How do you place value on history?
The Arsenal is more than a club. It is a living, breathing monument to the men and women who carefully and passionately carried it through times of great prosperity and incredible hardship. Rightfully proud of its history, its traditions and its deep connection to the generations of loyal supporters who helped bring it to prominence and kept it there – Arsenal has a duty to cherish and preserve the physical artifacts – treasures – that survive the slings and arrows of time.
It is said that those who write the stories of the past have power over the future. Entire civilizations have been lost because their past was neglected or unprotected – or worse, purposefully erased.
In 2001 the Taliban destroyed the Buddhas of Bamiyan in an attempt to erase any sign of pre-Islamic culture in Afghanistan. As the awful current events unfold in Ukraine, we see a desperate attempt by those who cherish Ukrainian culture to save it from Russian destruction. Towns and cities can be rebuilt – but unique objects of cultural significance, once destroyed, are lost forever.
Forgive the comparisons to actual tragedies above – I am fully aware of the fallacy of false equivalence at play… I’m merely attempting to give context to why I believe the Club’s owners have a duty to preserve the history of the 136-year-old institution they acquired a mere decade and a half ago.
There are so many things of value when taking stock of The Arsenal’s storied past: the buildings they occupied, the fields on which they trained and competed, the shirts, the crests, the matchday programmes and the ticket stubs. There are photographs and newspaper clippings, film clips and rare footage – all of which have been lovingly preserved and archived by ardent fans and collector/supporters.
While a lot of those items aren’t unique – for example there may be multiple copies of ticket stubs or programmes in existence – there are, of course some things that are singularly irreplaceable: pieces of Arsenal history that, once lost, are gone forever.
Occasionally, but rarely, significant objects that were lost, concealed or forgotten, surface into the public arena and are made available to the custodians of an institution’s culture. These fleeting, once-in-a-lifetime appearances present a vital opportunity to acquire and protect the objects from unscrupulous, opportunistic collectors – whose interests are not aligned with those of the Club or its supporters.
Two such items recently became available on auction – and their availability for purchase has been made known to the Club.
The first is Herbert Chapman’s original bowler hat – purchased by the current seller from a Mr. John Smerton, whose mother ran the St. Enoch Hotel in Glasgow, where Arsenal’s greatest manager left it (in Room 114) in 1933.
Estimated final price: £3 000 – £5 000
The second is an archive of correspondences between Herbert Chapman and Cliftonville FC, which record Chapman’s attempts to sign a player. These letters offer amazing insight into the mind of Chapman, and also into the nature of transfer negotiations in Arsenal’s golden pre-War era.
Estimated final price: £1 500 – £2 000
When KSE acquired the Club, they vowed to protect its legacy and preserve its traditions, and it is our belief that this should include acquiring objects of historical significance to the Arsenal, preserving them, and presenting them to present and future fans.
For a billionaire owner whose estimated net worth is $10.6 billion, who obviously likes collecting (sports franchises) and who has an extensive art and sculpture collection of his own, raising £5 000 to purchase these remarkable and significant pieces of Arsenal history should be a no-brainer. They are valuable investments in their own right, as part of the history of one of football’s most important historical figures – but they are invaluable to Arsenal Football Club and Gooners everywhere, who are interested in how we became the greatest club the world has ever seen.
We believe that Kroenke has a duty to purchase these and other future items, and we would like to see him instruct the Club to do so.
What do you think? Let us know in the comments below – but also, please let @Arsenal know on Twitter using the hashtag #ChapmansHat.
I was eleven-and-a-half. My family had just emigrated from Rhodesia to South Africa. All the kids on my street supported United or Liverpool, because of their Southern African goalkeeper connections: Bailey for United and Grobbelaar for ‘Pool. Problem was: I didn’t like the colour red – so when FA Cup Final day came around in 1979, I supported the team in yellow, even though their name sounded like “Asshole”. At the final whistle, I had bragging rights and a team that had won my heart.
Then I discovered that the Gunners also wore red. Luckily, I remained loyal, and the Arsenal has kicked my heart around ever since… (apart from a few lost years in the ’90s and early ’00s, when I was busy doing grownup things as a composer in Hollywood).
Abandoned invinciblog.com to launch this site with 1 Nil Down 2 One Up blogfather Dave Seager – and we have used this platform to help launch the writing careers of a number of amazing Arsenal bloggers.