Updated: Feb 11
As our search starts for the first Fifty - which may eventually lead to a Hundred - "Objects of Greenwich". I will kick off with some musings about the inspiration for this project. Firstly and most obviously we have been inspired by the 2010 project of the British Museum called "A History of the World in 100 Objects ". This took the form of a large book and a series of radio programmes. The BM could select from its massive collection of 7 million objects which were variously borrowed, traded, acquired (some would say stolen), from cultures and countries around the world.
In Greenwich we need to start by defining our "territory". It would be easy to simply use the boundaries of the present day Royal borough. Though since we are looking back over thousands of years it is likely that we may want to transcend that modern frame to include objects associated with parts of neighbouring boroughs -past and present - such as Deptford or Bexley. The River of course presents another problem, with rich pickings for mudlarks, but since we live "downstream" - we cannot be sure that items like the bones and coins found on the Greenwich foreshore actually originate from this place ?
What qualifies as an "Object" for this project ? The first item suggested was a massive Flemish pottery kiln dug from the from the riverbank and dated to around 1300, then someone argued for the Woolwich Ferry....(the old paddle-powered version). Others have proposed the Cutty Sark tea clipper and the Blackheath Tea Hut (the latter sadly demolished when a car ran into it in January 2020).
In the first stage of the project we have to decide - not simply how big can an Object be, but will we accept Objects that have been destroyed or lost ?
Thinking about how to select Objects for a shortlist -or even a long list -we take some comfort from knowing that this is "A History of ..." and certainly not aspiring to be "The History of Greenwich". There have been many authors who set out to write the history of the area starting with William Lambarde's "Perambulation of Kent and its environs" (1576) and a a lot of authors from the 1970s ownwards have added their versions - you can find their books in the bookshops and local libraries.