Today I attended a virtual lecture by The Heraldry Society – Arms of the City of London and its Livery Companies. The content was much as said on the tin. Obviously there wasn’t time to laboriously describe each company’s achievement in detail, but a broad overview was given of the city’s municipal and corporate heraldry with a few favourites picked out for closer inspection.
The meeting, as with so many these days, took place over Zoom. I found the arrangements less than satisfactory: We were emailed the link at 2pm, with the lecture itself running from 6pm to 7pm. Household and family distractions were hard to navigate. There was no function to pause or rewind, and the video was not recorded. The email told us:
Several persons have asked us if we are going to record the lecture. The answer to that is, we are sorry to report, a no. The Heraldry Society’s Council has discussed the implications of recording lectures at considerable length, evaluated all the pros and cons and taken an very well informed and conscious decision not to record lectures. This decision is unlikely to change as the topic has been thoroughly discussed and explored from all angles. The drawbacks outweigh the advantages at present.
That said, the Society has a plan to bring more content to the digital realm, so keep and eye open (and and ear tuned in) for news in the coming months.
Last month the society held a lecture on English Tudor Heraldic Glass in Philadelphia, which I missed completely due to these sub-optimal arrangements. Next month is one on Heraldry in the Battle of Barnett 1471 which I could well also end up missing depending on what circumstances prevail by then.
There were other problems – for the first couple of minutes there was no sound as the audio was not linked properly. Then someone drew a squiggle on the screen using the annotation function, which stayed there for nearly half of the lecture and was the subject of several digressions before the host figured out how to remove it. The chat section repeatedly flashed and popped up in an irritating manner.
The entire experience contrasts unfavourably with that provided by the Royal Armouries in their virtual lectures this summer. These were done on Microsoft Teams, a platform which proved far smoother and more versatile at least so far as concerned this format. As I have lamented before, heralds and heraldists are not prone to making their material easily available – presumably because they would then have no means of garnering funds – and so even in these times will go to lengths to keep access restricted by using conference calls and other semi-private environments instead of uploading the lecture to a video-sharing platform. Admittedly Lyon has made some moves this way in recent months but overall the picture in this regard is bleak.