Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Taking Liberties at the British Library

What a marvellous, and free exhibition! Go see it! It finishes 1st March. Open late on Tuesday.

Taking Liberties is an exhibition about our liberties; how they came about, how they have evolved, and how they continue to change today. It's a large exhibition with a wealth of supporting documentation, including priceless objects like one of the four remaining original copies of the Magna Carta.

In the British Library next to St Pancras, the exhibition is accessed through their shop. On entry, one dons a bar-code wristband, which lists one's "citizen number". This is used throughout the exhibition to keep track of the answers given in various questions.

Inside, one passes through several themed areas, Rule of Law, Women's Liberties, The United Kingdom union, The right to vote, Human Rights, Free press etc, each of which has all manner of beautiful historical papers and books spanning 900 years of British democracy to examine.

Curiously given the subject of the exhibition, there are no curators, instead CCTV camera sit high above us watching our every move. The room itself is quite dark, and I found myself straining to read some of the presented documents.

To anyone interested in the history of the UK, our constitution, politics, democracy, rights or law, this exhibition is nothing less than wonderful. I've been twice now, spending about an hour and half each time, and I still haven't finished it.

I do have a personal connection - though it is not acknowledged (bad BL!), my cousin Susie Cole chose the sound clips that one can listen to on headphones in a few spots around the exhibition. I don't think the punters seem to be paying much attention to either these or the video based clips either.

The exhibition is brought right into relevance today with cases like the Good Friday Agreement and Guantanamo. As is said, our rights are not ours forever - they can be changed or removed, and at various times in our history, they have been.

The British Library's free exhibition 'Taking Liberties: the struggle for Britain's freedoms and rights' is on till 1st March 2009.

Here is the curator's blog. There's also a lot of good information on the exhibition website here.

NB: Thanks to Rob Ainsley for pointing out my "typo" - exhibition is at the British Library (not Museum!).

1 comment:

Rob Ainsley said...

Thanks for the mention of our exhibition! (Though, erm, it's actually at the British Library...)
Rob Ainsley
Taking Liberties exhibition website