JW Evans silversmiths, saved or lost?

When a craft business that has a special part in our history is in danger of closing what should we do? How about buy it and spend large sums of public money on preserving the building, artifacts and accumulated detritus whilst letting the last skilled artisans stop work and walk away?

Two years ago I blogged about JW Evans Silversmiths in Birmingham. It had just been saved for the nation by English Heritage and at the time they said “at the heart of this decision is the desire to safeguard a skilled craft which is seriously under threat.”

Well after 2 years JW Evans is now open to the public for pre booked tours, it looks fantastic and well worth a visit but how well do you think they have done at safeguarding a skilled craft? Seems that they have preserved all the fabric but lost the living heritage of the skills that made the place important. I feel we need a new way to look after this part of our heritage, apart from anything else turning businesses into museums is incredibly expensive. We could learn from the Spanish, I visited the knife making town of Taramundi where many small artisan workshops are open to the public on a sort of heritage tourist trail. This means they get lots of business which keeps the heritage truly alive rather than some preserved in aspic snap shot of how it used to be done.

More info and book your tour here

3 Responses to JW Evans silversmiths, saved or lost?

  1. Gorges Smythe July 17, 2011 at 7:55 pm #

    I don't know how it is over there, but here, only a small percentage of folks ever go to museums. Living history is the only way to gom if you truly want to save the skill and influence the most people.

  2. Bob Easton July 17, 2011 at 10:25 pm #

    What a shame!The museum site says, "English Heritage stepped in to rescue J. W. Evans Silver Factory in 2008"If that's a RESCUE, I certainly hope my boat never tips over. Saving the artifacts and jettisoning the wisdom is something only a bureaucrat, or a museum director seeking free money, could consider "rescue."sigh….

  3. Graeme November 25, 2013 at 4:49 am #

    As I work my way through your blogs I’ve made the odd comment on this theme, probably somewhat at odds to you but this time I’m in total agreement. The challenge is how to keep the craft going, what kind of support? Too much support and some people will sit back and cruise, let standards and production drop, cease being innovative, and expect to be bailed out to keep it going. Too little and they may not be in a position to train the next generation of crafts-persons.