to another group if they wished. Although the programme was the same at each workshop, therefore, they were all different in terms of what was discussed.
In the first four workshops, on arrival delegates were directed to flip chart sheets with the following questions and asked to add suggestions / discussion topics to them using post-it notes:
Short descriptions of common Research Framework elements (see section 2.1) were also placed on display close to the flip chart sheets.
Many of the delegates, however, had not previously experienced an open space style focus group and there were fewer suggestions made for discussion topics than the project team had expected. Evaluation of this methodology resulted in the final three workshops using a set of more specific questions, and allocating ten minutes prior to the first discussion session specifically for delegates to add their suggestions. The questions were:
During the discussion sessions, flip charts were used by attendees to record key thoughts and recommendations. Audio recording was also used to ensure that all comments made within each session were captured. All suggestions, knowledge gaps and other comments were then transcribed onto a spreadsheet by the project’s research assistant, with similar comments and suggestions being grouped together and the number of workshops at which the same/similar comment was made were recorded. Analysis was also undertaken of anonymous feedback forms completed by attendees to gauge whether they felt that HistBEKE would be useful, and if they had increased their awareness of research frameworks and how they might be used as a result of attending the workshop. These were paper survey forms that were entered manually into an Excel spread-sheet by the Research Assistant.
3.6 Ethical Considerations
Ethics approval was sought and provided by the University of Liverpool for the surveys and workshops, and a detailed participant information sheet was made available to everyone who took part.
4.1 Survey of researchers
4.1.1 Higher education institutions
Academic research on the historic built environment is multi-disciplinary. A small number of institutions (including the Bartlett School of Architecture, Birkbeck College, London Metropolitan University, the University of Cambridge, the University of Oxford and the University of York) run postgraduate programmes focusing specifically on the historic built environment, aimed both at developing research expertise and research-led practice. Others (including but not restricted to Birkbeck College, the University of Cambridge and the University of Liverpool) have active research centres, drawing together academics with research interests in the field. These researchers are usually based in Schools of Architecture or Departments of Art History (see Appendix A); there are also individual researchers based in departments centred on other disciplines, including history, archaeology, heritage studies, area studies etc. M-level programmes usually include a dissertation element, however these dissertations are rarely of publishable quality and their accessibility is limited: only older dissertations tend to be available via University libraries. The number of PhD students in the field is relatively small. EthOS the British Library’s repository for British theses, maintains a national aggregated record of doctoral theses awarded by UK Higher Education institutions; this records 16 theses for 2013-18 with keywords Architecture-Great Britain-History (2 on Scottish topics removed from results). Completed theses are available at the associated university; some are available digitally via the relevant university repository and/or via EthOS (of the 16 theses mentioned, only 2 are currently available via EthOS). Identifying theses of relevance to the historic built environment is dependent on keyword searching and is therefore somewhat ‘hit-and-miss’, as our research identified numerous other theses of potential relevance which did not include the keywords used above. All were included in the literature review and appear in the bibliography.
Academic research is supported at institutional level and by the UK funding councils, primarily the Arts and Humanities Research Council and the Economic and Social Research Council. There are also a number of grant-making bodies which support academic research, including the Leverhulme Foundation. Some, such as the Paul Mellon Foundation, have a specific interests in relation to funding research on the historic built environment.
Research in the higher education sector is evaluated by the Research Excellence Framework (REF), which has run in various forms since 1986. The REF does not aim to steer research into particular topics but has criteria for evaluation which include the impact of research beyond academia. REF submissions are made by disciplinary groups, which make a submission to the relevant unit of assessment within a
research panel. For the next REF (2021), architecture, the built environment and planning is the focus of Panel C, unit 13, however for the reasons given above, research relevant to the historic built environment could also be submitted to other units, including C14 (Geography and Environmental Studies), C15 (Archaeology), D25 (Area Studies), D28 (History) or D32 (Art and Design: History, Practice and Theory). In the last REF (2014), historical research was identified as a particular strength in relation to UOE 16 (Architecture, Built Environment and Planning).
Academic research is mainly published in academic journals, many of which are produced by learned societies (see below). The 2018 Research England report on compliance with funders’ open access requirements found around 80% compliance in relation to publications eligible for REF2021 (https://re.ukri.org/documents/2018/research-england-open-access-report-pdf/) and the 2017 Universities UK report on the transition to open access found that 37% of research publications were freely available immediately (https://www.universitiesuk.ac.uk/policy-and-analysis/reports/Pages/monitoring-transition-open-access-2017.aspx). This nevertheless leaves the majority of published research inaccessible outside academia, located behind paywalls or only in hardcopy.
4.1.2 Learned Societies and Charities
There are a number of societies whose aims include promoting research on the historic built environment. These include amenity societies, membership societies (special interest groups) and non-membership charities. The amenity societies (the Ancient Monuments Society; Society for the Protection of Ancient Buildings; the Georgian Group; the Victorian Society; the Twentieth-Century Society) have an advisory role within the planning system and undertake associated research. All produce research publications, and put on conferences and study days aiming to promote and disseminate research in their areas of interest. National bodies, such as the Architectural Heritage Fund, the Landmark Trust and SAVE Britain’s Heritage also undertake and disseminate research primarily to support their work to protect buildings at risk. Other societies whose role includes promoting research in the field include the Association for Industrial Archaeology, the British Archaeological Association (more architectural than archaeological, up to 1840), the Construction History Society, the Society of Antiquaries of London, the Society of Architectural Historians of Great Britain and the Vernacular Architecture Group. There are also a number of more specialist groups whose roles include promoting research on particular building types etc., such as the Almshouse Association, the British Brick Society, the Canal and River Trust, the Castles Study Group, the Cinema Theatre Association, the Chapels Society, the Folly Fellowship; the Fortress Study Group, the Gardens Trust, the National Churches Trust, the National Piers Society, the Railway Heritage Trust, the Temple Trust, the Tiles and Architectural Ceramics Society and the Wallpaper History Society. The majority of these societies publish journals and/or newsletters which disseminate research, however most are available only to members or via subscription. Civic trusts and similar local societies may undertake research into the local historic built environment. The majority of the National societies do not publish or make easily accessible the research that they have completed. Many of these bodies hold substantial archives of case files and information dossiers to support their work. Some of these have been catalogued and are available for external research purposes but the majority are internal resources and may not be in good order or preservation. While information on research outputs by the various groups could have been requested, if it is not easily available it continues to be a knowledge gap. Many of the National Amenity Societies do, however, publish summaries of their research in member magazines and newsletters. These represent an additional source of information which could be analysed if further resources become available. However, they are often only available to members, so remain similarly inaccessible to many.
4.1.3 Independent Research Organisations
The Arts and Humanities Research Council recognises a number of heritage organisations to be undertaking sufficient research to be eligible to receive funding in the same way as a university. Relevant to this project are:
220.127.116.11 Historic England
Historic England carries out or supports applied research relevant to the protection and management of the historic environment, and also enhances professional practice through training. A research strategy and research agenda both frame decision-making on prioritising resources. Results are disseminated through on-line advice and policy documents and research papers in academic and practice journals, as well as in a monograph series. Some research is undertaken by Historic England staff, but much is contracted out to appropriate practitioners and academics within defined projects. Initiatives such as AHRC-funded collaborative doctoral awards combine research and training for the next generation of heritage professionals.
The current research themes for Historic England are as follows:
18.104.22.168 English Heritage
English Heritage carries out or supports research relevant to the management and interpretation of properties in its care and the blue plaque scheme. Research is not an explicit in the organisation’s priorities, but it underpins many of the subheadings within these. This includes buildings, landscapes and collections. Much research is contracted out to appropriate practitioners and academics within defined projects. Results are rarely publicly available but used within internal management structures, though some results may appear in research papers in academic and practice journals, or in Historic England Research Report, and more often in literature and displays for the public.
22.214.171.124 Historic Royal Palaces
In 2019, Historic Royal Palaces launched its Research Institute to support staff undertaking research across the organization and to provide a platform for research programmes, including academic and partnership projects. The organisation carries out research relevant to the management and interpretation of properties in its care The current priority areas for research by Historic Royal Palaces are:
To date none of the Historic Royal Palace’s research has been published except in the form of guidebooks.
4.1.4 National Trust
The National Trust carries out or support research relevant to the management and interpretation of properties in their care. This includes buildings, landscapes and collections. It has a published research strategy (2017-2021). Much research is contracted out to appropriate practitioners and academics within defined projects. Past results have been rarely publicly available but used within internal management structures, though some results may appear in research papers in academic and practice journals, and more often in literature and displays for the public. The current strategy refers to developing an internal research repository, but then mentions open access, but the relationship between these, and other forms, of dissemination listed, is at present still under development.
The current priority areas for the National Trust are as follows:
4.1.5 The Church of England
Anglican churches and associated buildings are covered by separate planning legislation, known as the Faculty system. Faculties are issued by the chancellor of the diocese, on the recommendation of the diocesan advisory committee (DAC). Advice can also be sought and provided by the Church Building Council (CBC), part of ChurchCare, the national advisory body. Casework officers at the CBC undertake research as part of their advisory role. Associated documentation, including statements of significance, desk-based research, archaeological reports and reports by casework officers and DAC/CBC members is retained in case files at diocesan and, where relevant, national level. With the financial support of Historic England, ChurchCare developed the Church Heritage Record, a database containing over 16,000 entries on church buildings, which includes some digital documentation. This resource is in ongoing development, with additions made via new faculty applications, local initiatives andthematic projects and offers the capacity for the public to contribute their own research/records/memories. ChurchCare supports the dissemination of good practice and associated research via its website, conferences and other events.
4.1.6 The Victoria County History
Founded in 1899, the Victoria County History publishes research on the history of English counties, including their architecture. It is based at the Institute of Historical Research, part of the University of London. Research is undertaken on a county basis, supported by individual county trusts, coordinated by the national advisory board. A large number of the older volumes have been digitised and are available via British History Online.
4.1.7 Survey of London
Founded in 1894, the Survey of London publishes research on London’s built environment, organised topographically by parish, with monographs on sites of particular significance. Responsibility for the project has lain with local government, thereafter with the Royal Commission on the Historical Monuments of England and then English Heritage. Since 2013 the Survey of London has been based in the Bartlett School of Architecture. Some of the historic and the majority of the most recent volumes (including draft chapters) are freely available online.
4.1.8 Community Groups
This project was unable to identify all the local societies and community groups undertaking related research. Directories of such societies include those maintained by the Local History Magazine (https://www.local-history.co.uk/index.html), the British Association for Local History (https://www.balh.org.uk/useful-links/local-societies-a-l and https://www.balh.org.uk/useful-links/local-societies-m-z) and the Community Archives and Heritage Group website (https://www.communityarchives.org.uk/). Research undertaken by local societies and community groups in England, and the potential value of this research, has recently been assessed through a HE-funded project undertaken by Worcestershire County Council (Hedge and Nash, 2016). This has similarly found that the online availability and accessibility of research outputs is poor, with a greater focus on community outcomes than research outputs. This is particularly the case for grant-funded projects where community-generated research is frequently seen in terms of the outcomes and the value of the process, but all-too-often the research value of the outputs has not been recognised (Hedge and Nash, 2016, 89), meaning that online availability and accessibility of associated research was poor (Hedge and Nash, 2016, 10). A review of the accessibility of HLF-funded outputs, for example, found that of the 225 projects reviewed, 84% did not appear to have any outputs available or easily accessible (Su Vale, in Hedge and Nash, 2016, 31). The project also found that 94% of the 619 respondents to a nationwide online survey had undertaken research within the last five years, with 35% noting that this included recording of standing structures (Hedge and Nash, 2016, 36-7). However, just 40% of respondents fed their research back into HERs, and only 12% uploaded the results to OASIS (Hedge and Nash, 2016, 10).
Many private owners or charitable trusts own historic built heritage, and they may commission research on these assets. This may result in publicly available results, but often does not, or is only made accessible public interpretation materials.
Developer-funded research linked to planning consent may be retained within the planning system, the developer and the client, or may be released as grey literature. However, whilst ADS provides a repository for archaeology grey literature, there is no equivalent repository for built environment reports (though some buildings and landscape archaeology studies are deposited in ADS which are within the built environment remit). Some developer-funded research is published in academic journals or as monographs, but this is more often with an archaeological emphasis (though not always excluding the built environment).
4.2 Literature review
The literature review identified over 1,400 items but is unlikely to be comprehensive, because of the difficulties of identifying items relevant to the historic built environment. Analysis of the items aimed to discover the context of published research (who was undertaking it), popular topics of research, gaps evident in the recent literature (recognizing that these might represent strengths from previous years) and overarching research themes.
4.2.1 Who is doing research?
In terms of researchers, the research method could not uncover the status of the majority of the authors in relation to their work (i.e. whether they are commercial authors, employees, academics, professional researchers or amateurs), although it is evident that all groups are well represented within the bibliography.
Some specific research bodies were interrogated separately along with data inputting: for example 229 research reports by Historic England for the period 2012-17 were collated. Findings were as follows:
4.2.2 What research is being done?
In terms of outputs, journal articles are by far the most common, although in this field, books remain common, ranging from scholarly monographs to more accessible texts (the bibliography will inevitably be missing many examples of texts aimed at a popular audience, including guidebooks, which may have substantial research content). Reports (mostly dendrochronology reports) are common and guidance documents are a strong feature of this field. There were 118 PhD theses, covering a wide range of topics from a variety of disciplines.
The research method did not include analysis of accessibility of the publications, nevertheless research on accessibility of academic research in general would suggest than less than half the journal articles would be open access. Conference proceedings and books are in general even less likely to be open access and grey literature, such as reports may be difficult to identify, let alone access. PhD theses are increasingly available at no charge through University repositories, but only for current completions.
4.2.3 Research coverage and gaps
The literature review was undertaken both by coding the bibliography and by undertaking an overview of the results. Lack of consistency in indexing and abstracted information made it difficult to identify relevant data in some cases, therefore results are indicative rather than absolute.
The chart below shows the periods covered by outputs for which this information could readily be identified from the metadata (and excluding dendrochronology reports). Outputs covering more than one period were included more than once. It was impossible to subdivide medieval by centuries and this is therefore shown as one grouping, making it appear relatively well covered, however it should be remembered that this grouping represents over 400 years.
Given that the medieval period is disproportionally represented, this chart suggests that the twentieth century is currently the focus of much research, but that the early modern period (16th-18th centuries) is perhaps less popular.
Research specifically into styles rather than periods is less common, although Brutalism is something of a ‘hot-topic’ (5 outputs, plus research into architects and building types associated with this style), Post-modernism is starting to be the subject of historical analysis (4 outputs) and Modernism continues to be of interest. There is continued interest in the pre-Victorian use of Gothic (6 outputs), but the nineteenth-century Gothic Revival was less commonly mentioned. There is some evidence of interest in the international transfer of architectural styles but perhaps less than might be expected.
Where building types are mentioned in the collected information, the most common categories of building covered are domestic buildings, places of worship, military and defence buildings (including castles), followed by industrial, commercial and agricultural. The classes of building with least coverage were: utilities buildings, maritime and naval buildings, law and government buildings, with communication buildings and sports, leisure and recreation buildings also being relatively poorly covered. In terms of agents, research into architects dominates, with far less on builders, but even research into individual architects or architectural practices is less frequent than might be anticipated (51 items), with the number perhaps artificially raised by a collected volume of essays on William Butterfield. There is only a limited number of publications on marginalized agents (particularly BAME, queer and/or disabled agents).
In terms of materials, stone and wood dominate the research (numbers are meaningless because of the number of dendrochronology reports). Given the interest in brutalism, there is surprisingly little research on concrete (although there were a number of historical outputs on this topic in the period immediately prior to the review). This type of research tends to be the focus of conservation studies authors and materials scientists, and there is less research on the economic, social and cultural significance of materials.
Risks and threats are discussed in the literature largely in relation to environmental threats. There are a large number of articles focused on climate change, energy efficiency and retrofit but as yet no synthesis of this literature seems to have been produced. Although directly human threats such as redevelopment, unsympathetic restoration, theft and vandalism, fire/arson etc are significant risks to the historic built environment, the review uncovered little research on these topics.
There has been a lot of experimental research undertaken, often focused on materials analysis, and dendrochronology is also a relatively common topic (largely because there were many reports of the results of this method in relation to a single building), but few items focus on other methods in their own right (although methods of survey and assessment may be fundamental to the research undertaken).
Research focusing on digital methods (particularly BIM) is becoming an important focus (39 outputs); moreover more outputs will have used these methods but a methodological focus was not evident from the metadata. Again, no synthesis of this literature seems to have been produced.
The methodology of the literature review made it hard to identify the thematic emphasis or approach of most items. Only an intensive survey involving reading all the publications could provide a fully comprehensive evaluation, and that was far beyond the remit of the project and would be a major undertaking.
4.3 Baseline Survey
A full report outlining the results of the baseline survey has been published on the HistBEKE website (HistBEKE 2018a). To summarise the key findings:
4.3.1 The majority of those who responded to the survey are aware of research frameworks but only just under a third have used them in their work.
4.3.2 Research frameworks are most commonly used for assessing significance, focusing research, defining project briefs or specifications, or when contributing to management or conservation plans.
4.3.3 There was general overall agreement that a framework for the historic built environment would be of benefit to the sector, in particular in enhancing areas of work such as assessing significance and preparing heritage statements.
4.3.4 The categories of building that are most commonly the focus of respondents’ work are also those which they felt would benefit from additional research. These were domestic, industrial, places of worship and agricultural buildings.
4.3.5 Other topics identified as those which would benefit from further research included: methods of building survey/recording and research; historic building conservation methods and materials science/analysis.
The preliminary results of the literature review and baseline survey helped to define the themes and topics for discussion at the 7 regional focus group workshops held in Autumn 2017. Key findings were as follows:
4.4.1 90% of attendees agreed or strongly agreed that a framework for the historic built environment would be of benefit to the sector.
4.4.2 In addition, delegates recommended that the framework should have two main elements:
4.4.3 Expanding on this, there were six key suggestions made by attendees at all seven workshops, which are:
4.4.4 Research was defined both in terms of production of new knowledge and gathering together existing knowledge for the purposes of answering new questions. Participants discussed both ‘pure’ and ‘applied’ research, but the majority did not define research instrumentally in relation to the needs of heritage at risk.
4.4.5 Participants were very forthcoming about the challenges to researchers posed by difficulties of accessing existing information.
4.4.6 There was a strong view that the framework should be a dynamic, living document, responsive to new research and new research requirements but that all updates should be clearly dated.
4.4.7 There was distinct wariness of a research agenda being set by Historic England. Participants generally believed that it needed to be managed transparently by a network, forum or stakeholder group (rather than being entirely open access) but with the opportunity for anyone to suggest questions. Input should be moderated, with a defined peer review process and specialist panels/forums for agreeing updates to the research agenda.
4.4.8 Participants were more forthcoming on the knowledge exchange potential of the project and on lack of knowledge represented by skills shortages (e.g. craft skills) than on knowledge gaps which could be filled by further research. Nevertheless the following areas emerged as needing further research:
4.4.9 There were also comments about the focus and emphasis of research, with critiques of previous research priorities. In particular participants argued that research should:
4.4.10 There was also evidence of a lack of confidence in certain areas where improved training or access to existing guidance could be of benefit. These included:
Finally there were areas where the literature review identified either a dearth or a plethora of literature where participants felt that it would be useful to have a synthesis of existing research, in particular research on mortars and on responses to climate change, including flooding and increased rainfall.
4.5 Follow-up survey
The follow-up survey received a limited response, making its findings of limited value. Nevertheless, it confirmed the position articulated in the workshops that knowledge exchange should be an important element of the new resource. In particular, there was agreement that all existing research frameworks should be gathered in one location, that recent, current and forthcoming research projects should be publicised and links should be made to existing research resources, such as The National Archives’ Discovery.
It also confirmed the prioritisation of twentieth-century industrial buildings, workers’ buildings and transport buildings. Other topics identified as needing further research included:
4.6 Seminar day
In terms of the structure and functionality of the new resource, it was emphasised that to avoid becoming ‘a compost heap of other people’s ideas’, the framework and agenda need to be fluid. It was suggested that instead of moderation by a stakeholder group, there should be online discussion boards or forums with opportunities for participants to vote on new topics to be added to the agenda, with opt-in notifications for updates. Participants in the seminar day were asked to vote and comment on themes identified by the previous research for potential inclusion in the framework.
Participants noted that the relative lack of academic engagement with the project to date should not be of undue concern, as this has been a factor in relation to all frameworks. The ongoing governance/management of the framework was discussed but no groups put themselves forwards to take this on.
All the research strands confirmed that the sector would value a research framework specific to the historic built environment.
The HistBEKE project has demonstrated that current research on the historic built environment is varied and often of very high quality. However there are challenges in relation to gaining an understanding of the research environment as a whole. The multi-disciplinary and multi-agency nature of the field, encompassing both historical research and current asset management involves different priorities which can sometimes be in conflict. The lack of a clear career path or disciplinary context might discourage potential researchers from commencing research in the area. The existence of many agencies within the field, each with their own, sometimes overlapping research priorities (for example Historic England, Historic Royal Palaces and the National Trust have all identified diversification as a research priority), offers huge potential for collaboration but at present there is a lack of coordination. Trying to access existing research can be challenging, involving publishers’ paywalls, unpublished and often uncatalogued archival resources, inconsistent indexing in databases, and poor rates of deposit of ‘grey literature’ in public archives. This means that much research is ‘lost’ and in effect becomes a knowledge gap, despite relevant research having been undertaken. It was clear from the focus group workshops that many participants were frustrated by the incoherent nature of the research environment and often unaware of existing tools, resources and research outputs.
All the relevant strands of research agreed that the research framework should be a dynamic online resource. Most of the discussion at the workshops revolved around the desired content and functionality of the resource rather than its structure. It was clear that there was widespread demand for a knowledge exchange as much as for a research agenda and strategy. It was also evident that participants wanted to take full advantage of the capacity of Web 2.0 technologies to enable interaction with the resource. This would make the framework very different from previous research frameworks.
Knowledge exchange emerged as a particular priority (see section 5.4). As such, a ‘one-stop-shop’ knowledge exchange website that anyone can access for information on building types, conservation techniques, craft skills, materials etc. was suggested at all seven HistBEKE Project workshops. It was suggested that this should be a Google-style search engine which would provide links/signposts to resources, and that it should be a wiki-style page that will potentially be open access so that anyone can update it. The challenges experienced in compiling a bibliography for the literature review suggest that relevant research needs more consistent indexing. Researchers in the field need to be aware of standard indexing terms (such as those used for categorizing the research outputs in the course of undertaking the literature review, see sections 3.4 and 4.2) and to be encouraged to use them when specifying research metadata in the form of article keywords and book cataloguing data. These terms should also underpin the search functionality of the research framework and knowledge exchange resource.
The research undertaken by the HistBEKE project indicated strongly that the sector wanted to move away from research into building styles, typologies and individual architects, although there remain significant topics within these themes which remain under-researched. Nevertheless, these can remain useful ways of grouping research in order to make it easy to discover for future scholarship on related topics. Instead, emphasis was placed on the social history of buildings, histories of use and re-use and a deeper understanding of community significance. It is clear from analysis of the literature that these questions are already informing scholarship and indeed several of the areas identified by focus group workshop participants as specific gaps are the subject of recent publications. Based on an overview of all the research strands, the following themes emerged. Some areas for future development within these themes are suggested. Examples are intended for indicative purposes only, not to suggest that they represent a model.
5.3.1 Building categories theme
There continues to be a wealth of published research, much of it produced under the auspices of English Heritage/Historic England which addresses the historic environment using a typological approach, often combined with a geographical remit (e.g. Carmichael, McOrmish and Grech, 2013). This research has tended to be prompted by imminent threat (e.g. the demise of Woolworth’s: Morrison, 2015). Individual buildings are treated in particular by local and amateur researchers. Academic researchers tend to be more thematic in their approach, with arguments based on a more specific research question, although details of these questions were often hard to ascertain from titles and abstracts. Buildings tend to be covered in isolation; other than projects designed to look at a specific location (e.g. the Survey of London), research into settings and groupings of buildings is less frequent.
Although the research specifically included relevant questions, the project did not uncover any specific building types considered either to be at risk or to need individual research and therefore these cannot be included in the Research Agenda at this stage. The development of the research framework needs to encourage and admit the addition of such topics as they become evident.
Comparing these findings with the literature review, however, suggests that some of these topics may be less of a lacuna than participants had imagined (revealing the difficulty of learning about recent research) or that research is already beginning to address these gaps. Listing selection guidance (HE, 2017) already exists for all these categories of building. Field (2013), Fletcher (2013) and Partington, MacIntosh and Lake (2015) examine agricultural buildings, albeit from a strictly local angle, note also Grundy (2012). Eyles and Skone (2014) catalogue London’s West End cinemas and Fair (2015, 2017, 18) covers modern theatres, see also Hannah (2016) and Kronenburg (2015). Domestic buildings continue to be the subject of much research, with particular recent interest in social housing and high rise flats. Fair (2014 and 2018) looks at modern health buildings. Franklin (2016) covers late 20th-century commercial offices, however twentieth-century industrial and commercial buildings do seem an area needing further research. This seems likewise the case for twentieth-century law and government buildings: Brodie, Croom and Davies (2014) looks at prisons, but without particular focus on twentieth-century gaols and books on twentieth-century municipal architecture will discuss law and government buildings, however there is likely to be more to say on these, especially in the light of changing relationships between the State and the private and third sectors. There has been considerable recent research on military buildings, including Bennett (2017), Bromhead, Ibsen and Tapete (2013), Brueckner and Lambert (2014), Coad (2012, 2013), Cocroft (2017, 2018), Hegarty and Newsome (2014), Kendall (2012), Reading, Holborow and Fiorato (2016), Thomas (2016). In relation to religious buildings, Shahed (2018) covers mosques, Sharman (2015, 2016) synagogues and Jewish heritage and Starkey and Tomalin (2016) Buddhist buildings, but the research did not identify research on other religions, including Hinduism and Sikhism or changing patterns of Christian worship outside the main denominations. There is some research on transport and associated infrastructure, including Keate (2013) on tube stations, Malathouni (2018) on Preston bus station and Minnis (2012) on railway signal boxes. Clarke (2016) looks at power stations, Liffen (2013) on telegraphy, and the 2019 Construction History Society Conference was on the theme of water management, suggesting that this is perceived as a priority research area by this body. Workers’ buildings are discussed by Mansfield (2013) and West (2017). This theme also needs to address the issues of conversion, re-use and multi-purpose buildings, in line with the focus group emphasis on the social and longue durée history of buildings.
5.3.2 Period/style theme
The methodology adopted for the literature review made it difficult to interrogate the data for period as many studies go across periods and the style/period distinction can be difficult to implement. Nevertheless, much research has particular relevance to a particular period/periods, which can be a useful way of indexing it for future discoverability. In addition, stylistic significance remains a criterion for assessing the value of a building. Therefore the research suggests that this continues to be a useful theme for study, although it has tended to fall from favour in academic research from its association with formalism. The literature review suggests that whilst the twentieth century has received a lot of recent attention, with brutalism in particular becoming something of a ‘hot topic’, studies have tended to cluster around a few key topics such as Modernism, religious architecture and significant architects. Focus group workshop participants all agreed that the twentieth century remains a period requiring further research, but more detailed analysis is required to identify whether there remain significant gaps in our knowledge of twentieth-century architecture as a whole. Other periods where recent published research seemed limited included the late Middle Ages, particularly the fifteenth century, although at least three recent PhD theses relate to this timeframe.
5.3.3 Agents theme
The biographical approach to architectural history has tended to fall from academic favour in recent years, and there was no indication from the focus groups that this was a matter of regret for participants (indeed some specifically identified this as an old fashioned approach). Nevertheless it is proposed that as the majority of major buildings have a known architect this remains a useful theme for research discovery purposes and is still relevant for heritage assessment.
In terms of existing coverage and gaps, a number of significant twentieth-century modernists have been the subject of a recent series of books published jointly by RIBA Publishing, English Heritage and The Twentieth Century Society (Darling, 2012; Powell 2012; Crinson, 2018; Powell, 2018). In addition, studies of Kenneth Wood (Fisher, 2015) and John Simpson (Curl, 2017) have been published and a PhD student at Liverpool is studying Richard Seifert and Partners. (Howard and Toylor, 2016 and 2017) derive from research on the ecclesiastical interiors of John Loughborough Pearson intended as a pilot study for similar research into assessing the significance of other works of prolific Victorian church architects. Sharpe, Paley and Austin (Brandwood, 2012), Peter Ellis (Ainsworth and Jones, 2013) and Sir Edwin Lutyens (Wilhilde, 2012) have also been subjects of monographs and there have been a number of essays and articles on other architects (particularly William Butterfield and Sir George Gilbert Scott) but it is apparent that many architects and architectural practices of national significance who worked in the post-1840 period and are therefore not included in Colvin’s Biographical Dictionary may still merit further research in order to be able to identify the relative value of individual buildings within their oeuvre for heritage assessment purposes. For the research to have value in this respect it ideally needs to include a catalogue of works for comparative purposes.
Biographical studies of eighteenth-century and early modern architects continue to focus on ‘big names’ (such as Robert Adam, Thomas Archer, William Chambers and John Nash) but usually set within their social and/or intellectual contexts beyond the strictly architectural. This demonstrates that research on individual architects does not have to be limited to biographical study.
Research into other agents, including builders and craftspeople, remains limited and could provide valuable topics for Masters’-level and community-led research.
Although published outputs on marginalized agents remain limited, numbers may be expected to rise with new focus on these topics amongst independent research and heritage organisations. Nevertheless, there remains much research to be done in this area, including exploring the links between architecture and marginalization or architecture and community identity. The importance of such research was highlighted by the focus groups.
5.3.4 Significance theme
The focus group workshops strongly indicated both that participants valued a broader understanding of the values associated with the historic built environment to include community significance, associations with intangible heritage, and changing values over time, and that participants would value more guidance in the assessment of significance as required by the planning system (i.e. a training rather than a research need).
There are signs from the survey of researchers and the literature review that the uses of the built environment and the interplay between intended and subsequent significance are becoming topics of interest to researchers. Such research is being promoted by Historic England, Historic Royal Palaces and the National Trust, whose research strategies all include strands that identify hidden histories and community values as research priorities. In terms of identifying historic patterns of reception and use, there is a growing body of studies on graffiti (Buglass, 2016; Champion, 2015; Forster, Vettese-Forster and Borland, 2012; Graves and Rollason, 2013; project at Durham University) and studies of spaces which explore the politics of lived space within the context of the historic built environment (e.g. Hicks, 2015). In terms of historical significance which may hitherto have remained hidden, here has been significant research on the relationship between architecture and the slave trade, including projects supported by English Heritage and the National Trust (e.g. Dresser, 2013), which both hold assets with close slavery connections. At present the research focuses mainly on the sources of wealth of architectural patrons and colonialist iconography. The relationship between architecture and Empire/colonialism more broadly is another growing field of research, however the literature review identified only one publication on architecture and immigration.
Projects such as the Survey of London, the blue plaque scheme and Victoria County Histories have always considered buildings within their local context and a number of recent publications have also addressed this theme. Nevertheless, the literature review suggests more remains to be done in relation to the infrastructure associated with the built environment, including street furniture, services etc.
The new methods of working of the Victoria County History and the Survey of London ensure that community significance is built into their research design, nevertheless it is difficult to tell from book and article titles how far this is factored into other research projects. Methods such as oral history could be used to explore the intangible heritage that gives meaning to the tangible; it is likely that this type of research is more prevalent at a local community level and is therefore less accessible in the national published literature.
It seems possible that the economics of publishing reduces the likelihood of titles and abstracts focusing on the ‘typical’ and ‘ordinary’ nature of their subjects (even a study of Liverpool suburbs, Menuge, 2015, parallels ‘ordinary’ with ‘special’ in its title). Nevertheless, the focus group participants argued that further research needs to be done to ensure that our knowledge of the historic built environment is not dominated by ‘special’ and therefore potentially atypical buildings and by agents who have a privileged voice. There is a growing trend for studying buildings in relation to historical events, such as the First and Second World Wars (unsurprisingly, war memorials have received considerable recent coverage), the Cold War, the Olympics, inter- and post-war planning, and the establishment of the National Health Service. The National Trust in particular is promoting this type of research to underpin forthcoming programming. Focus group participants argued that this is a positive direction for research as it can give modern significance/relevance to historic buildings as well as understanding their original context.
5.3.5 Use/re-use theme
As already mentioned, workshop participants were very vocal in their view that research should cover the whole period of a building’s existence and not merely to focus on its original or intended state. Parish church and cathedral studies have followed this approach for many years and continue to do so and there is evidence that research on other building types is already moving in this direction. Its popular appeal is suggested by David Olusoga’s ‘A House though Time’ series. Research including Peter Blundell Jones (2012) and Bennett, ed. (2017) also explicitly adopt this approach. This is an area where buildings archaeology could usefully contribute in an appropriate collaborative framework.
5.3.6 Heritage management theme
The conservation and management of historic buildings has always been a strong topic of research and is a priority theme in the research strategies of /historic England, Historic Royal Palaces and the National Trust. Nevertheless there remain areas which the sector identified as requiring further research and knowledge sharing.
High priority topics and questions include:
5.3.7 Methodologies theme.
A number of research projects have used oral history (e.g. McIntosh, 2014), photography, and other creative methods to explore social and community significance. Collaborative and community research is also becoming more important, though poorly represented in published outputs identified by our review (more may be published in the form of websites, but these are often vulnerable to loss once funding runs out). In line with the general demand expressed in the workshops for more research on methodologies, there may be benefit in publishing best practice guidelines in appropriate methods for uncovering the intangible significances of tangible assets. There have also been a large number of projects using digital methods for recording, visualisation and analysis. Once again, there would be benefit in bringing together this research, including to identify how the London Charter (2009, http://www.londoncharter.org/) can best be applied to research in this field and what other principles need to be adopted to ensure robust and transparent scholarship. At present there is little research making use of big data and digital humanities tools (an exception being Navickas, 2017) so more research that explores their potential in relation to the historic built environment would be welcome.
The above seven key research themes have developed out of the research, and are supported by consultation and engagement with the sector. Whilst a key focus of this project has always been to provide a strategy for the enhancement of knowledge where gaps have been identified, it became clear during the sectoral engagement that in addition to new knowledge, there was a strong desire for better access to current knowledge, particularly on how to conserve and manage historic buildings and using the wealth of information that already exists for particular building types to better understand and assess value and significance. There was emphasis on making current knowledge more accessible; and making better use of knowledge which is currently ‘lost’.
There is a strong desire across the built heritage sector for easily accessible information and the need to be aware of research/project work that is currently or has recently been undertaken. In particular, there is concern that a lot of valuable information and research resources are ‘lost’ in that heritage statements submitted with planning applications are not easily accessible or searchable so become ‘lost’ in the planning system. Similarly, MA theses which may assess a particular building type in a local area or carry out analysis of information provided by the Local Authority, are then ‘lost’ within the university and not made accessible to officers. Other research is held by the commissioning organisation and not released more widely, meaning that it is ‘lost’ to the rest of the sector. Commercial developers, for example, often withhold reports; and there can be difficulty in accessing records for housing, with building control plans (held by the Local Authority) often being difficult to access, especially for independent researchers and voluntary groups.
The focus groups also suggested a lack of confidence in the sector and a desire for a network of peers for advice, and advice, guidance and knowledge or where to find best practice examples and case studies. This is most important at the local authority level where staff turnover is relatively high; and in academia where graduates will often become early career entrants in local authority of historic building contracting units.
5.4.1 Summaries and syntheses
Within the Heritage Management and Methodologies themes in particular, areas emerged that would seem to represent not so much a research gap as a knowledge gap. These would merit resources representing a synthesis of existing research, guidance, toolkits and best practice, perhaps along the lines of Heritage 2020’s ‘Heritage and the High Street’ online resource (https://padlet.com/heritage2020/51ir8djtqa3j).
5.4.2 Restricted access
Following the publication of Accessibility, sustainability, excellence: how to expand access to research publications (Finch, 2012), there has been a growing requirement that all publicly-funded research and all journal articles submitted to the REF be made freely accessible online; indeed it is proposed that for REF2027, monographs and edited books should also be freely accessible. Freedom of Information legislation also requires every public authority make information available and to have a publication scheme, approved by the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO), and to publish information covered by the scheme, however much research by non-public authorities or outside their publication schemes and would therefore
only be accessible on request. Leaving aside the challenges open access poses for many of the publishers in this sector, these requirements do not ensure that all research relevant to this subject area is freely accessible. As the literature review reveals, much is published in books (not yet covered), or other non-digital formats, or by researchers whose work is not publicly funded, or in outputs which will not be submitted to the REF. Many non-academic participants in the workshops were acutely aware of the restrictions this placed on their ability to access existing research.
5.4.3 Archival materials
Access to and knowledge of archival materials is also included within this theme, especially in relation to the lack of resources for digitisation, which makes archives somewhat inaccessible, especially for those who are not located close to an archive and do not have the time and resources to be able to travel to it. Improved access to / digitisation of building control plans (held by Local Authorities) would be helpful.
Workshop participants seemed very aware of the existence of archive materials, but less aware of the existing gateways to such resources, including The National Archives Discovery platform, the Archives Hub and the Artists’ Papers Register, all of which are invaluable for identifying material held in archive repositories. It is likely however that much more remains outside the scope of these resources and HistBEKE needs to promote their use amongst researchers and those holding archive materials.
5.4.4 ‘Lost’ knowledge
This was a key topic of discussion at all seven workshops. Many of the ideas need further work to enable them to be taken forwards. These include:
Consideration needs to be made of the ways in which heritage statements submitted as part of planning applications, can be made available to the sector as a whole, and for research projects in particular, perhaps through a review/analysis of statements. Other reports which remain inaccessible, either totally or through lack of finding aids are those submitted to the National Lottery Heritage Fund and those commissioned by developers. Attention needs to be given to how we might encourage more building survey reports to be uploaded to OASIS, and the work that would go into the HERALD project.
126.96.36.199 MA Dissertations
Some of these include original research but are no longer standardly retained or made accessible by the University.
It is recognised that there needs to be a means of identifying common research priorities and themes across regional, national and international research agendas to promote collaboration and partnership working across research projects. This could be achieved by collecting all agendas in one location and indexed using standardised terms (see 5.2) and also by highlighting themes in communications associated with the proposed research framework.
Although the HistBEKE project aimed to establish a sustainable and collaborative network to maintain the framework into the future, this objective was not fully achieved because no group or groups came forwards to take on this responsibility. The recommendations include a proposal for taking forwards the clear will of the sector that such a network should exist independently of Historic England. This section discusses the work already undertaken to build the connections and understandings necessary for the creation and maintenance of a sustainable resource and associated issues that have been identified through the research. As already identified, the diversity of the sector continues to represent a challenge to the creation of a resource that will fulfil all the sector’s needs.
6.1 Sector engagement
A significant amount of effort had to be directed by the research assistant into curating a mailing list and identifying suitable channels of communication. Unlike some other sectors, there is no dominant method for communication within the sector and even where communication tools exist (e.g. the JISCmail ARCH-HIST list), they are not much used and their reach is poor.
Emails from the research assistant were the main way in respondents to the survey had been involved with the project, as well as the focus groups and to some extent the website. However, despite the HistBEKE Twitter handle having over 200 followers, the majority of survey respondents were not aware of the social media channels used by the project, with 67% being unaware of the Twitter account. This suggests that the use of a mailing list and providing information via email should be a key element of the communications strategy for the next phase of framework development. In relation to the project’s success in raising awareness of research frameworks, the baseline survey conducted at the beginning of the project, however, had found that 63.6% of respondents were already aware or very aware, and only 13.6% had not previously heard of frameworks. It is not therefore surprising that in the follow-up survey, only 20% said that the project has changed their awareness of research and/or knowledge exchange frameworks. Of those who said that they were now more aware of frameworks in the follow-up survey, the highest figure was for academics at 25%. More significantly, 69% of the workshop delegates who filled in feedback forms agreed and 9.9% strongly agreed that they now had a better understanding of research and knowledge exchange frameworks. With better understanding came enhanced appreciation of the potential value of a research framework: after attending a workshop, 90% of participants stated that such a tool would benefit the sector.
6.2 Advocacy / understanding
It was apparent from the follow-up survey that many of those who had been engaged with the project were still unclear about what the project aimed to do and what the framework would include. This was despite clear information being provided on the project website, in the introduction to the survey, and having been given to workshop attendees. There is a need, therefore, for further advocacy and clear information about the framework and its purpose, aims and objectives. Many are concerned, for example, that it will require additional work from those who use it, especially those working in Local Authorities as conservation/planning officers. There is also an assumption by many that HistBEKE will identify best practice, provide advice and guidance, and include resource assessment information in the same way that regional archaeological frameworks do. This is despite the project team advising that this will not be the case during the workshops. It is therefore clear that Historic England will need to build on HistBEKE’s work of communicating the objectives and content of the framework to the sector.
6.3 Network members
As discussed above (3.5), the project aimed to reach all sections of the sector.
Although there was less involvement in the project from the academic community (which is in any case relatively small), there was no indication that this community rejected the concept of a research framework, as long as there was no question of its reducing the freedom for academic researchers to select their own research topics and their capacity find funding for this research. Participants in the final seminar day noted that the relative lack of academic engagement with the project has been a factor in relation to all frameworks. Indeed, individual academics at workshops were positive about the role of a research framework in demonstrating relevance for impact – an increasingly important factor in staff choice of research topics.
6.3.2 Local Authority conservation staff
While significant numbers of people from across a wide range of disciplines and backgrounds engaged with the project, many of those who got involved were already aware of research frameworks or actively use them. There were not the resources available within the project to explore the reasons why others did not engage, or to compile a comprehensive database of all local authority conservation staff, and indeed all built heritage contractors/consultants. It is recommended that this should be factored into future phases of the framework, therefore, to ensure that all intended users of the framework are adequately represented. There seems particular need for supporting greater communication with and between conservation officers.
6.3.3 Other professions and disciplines
In addition to conservation staff, other hard-to-reach groups within the resources available included engineers, human geographers, and other disciplines that work with historic buildings abut are not specifically from a built heritage background. These other disciplines should be a priority for the future development of the framework, and in particular when preparing and peer-reviewing research questions.
Research commissioned by developers as part of the planning process was identified by research participants as likely to become ‘lost’ knowledge. Without changes to the law there is no requirement for such research to be deposited with the local HER and most is not. Until a legal requirement to deposit is enacted, the sector should advocate for deposit being seen as ‘best practice’, identifying a developer as responsible, with transparent working practices.
6.4 Network development
Throughout the research there was agreement that the development of the framework would require some form of moderation, either by the community directly or by a representative body. There were many suggestions as to which groups might take the framework forwards (with several workshop participants identifying Heritage2020 as a potential candidate), but no representative of any of those groups offered to take on the responsibility. Nevertheless the clear indication that the sector would value a framework and the belief that it should be inclusive, not ‘owned’ by Historic England, should encourage sector organisations to become involved.
1. Functions: Three main functions need to be facilitated by the Framework:
a. Research support (see Recommendations 2-10)
b. Database and knowledge exchange (see Recommendations 2, 5-6 and 11)
c. Demonstrating research impact (see Recommendations 2 and 16)
2. Structure: The proposed resource(s) should not be monolithic with a pre-defined structure but should exploit the possibilities offered by a web platform to be dynamic and flexible enough to evolve with changing interests and needs of a diverse range of users and stakeholders.
3. Content: The research framework should include a resource assessment, research agenda, and research content. In lieu of the form of resource assessment found in traditional analogue research frameworks, it is recommended that the new framework incorporates a gateway to existing sources of knowledge. These should include:
a. The bibliography compiled for this project as part of the literature review, with the capacity for it to be supplemented by users uploading new items;
b. Links to other sources of information, including the Archaeological Data Service and OASIS.
4. In order to create a research agenda, and following on from Recommendation 2, it is recommended that Historic England’s resource for existing Research Frameworks should be expanded to include frameworks produced by other bodies. This should:
a. Be searchable to pull out the historic built environment elements;
b. Be developed by contributing partners (see Recommendation 11) which should be encouraged by the Steering Group (see Recommendation 9) to create and submit their own research frameworks pertinent to their own areas of specialism;
c. Be linked to the Knowledge Exchange element to enable users to submit new research questions.
5. The research strategy should initially be informed by the research undertaken by the HistBEKE project, but that henceforth identification of strategic priorities should be co-ordinated by the Steering Group:
a. By analysing new research frameworks and stand-alone research questions submitted to the Research Agenda (see Recommendation 4.b) to undertake a periodic ‘stock-take’ enabling research needs to be prioritised;
b. By trialling and, if successful, thereafter managing a system of public feedback on proposed changes;
c. By encouraging contributing partners to do periodic analyses of their field and submit priorities for future research.
6. Following on from Recommendation 3c, the following research priority themes be identified and highlighted, with their associated recommendations:
a. Period theme
i. The twentieth century should be prioritised for research in order to better identify where gaps are;
ii. The late medieval period (particularly the fifteenth century) be highlighted as an area where current research is limited but is less of a priority in relation to buildings at risk.
b. Building classes theme
i. Twentieth-century industrial and commercial buildings should be prioritised for research;
ii. Twentieth-century law and government buildings should be assessed for research potential;
iii. Research on religious buildings should cover the full range of faiths in the UK, including new forms of Christian worship outside the traditional denominations;
iv. Buildings erected and/or used by minority and marginalised communities should be assessed for research potential;
v. Research should pay attention to undesignated heritage, including temporary buildings and buildings unlikely ever to be listed under current guidelines but whose significance needs to be understood.
c. Agents theme
i. Architects and architectural practices of national significance who worked in the post-1840 period and are therefore not included in Colvin’s Biographical Dictionary should be prioritised for research, specifically those not already the subject of a published biography or historical account;
ii. Further research should be undertaken into the extent of research on builders and craftspeople, recognizing that research from earlier periods than that covered by the review may still be useful, with a view to identifying gaps;
iii. Any research based on Recommendations 4.c.i and 4.c.ii should consider including a catalogue of works to assist in assessing significance;
iv. Marginalised agents should be prioritized for research.
d. Significance theme In order to develop better understanding of significance research should be directed towards the following areas:
i. Social history of buildings, including building use;
ii. Understanding of international context, including colonial context;
iii. Community significance, including research into the intangible heritage that gives significance to the tangible;
iv. Enhanced understanding of the ‘typical’ to ensure that our knowledge of the historic built environment is not restricted to ‘special’ and therefore potentially atypical buildings;
v. Relationship of buildings to historical events, such as the First and Second World Wars, or the establishment of the National Health Service; or related to phenomena such as the growth of democracy, the rise of housing associations or the impact of inter-war and post Second World War planning;
vi. Building groups, and buildings in relation to their setting (townscape, landscape or curtilage).
e. Use/re-use theme Research should consider the whole period of a building’s existence and should not give priority to its original or intended appearance and use over histories of alteration and reuse which could be of greater historical or community significance.
f. Heritage management theme There needs to be more research into the nature of risks and threats, particularly those associated with direct human intervention. There is also a need to review existing conservation philosophy in the light of current threats.
g. Methodologies theme
i. Research should prioritise investigating the possibilities of new methods, especially digital methods, in order to establish critically rigorous and transparent standards of research and to identify their potential for generating new research questions;
ii. Methods which help to uncover significances (particularly community significance), should be highlighted.
7. Historic England continues the engagement work initiated by the HistBEKE project (using methods discussed in Section 6.1) in order to ensure that the new resource becomes a living document, evolving from the ground up to meet the needs of the user.
8. In order to develop the network, it is recommended that Historic England should support knowledge exchange initiatives in relation to Conservation Officers.
9. In order to maintain the research support function it is recommended that representatives from various organisations are invited to form a Steering Group.
This could include:
Representatives from academia
10. The Steering Group manage the ongoing development of the research framework along the lines of Recommendation 3c.
11. As well as the organisations listed under Recommendation 9 it is recommended that other heritage organisations and communities with an interest in the historic built environment be encouraged to contribute to the research framework.
These include, but are not limited to:
12. Historic England should provide training to the above groups in understanding the benefits of and creating research frameworks, and in using them within the built environment sector.
13. In order to support the knowledge exchange function identified in Recommendation 1b, it is recommended that Historic England builds a resource which should enable users to identify and access existing resources and expertise, supporting the needs and highlighting the information sources discussed in Section 5.4, as well as offering the opportunity for users to submit additional resources and / or requests for information.
14. Historic England should take action aiming to ensure that ‘lost’ research relevant to the historic built environment (see Section 5.4.4) can be made fully and freely findable and accessible in digital form, whilst recognising the issues involved for many of the producers and publishers of such research.
15. In order for those involved with the protection and management of the historic built environment to get maximum benefit from existing research, literature on key topics should be identified, collated and synthesised and the results made accessible via the knowledge exchange. Examples of such topics identified by HistBEKE include:
a. Lime mortars
b. Responses to climate change, including mitigating risks such as flooding and increased rainfall
c. Conservation philosophy, including balancing conservation with sustainability.
16. Information identified by the user community, particularly the new group proposed in Recommendation 6, as important for their work should be published on the knowledge exchange. Information identified by HistBEKE as meriting publication includes:
a. conservation techniques
b. best practice in building survey work and creating heritage statements; case studies of redevelopment which is appropriately sympathetic to the historic built environment, key planning decisions in relation to the historic built environment.
17. Future priorities for research and information synthesis and publication should be identified by the Steering Group.
18. Work be undertaken to identify, collate and publish examples of best practice in use of research to inform heritage protection and management, including redevelopment, including examples of partnerships between researchers and practitioners.
19. Historic England should provide/support/facilitate/advocate for training as follows:
a. For contributing partners to encourage and enable them to create and use subject-specific research frameworks;
b. On assessment of significance, and
c. Craft skills.