VOLUME 14 MAY 1997 NUMBER 5
Marconi Archive Auction -- Part 3BY DOROTHY SCHECTER
Not to Sell -- That Answers the Question
In case there is someone out there who hasn't heard -- the Marconi Collection will not be sold and dispersed throughout the world. It will remain intact and in the U. K. The sale scheduled for April 24-25, 1997, that so many collectors were gearing up to attend has been cancelled. Of course, mixed emotions among the radio-collecting faithful followed this announcement. Some, after all, long to own a piece of the Marconi memorabilia; the majority, however, appear to have breathed a collective sigh of relief when the news hit the presses and the airwaves.
As we immediately posted on our web page, A.R.C. had received a press release on March 25 from the British Science Museum announcing that "GEC will donate the Collection, valued at £3 million, to the nation, subject to certain assurances of safe keeping and public access. Ownership of the Collection is planned to transfer to the Science Museum."
In turn, the Science Museum will loan the archives to the Chelmsford Borough Council, which will house them in a new, state-of-the-art facility under construction. There the latest technology will make the Collection accessible worldwide. Since Marconi created the world's first radio factory in Chelmsford, this arrangement seems most appropriate. Reports from borough officials indicate that Chelmsford is proud of its connection with Marconi and is delighted with GEC's decision.
Sir Neil Cossons, director of the Science Museum, said that this collaboration with Chelmsford is only one of many that the museum enjoys. He views these arrangements with other communities as "an effective and responsible way to ensure maximum access to collections and objects of importance." The Science Museum will also create a complete inventory of the Collection, take responsibility for its conservation, and arrange the loan of objects to other museums of standing. For all who were concerned that a national treasure was about to be dismantled, this outcome would seem to create the best of all possible worlds for the Marconi Collection -- it will be kept intact, well preserved, and accessible. And the fact that it will now become part of the National Collection of Science and Industry signifies its importance to the world.
THE DECISION-MAKING PROCESS
A.R.C. readers have been following the Marconi archives "saga" since the first news of the sale appeared in our March issue. From the Science Museum press release, we have learned that the agreement was reached after five weeks of negotiations. Meanwhile, the radio collecting community twisted in the wind of anticipation and anxiety.
Little did we know that ultimately the power of public opinion would triumph over expedience. Our April article by Jonathan Hill traced the early rumblings of public dismay about the sale in The Times of London, beginning with the January 30 issue.
The rumblings grew to a roar through the month of February. At the same time, Enrico Tedeschi of Brighton, Sussex, started a protest campaign on the Internet in the U. K. by collecting signatures for a petition and giving advice on where to direct protest letters and e-mail. In fact, It was through Enrico's web page on March 27, 1997, that we learned of an article in The Times entitled "Campaigners save Marconi Collection for Science Museum."
The article gives credit (and rightly so) to Princess Elettra Marconi-Giovanelli, Marconi's daughter, for her influence in stopping the sale. However, it fails to mention Enrico's grassroots effort which garnered signatures from as far away as Finland and Mexico. With today's technology and the persistance of dedicated collectors like Enrico, the change that can be effected is nothing short of amazing.
Once more with feeling, radio collectors -- make your voices heard! Here is a second opportunity to preserve the Marconi heritage!
In response to our inquiry, Christie's has said that the company may publish the catalog as a book, if enough interest is shown. So, collectors, take up those pens and write! Send your letters to: Christie's South Kensington, Department of Mechanical Music, 85 Old Brompton Rd., London SW7 3LD, U.K.
Of course, there are some who are not pleased about the cancellation of the sale. Not the least of these (and understandably) might be members of Christie's staff who spent many long hours preparing for the auction. However, the publication of the catalog as a book would be some consolation to them, as well as to those collectors who wanted a chance to own a piece of the collection.
On the Internet recently, Christian Fandt of Jamestown, N. Y., expressed the enthusiasm of many when he said, "You can bet that I will be over there to the BSM to see the collection as a side trip during one of my future travels to Germany." The book would be a great guide, and if it should become available, we will surely spread the word.
Meantime, Ray Minischiello of the Marconi Foundation, U.S.A., has sent word that the Marconi Centenary celebration will begin July 20, the anniversary of Marconi's death, in Chelmsford, sponsored by the Chelmsford Borough Council. More on this event will appear in the June issue of A.R.C.
(Dorothy Schecter, A.R.C., Box 2, Carlisle, MA 01741)