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Nothing is so good it lasts eternally

I've been thinking about what never explained said, that there is much noise but little distress over the destruction of the Baghdad Museum and Library, and that many of those same noise-sources have said very little at all about other recent tragedies. I'm certainly guilty of that. Then again, I strongly desire not to delve into politics in this context. It's not that I don't have opinions. I just have no desire to discuss them in this forum, and so try to avoid things that could be taken politically as much as possible.

I've been relating to this set of destructions as a scholar and a historian. Documents, evidence, art is all constantly being lost and destroyed. The frantic and brief digs which happen all over the UK at least acknowledge that the ruins were there, even if the archaeologists can only take a passing glance at the material. The particular frustration in losing these particular ones is that we know they are lost, and we know that they were once available for study. I'm not a scholar of the Ottoman Empire, or even the Sumerian. But for those who are, much of the extant evidence which could feed their research has just been destroyed. Imagine if the British Library or the Library of Congress were destroyed. Imagine if the Beowulf document had been burned in the early twentieth century.

Obviously there's more than enough material left in the world for scholars to study. It's the frustration of losing something that was already known to exist, already known to be important with which I empathize. To return to never explained's example, traditions may be lost, but the knowledge that they once existed is the lifeblood of history.

(She focused in particular on the loss of cultural heritage so, to be honest, the point of my argument is somewhat askew from hers.)


( 4 comments — Leave a comment )
Apr. 15th, 2003 10:04 pm (UTC)
I don't think it matters what type of material that has been lost (be it Ottoman or Sumerian or Anglo-Saxon), it is still a part of the human race's past. I agree that it is a terrible travesty and why, oh why, can't people leave museums alone in their violent race towards bettering themselves? I'm sure that, if I were starving, and needed a random priceless artifact to sell, I would probably do it. Although, if it were the Beowulf manuscript, I might think twice (and keep it for myself), but still. It's the unending struggle for survival of the mortal body versus survival of the history of one's people.

Then again, I'm typing random gobbledeegook while slightly tipsy, so this might not make sense in the morning. In which case, I will apologize and try to make my point logical. And not drunken.

Nonetheless, I completely agree. It wrenches my heart to see the museum on the television, abandoned and destroyed. It's just WRONG.
Apr. 19th, 2003 10:45 am (UTC)
Perfect situations must go wrong
But this has never yet prevented me/ Wanting far too much for far too long....

I think you know the rest...
Apr. 30th, 2003 12:37 pm (UTC)
All is not lost: merely stolen
It seems that the initial museum thefts were *extremely* pre-meditated.
Decoys, that the museum directors had put in the public display cases a
week or so before the official start of hostilities, were ignored and
the real artifacts were removed from vaults by someone with access to
their keys. Only real artifacts had their cases smashed. So, at least
in the case of the most expensive/famous things, there's a chance
that we'll see them again someday on e-bay.

As for primary culpabilities, there are at least three likely

1 - Fabulous International Artifact Thief. Lupin? Raffles?
Catwoman? The field is wide. Perhaps somewhere there is a bald guy
stroking a Persian Cat saying "Lot number 14: the scrolls of
Hammurabi. Minimum bid: 1 million dollars."

2 - Some US troopers: see the movie "Kelly's Heros".

3 - The Thief of Baghdad: Who would have the keys to the vault on his
keychain? Who might need a little extra cash these days? Who had a
birthday coming up? Saddam Hussein!

I must take issue with your title "Nothing is so good it lasts
eternally". Being made of bits instead of atoms, this blog has a
chance of lasting practically forever: as long as proper backup
regimens are followed. Scholars from years that sound like
phone numbers will doubtless be reading all this from the backups of
the Dawn of the Information Age.

Apr. 30th, 2003 01:28 pm (UTC)
Re: All is not lost: merely stolen
"Nothing is so good it lasts eternally" was really a quick and easy way to slip in a reference to the musical Chess, and one which seemed thematically suited to the subject. It's the first line to the duet "I know him so well" which has been recorded by mulitiple pairs of women singers as singles. I'm fond of the musical and had gone to a performance of it only a week or two before I posted this. That and the song had been going through my head.

I've been off-and-on following the followup reporting on the thefts. Your version of the options is far more entertaining than the media's version. A number of pieces stolen from Bagdad have already been put up for auction, and who knows how much more has been sold off. I finally saw a photo of some of the looted vaults from the museum the other day - I think it was in Time magazine. They looked a mess, but it was cheering to see all was not lost, and that there were still rows upon rows of pottery things on the shelves... even if they may be some of the less valuable aspects to the collection.

I think much of the real damage is symbolic and historic. It would be like having the Liberty Bell or the original Star Spangled Banner stolen, for Americans.
( 4 comments — Leave a comment )