Wednesday, 25 May 2011

Memory of the world

The United Kingdom has had twenty items inscribed in UNESCO's Memory of the World Register, and the list is a fascinating one. It highlights not only some key parts of our history, but also the amazing range of archives and collections we have.

My favourites include a joint entry by the Women's Library and the Parliamentary Archives, a selection of holdings relating to the women's suffrage movement. In just eight documents, the fight for votes for women is encapsulated; it begins with an 1866 petition, passes through a protest in parliament itself (the banner unfurled by protestors is preserved) and the Cat and Mouse Act which saw hunger-striking prisoners released and reimprisoned, and ends with the Representation of the People (Equal Franchise) Act 1928. If you thought women got the vote in 1918, you're half-right: women over thirty did, but we had to wait another decade for women to have the vote on the same terms as men.

Also on the list, the diaries of Anne Lister are one of the most amazing nineteenth-century sources. A Yorkshire landowner, she recorded her travels, business dealings, politics and (in code) her lesbian relationships. Selections from the diary have been published and televised, but the original is held by West Yorkshire Archive Service.

Do have a look at the full list: what are your favourites?

Image (c) The Women's Library


Hels said...

I would have to go with the Act of Parliament passed in December 1689. My all-time favourite era for reading and lecturing is the second half of the 17th century when everything of importance happened, including the expulsion of the Huguenots.

It is indeed a watershed document in the history of the relationship between monarchy and Parliament. Without it, Parliament couldn't have enticed Mary (and William) from Holland, and without it, the waverers in Parliament would not have accepted William and Mary on the throne.

The Glorious Revolution always seems like a misnomer to me, but at least this Act of Parliament was a great outcome.

HughB said...

No wonder my attic is packed with junk - we're a nation of magpies!! My favourite is the Gough map - maps have a fascination of their own: old maps, pirate maps, maps with "here be Dragons" on them...

DavidH said...

I would say the BT research reports, as these are a much under-appreciated record of British scientic endeavour that contributed much to the world we live in today, including the network carrying this blog.

But then I would say that as we were the ones who submitted the nomination!

Even if science & technology is not your thing, do look at our other successful nomination (partnering BFI and the British Postal Museum & Archive), the films of the GPO Film Unit, 1933-1940. BFI have released these on DVD, but you can get a flavour from an interactive video fronted by Derek Jacobi. They're a charming record of an age that's now vanished, for better or worse

Otter said...

Wonderful to see the work of Sirkka-Liisa Konttinen and the Amber Collective included. One in the eye for the idiots at ACE who have withdrawn their grant funding.

CarolineLD said...

DavidH, how exciting to be involved in this! Thank you also for the great link.

Otter, it really is wonderful - and how awful that they've lost funding.

I love that we all have different choices - and Hugh, I'd have to agree that we're a nation of magpies! (Since I don't have an attic, you can imagine the amount of clutter in my flat...)