Following an invitation from the IFGS (Internationaler Fachverbank Gestaltender Schmiede e. V), the association for Dutch blacksmiths, NHIG council member, David James, recently visited Holland to address the group. The Dutch blacksmiths were keen to learn about the National Heritage Ironwork Group, how it is structured, what the group has learnt and how much has been achieved since NHIG was formed in 2009.
It appears that many of the problems faced by conservator blacksmiths in the UK are also prevalent internationally as this talk in the Netherlands follows on from ones in Poland and Ireland; complaints of work being undertaken by unskilled hands, a lack of regulation in the tendering process, ensuring commissioners understand the nature of the ironwork and issues regarding ways to specify repairs.
David was able to explain the NHIG’s raison d’être and spoke about their current Bursary training scheme set up by NHIG as part of the Heritage Lottery Fund’s (HLF) Skills for the Future programme. A new specialist syllabus was drawn up for the course in the hope that it would provide the basis for future qualifications. He also talked of NHIG’s Conservation Policy, currently under peer review, and plans to set up an accreditation scheme, although this is still some way off.
Again, as in the UK, it seems there is a demand from professionals and commissioning bodies in Holland for more information. David was able to explain that the NHIG’s efforts have been warmly received by national bodies such as English Heritage and the National Trust and that they have received a great deal of support from others, in particular Historic Royal Palaces. David stressed how important it would be for the Dutch to also work closely with those involved in their heritage sector.
At the end of his visit David said “I have received a very warm reception from the Dutch and hope that this is the start of a close relationship with our continental neighbours. I am sure we can share our expertise and knowledge to help each other”.