Obituary: Professor H. W. M. Hodges
Tuesday 17 June 1997
His academic career started at a point when conservation was barely defined and was only just beginning to emerge as a scientific discipline, and he was instrumental in establishing two quite separate conservation training programmes, one on either side of the Atlantic. He was an extraordinarily lucid and stimulating teacher, and some of the flavour of his teaching is captured in Artifacts (1964), his review of ancient technology, still an indispensable text.
Henry Woolmington Mackenzie Hodges was born in 1920 at Deddington, Oxfordshire, the son of a GP. In 1938 he went up to St John's College, Cambridge, to study human pathology, but, as with so many of his generation, his education was cut short by the Second World War. He joined the Royal Naval Air Branch (later the Fleet Air Arm) and flew as observer in Swordfishes with the Atlantic Convoys, until he was invalided out with tuberculosis.
From 1946 to 1949 he taught in a preparatory school but the TB recurred and it was during the year he spent in hospital that he became interested in archaeology. He went on to take a Postgraduate Diploma at the Institute of Archaeology, London University, which launched him on his future career.
The institute had been founded by Mortimer Wheeler, who believed that teaching should include the practical techniques and skills of archaeology, so all students were given a basic training in conservation of archaeological artefacts in the Technical Department (housed in a dilapidated First World War operating theatre, and largely equipped from Woolworth's, and Gamage's Bargain Basement). In 1953 Hodges became Assistant Lecturer in Archaeology at Queen's University, Belfast, where he began experimental work in early technology and developed his interest in conservation.
Then in 1957 he returned to the Institute of Archaeology as Lecturer in Archaeological Technology, and joined a team of eminent archaeologists, many of whom had worked with Wheeler, including Ione Gedye, who had initiated the teaching of conservation.
This was a time of enormous change. The institute was about to move from its elegant but makeshift premises in Regent's Park to a purpose- designed building, with modern laboratories. At this time, too, conservation was becoming established as a recognised scientific discipline - the International Institute for Conservation (IIC) with its journal Studies in Conservation were founded in the early 1950s and Harold Plenderleith, Keeper of the Research Laboratory at the British Museum, had just produced his influential book The Conservation of Antiquities and Works of Art (1956).
Until that time the conservation of archaeological materials had been largely the province of chemists (like Plenderleith) and highly skilled restorers who acquired their experience through apprenticeship. At the Institute of Archaeology, Gedye and Hodges developed a university training for archaeological conservators, which combined the study of chemistry, archaeology, and ancient materials and technology, with methods of conservation treatment, and extensive practical work on excavated and museum objects.
This programme was attended by students from all over the world and, from the start, it was internationally recognised as an essential professional training. During his time in London Hodges concentrated his research in the field of ancient technology, giving an entertaining and highly successful course of lectures every year to both archaeologists and conservators, and bringing together the results of his research in a number of papers, and in two major books: Artifacts and Technology in the Ancient World (1970).
Henry Hodges's international reputation was firmly established and, in 1974, he was invited to Canada to become Professor of Artifacts Conservation at Queen's University, Kingston, Ontario. In London he had hoped to link archaeological conservation with training in conservation of easel paintings through joining with the Courtauld Institute; at Queen's he was able to achieve this link and work together with a sister programme in conservation of paper and paintings. He became an influential figure in the Canadian conservation scene, and from 1977 until his retirement he was Director of the whole Art Conservation Program at Queen's.
His former students will remember him for his forthright views, for his wide-ranging knowledge, and for his ability to illuminate almost any topic by using impromptu drawings or pertinent and witty stories. There was always a touch of showmanship about Hodges' teaching.
Throughout his professional life he had strong links with the International Institute for Conservation (IIC), becoming a Fellow in 1960. Between 1971 and 1974 he was Treasurer and established rigorous practices which ensured that IIC survived during the galloping inflation of the 1970s. He was Secretary General from 1988 to 1994, and when he retired he was awarded an Honorary Fellowship in recogniton of all his services.
Despite the effects of TB which left him with only one lung (and he was never really healthy), he worked with enthusiasm. In his early years in London he was regarded as a particularly dashing bachelor, but he was essentially a shy and very private person, and when he married Jane Davies in 1965 he immersed himself with obvious happiness in domesticity and fatherhood. When he left Canada in 1988, he and Jane returned to their home in Sussex, and he spent his retirement enjoying village life and working in their delightful garden which slopes down to strikingly beautiful, and very English, views.
Henry Woolmington Mackenzie Hodges, archaeological scientist and conservator: born Deddington, Oxfordshire 19 July 1920; Assistant Lecturer in Archaeology, Queen's University, Belfast 1953-57; Lecturer in Archaeological Technology, Institute of Archaeology, London University 1957-74; Professor of Artifacts Conservation, Queen's University, Kingston, Ontario 1974-87 (Emeritus); married 1965 Jane Davies (one son, one daughter); died Burwash, East Sussex 19 May 1997.
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