Thursday, December 15, 2005

Another way forward?

The clerk of the Culture, Media and Sport Committee is inviting submissions as part of a consultation or inquiry on the subject of Protecting, preserving and making accessible our nation’s heritage. Written submissions are invited from any interested organisation or individual by Thursday 19 January 2006 with a possibility of oral evidence sessions being held during February and March 2006. Interested readers may visit the UK Parliament web site to view further particulars. The consultation will inform the Department for Culture, Media and Sport in preparing a Heritage White Paper.

SQA has previously blogged its concerns on government policy on cultural heritage with especial regard to archives, our documentary heritage. We refer readers to our blog Proposed National Archives Legislation.

Of course we welcome this development, as long as the outcome is that consideration is given to archives.

However, there are numerous dangers lurking in this consultation on the proposed White Paper and legislation. These are the burying of archives under the usual deadweight of library, museum, art gallery and historic monument issues; the hidden agenda of the Malvine Project (read more on this here, here and here) and the dismantling of the British nation state into Euro-Regions, already begun with Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland and London.

It might even be the case given the timing of the consultation immediately following the recent Heritage Lottery Fund attempt to revise the nature of national cultural heritage (see A Figment of Our Imagination) and the launching of the EU's Action Plan to make Europe's cultural heritage more accessible through the internet, this consultation merely forms a thinly veiled final effort to submerge the distinctive British cultural heritage into the mythical common European Heritage or Patrimony.

We shall now look at these threats in turn.

Regarding the burying of archives under library, museum, art gallery and historic monument policies at least in local government, we need refer only to our previous blogs Yes, Sir Humphrey and Archives? What Archives? which paint a sorry picture of civil service knowledge of British archives especially in local government.

Secondly there is the issue of seeking to use this apparently benign period of consultation to cement a truly Europhile view of British cultural heritage into British legislation, perhaps for the first time in British history enshrining an official and politically correct interpretation of British history by means of the statute book, with all the implications that has for the educational curriculum and the treatment of those who dissent, such as opponents of the European Union, anti-metricators and objective historians.

Thirdly, there is the issue of regional government. At a stroke, the creation of unitary authorities, which form part of the EU's master plan for dismantling the nation states of the EU to make way for serf regions, sub regions and sub sub regions, would wipe out the English county system and with it possibly the county record office system, the contrary example of Berkshire Record Office notwithstanding. The government is talking about this reorganisation with increasing enthusiasm and if it materialises our archival heritage will not only be culturally re-invented it might even be threatened with disaggregation, a fate anticipated in the 1990s by the Royal Commission on Historical Manuscripts when the 1992 Local Government Act was being implemented.

Thus to protect our archival heritage we must resist a politically correct approach to interpreting British history to the extent there is a risk of social engineers re-writing it (see Re-writing history: a critique of a Vision of Britain); we must resist EU control of British heritage policy which is clearly emerging in various government initiatives and the anachronistic metrication of archaeology and museums interpretation; and we must resist the dismantling of the county councils.

We shall see what develops.

Further reading

Government Policy on Archives December 1999

Listening to the Past, Speaking to the Future: The report of the Archives Task Force - Full report

Bollocks, Bullshit and Balderdash

Nellie does another whoopsie

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