Tuesday, 31 March 2015

Government Cannot Reasonably be Trusted any longer to Properly Care for UK's Historic Environment

Today is last day of English Heritage as we know it. RESCUE have published a statement which sums up what has been happening to the heritage in Britain depressingly well: A New Era for England’s Heritage: A statement by RESCUE – The British Archaeological Trust March 31, 2015.
Despite a number of misgivings, virtually all commentators have concluded that these proposals are both necessary and should be welcomed. At the disappointing heart of this conclusion is the appalling realisation that our Government cannot reasonably be trusted any longer to properly care for our historic environment. The National Heritage Collection, and the other heritage resources of the country, belong to all of us, and we, through the long historic process of creating the institutions of Government, have entrusted our elected representatives and organisations of state to care for them. It is their job. This is not a dubious theological position that should be subject to high-­level debate or a situation that requires the examination of new ways of working or some kind of discursive ‘national conversation’ about 21st century heritage management. Whatever the composition of the next government, it will inherit an obligation to ensure that the incalculably important resource of historic buildings and archaeological sites bequeathed to us from past generations for the enjoyment, edification and education of the nation and its people are cared for, protected, enhanced and made accessible. Welcoming this proposal represents a tacit and shared admission by us all that successive Governments have dismally failed in this obligation.
Our national historic buildings are crumbling away for want of repairs. Our archaeological sites are not properly researched, protected or cared for. Our heritage is not fulfilling its true educational potential. Our heritage­-protection legislation is weak and confusing and full of both holes and loopholes.
[...] the Government should be ashamed that both it and its predecessors have mismanaged our irreplaceable national heritage with such an abject lack of enthusiasm, care and pride that they have collectively brought us to this point at all.
Nowhere of course is this neglect and the weak, confusing legislation full of holes and loopholes seen more clearly than at the interface between archaeological preservation and artefact collecting and commerce. Perhaps thinking on this too might be entering a new era in April 2015? It's about time...

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