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Tuesday, June 26, 2007

War On War On War On War

Dear Neal

Thanks for the piece, but I think a bit of a misunderstanding - none of our collections are in danger of being lost through lack of conservation. The problem is one of access (which is something very different) and is common to most archives - especially the public funded ones - throughout the world (including the US of A). We are still collecting and conserving and the current impetus to convert material into a digital format is in order to make it as widely accessible as possible. It is in this area that money is limited. In the future, people from all over will be able to access the material deposited with us, albeit in limited amounts, but the safe-keeping of the entire collection is paramount and would not be jeopardised. Hence, people can continue to deposit material with us knowing that it will be in safe hands.
... said the email from Paul Sargent (yes, "Sargent" is his real name) of the Imperial War Museum's film & image archive in response to my post of last week, "Broadcast Live 2007 - War On War On War".

So, yes, let's be clear that its not the preservation of the material itself that is at stake. It's true that with a greater influx of cash, the Imperial War Museum archive would be able to augment its existing preservation program. You can always use one more refrigerated vault. But the concern which inspired me to write the post was that all of the institution's money is spent on preservation - and occasionally restoration - of materials from the early 20th century. And wouldn't it be a wonderful thing if there was a place that could teach the public about the conflicts the country is currently experiencing. The Natural History Museum, for example, attempts to bring the latest scientific information to the fore.

And, well ... alright, let me level with you.

What I want - what I really, really want - is for the Imperial War Museum to tell me why British troops are being maimed and killed in Afghanistan.

Now that's not much to ask is it?

Now that I think about it though, the War Museum does have a superb World War I collection. World War I was "The Great War" - aka "The War to End All Wars". And an awful lot of people thought that WWI was a very, very good idea - even the doomed teenagers on all sides - enlisting en masse with grins on their faces. Kids deployed by old men in quiet rooms were sent to fight other kids deployed by other men in other quiet rooms. Of course WWI did create lots of new and wonderful things - like high-tech weapons, Adolph Hitler, and a whole slew of interesting new countries with names like "Syria" and so forth.

Hmmm. Maybe the Imperial War Museum CAN tell me why British troops are being maimed and killed in Afghanistan.

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