After 40 years a decision has finally been taken to construct a tunnel to carry the A303 under Stonehenge. I am in two minds. Yes, it will ease congestion and improve the views. But, the work to create the tunnel will do permanent, irreversible, harm to the surrounding landscape. One archaeologist estimates that around half a million artefacts could be lost as a result. UNESCO may also take a dim view of the proposal and withdraw World Heritage Status from the site.
Sadly, the US government has announced that it intends to withdraw from UNESCO by the end of 2018, citing concerns with mounting arrears at UNESCO, the need for fundamental reform in the organisation and, what it claims, is a continuing anti-Israel bias. The decision has been hinted at for months by Trump’s administration. In July, the US ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley called UNESCO’s listing of the Tomb of Patriarchs in Hebron in the West Bank as a Palestinian World Heritage site, an “affront to history”. The State Department said that the country hopes to “to remain engaged with UNESCO as a non-member observer state in order to contribute US views, perspectives and expertise on some of the important issues undertaken by the organisation, including the protection of world heritage, advocating for press freedoms, and promoting scientific collaboration and education.”
If the US wants to air its views on what UNESCO does, then it ought to maintain its financial support and debate the issues within the organisation, not snipe from the sidelines.
9th June marks International Archives Day, which was first launched by the International Council on Archives (ICA) in 2007 under the auspices of UNESCO, to raise awareness of archives and their valuable role in all our lives, and to bring to the public’s attention “unique, extraordinary and rare documents”. So I want to flag up a great blog I found recently about mediaeval manuscripts by a guy called Eric Kwakkel – http://medievalbooks.nl/. The themes might seem academic but the posts are written in an accessible way and cover some fascinating topics, such as the purpose of margins in mediaeval manuscripts and volumes, how books were stored, how much the mediaeval booklover might have paid for his manuscripts and the equivalent of texting in the Middle Ages. My favourite, although it is a sad tale, concerns the tiny strips of 15th century paper in the archive of the mediaeval Holy Spirit orphanage in the Dutch city of Leiden. Each strip bears a name and two pin holes, because they were the name tags fastened to the clothing of the foundlings entering the orphanage. A contemporary booklet provides background on some of the orphans and their heartbreaking stories.
My thoughts, views and musings about what's happening in the world of archives and records management, information and governance, heritage and culture