Chairman’s Report – 2008 to 2009

Through the last year your committee has met three times (in October, January and April) and also held an ‘away day’ for more lengthy discussion last October. Business included a decision to increase the subsidy on collections of papers published by ASTENE – this applied to our latest book, Saddling the Dogs, edited by Diane Fortenberry and Deborah Manley, published by Oxbow Books, and launched at the Durham Conference.

Our previous title, Who Travels Sees More, edited by Diane Fortenberry and published in 2007, continues to sell well. Robert Morkot is working with Norman Lewis on behalf of ASTENE towards the publication of William Bankes’ manuscript on the exploration of Palestine in the early 19th century. We agreed to arrange day schools during the year and into the coming years. On 4 October 2008 we held a study day organised by committee member Janet Rady in conjunction with Leighton House Museum, Kensington, and linked to the Tate Gallery exhibition on Orientalist artists and travellers. The study day, Orientalist Artists in an Orientalist House, included papers by ASTENE members Sarah Searight on Lord Leighton and William de Morgan, Kathryn Ferry on Owen Jones, Briony Llewelyn on Frederic Lewis and myself on WilliamMuller.

We hope, following a meeting in London between me, committee member Paul Robertson and Father Justin, Librarian of St Catherine’s Monastery, Sinai, to follow up work on the ‘travellers’ books’ in the monastery library.
During the year, quarterly Bulletins have been published, edited by Deborah Manley; the third will be edited by Robert Morkot. Diane Fortenberry has greatly assisted with the design of the Bulletin.

In November 2008 our Events Organiser, Elisabeth Woodthorpe, worked with ASTENE member Anthony Sattin on an unforgettable Nile cruise on a rebuilt dahabeeyah. On the tour’s last night in Egypt, we held a very small ‘conference’ in Cairo and were joined for dinner by five local and two other visiting members. Although Elisabeth is retiring from the Committee after six years’ good work, she has generously agreed to help with the future overseas tour to Greece and Albania. Her post as Events Organiser has been taken over by Patricia Usick, who acted as ASTENE’s first Secretary.
A proposal to assist with a survey for repairs to ‘Yanni’s House’ at Qurna had been discussed during the year, and was followed up in a meeting between me, Robert Morkot and a representative of the Supreme Council of Antiquities in Luxor. Sadly, despite an agreement in principle to this survey, the house (which members visited on the Nile tour) was subsequently demolished – a sad end to Egyptian 19th-century cultural heritage.

In April 2009, a conference on the traveller and writer Herman Melville was held in Jerusalem. ASTENE member Professor Ruth Kark represented our interest, but the programme overall was perhaps too biased towards literary criticism to interest many of our members.

Finally, since our last Annual General Meeting, Angela Reid was co-opted (and is now duly elected) as Secretary, and Myra Green agreed to be Bulletin Reviews Editor. Diane Fortenberry has stepped down after five years as Treasurer, with Karen Dorn elected to take her place. As I myself retire from the chairmanship I have every confidence the ASTENE Committee will give the new Chairman, Robert Morkot, all support and encouragement in the years ahead.

Brian Taylor