Contents of an Ancient History

The Birmingham Post (England), May 13, 2009 | Go to article overview

Contents of an Ancient History


Byline: chris upton

There are, as you know, legal deposit libraries (six in all) which receive copies of every item published in the United Kingdom.

Indeed, the latest piece of legislation on the subject, passed in 2003, covers electronic publications as well.

God knows how they make that work.

No-one has yet come up with an Act of Parliament to require legal deposit of things and it's high time they did. If noone archives the world around us, how will future generations remember us ? How will we remember ourselves ? What do I mean by "the world around us" ? Let me give you a list... Pressure cookers, lava lamps, cameras which take film, bagatelles, Coronation mugs, Space Hoppers, jars of jam, sewing machines, Dansettes, little plastic animals, Pye and Bush radios, plastic curtains, towel rails, ration books, Daily Mail boots, electric carving knives, I-Spy books, powdered egg, Love Hearts, china pigs, beermats, Brylcreem jars, clip-on baths for your budgie, calculators, chopsticks, national flags, milk cartons, toy heliports.

It seems to me that our ability to work out what is important and representative only works retrospectively and, by then, it's usually too late and most of the stuff has gone in a skip. Perhaps the first thing a museum curator should learn to do is to rummage in dustbins.

Isn't it disappointing that the only surviving everyday objects which made a Tudor life worth living are those which sank with them on the Mary Rose ? As luck would have it, one or two slightly eccentric, but clear-sighted, souls have been doing exactly this. …

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