You are doing a worse job today than at the start some 400 years ago.

In today’s Dagens Nyheter several professors, lecturers and writers gives hard critique toward the National Heritage Board (RAA) under the headline: The government shirk their responsibility to care for our National heritage.

In the debate article they write among other things (A short summary of the article):

“You are doing a worse job today than at the start some 400 years ago. (the National heritage board )

In Sweden a special cut cultural heritage is available that is unique in the world, 1000’s of written messages are available in the landscape (the rune stones) for everyone to read. With a cultural heritage like this comes a great responsibility to care for and to document this remains for those who comes after us. This is something that has been recognized for hundreds of years but during recent years the National heritage board has seemed less inclined to take its responsibility for our older cultural heritage. Important and highly regarded publications such as “Det Medeltida Sverige” (Medieval Sweden) and works regarding our churches have been terminated long before they have been finished. Now the axe is coming down on “Runverket” (the Rune agency) that during a long time have been responsible for publishing and “Sveriges runiskrifter” (The Runic inscriptions in Sweden) in which runic inscriptions have been described and interpreted province by province. Its personal has also been in charge of painting and care of the rune stones.

The debaters feel that this strange especially as the interest for history and the Viking Age is on a steady upraise in Sweden. They also feel that it is of both a national as well as an international interest that the long term strategies regarding the knowledge and care for the rune stones are in place and that the best way to do this is to have a central authority that are responsible to secure the scientific competency.

The debaters concludes the article with a demand that there should be at least three full time employees that works with the documentation, the care and publication.

I agree with the debaters on this subject as a whole if not in every detail, I think it is sad that the National board (RAA) no longer seems interested in collecting, processing and creating knowledge of our ancient and historical monuments, remains and relics. But I don’t think it is necessary or particularly good to centralize all research or care at a government authority. In many ways it is a good path to let the provincial County Boards and museums take a big responsibility within their local area.

But I think it is important that the NHB works from an authority angle; as a control function regarding laws and regulations and concentrating on the national scene rather than the local. This does call for funds directed to local research and for care of our ancient and historic remains. It is also important to state that this does not absolve the NHB from responsibility of being in charge of the whole picture, to do this they must do research, collecting data and bring the results together and publish these. Otherwise we’ll get a situation where no one looks at the national perspective and all comes down to provincial thinking at the risk of building up walls instead of bridges. A NHB that is only talk and ideology isn’t what anyone need, what we need is a NHB that stands strong and take fights for preservation and re-search regarding our common cultural heritage.

 Magnus Reuterdahl

About Magnus Reuterdahl

I am an archaeologist/Osteologist from Sweden. My main intrest lays in north Euorpean archaeology in, preferbly the prehistory of the late iron age and the neolithic periods. I've also got a strong intrest for Chinese archaeology, especially the neolithc Yangshao culture. I also write about cultural heritage and cultural history. Mitt namn är Magnus Reuterdahl, jag är arkeolog och osteolog och arbetar företrädesvis i Sverige även om jag gjort ett par vändor till Kina. På den här bloggen skriver jag om mitt yrke, om fornlämningar, kulturarv och kulturhistoria m m. View all posts by Magnus Reuterdahl

3 responses to “You are doing a worse job today than at the start some 400 years ago.

  • Åsa

    I also agree in part with what the debaters are saying. However, knowing how little money there is within the NHB and also knowing how many projects are being dismantled, abandoned or never even started I am not convinced that 3 whole positions is needed to keep up with the rune stones. A lot of care and preservation should be in the hands of county museums and volunteer organizations. If they created an effective database available online, a lot could be done by less people and with very good results.
    It’s not that there isn’t things to do on rune stones for three people, there is probably jobs for twice that many. it’s just that there are about 100 other projects in even more dire need of money, and with less public interest (and therefore grant money) than rune stones. The dismantling of the survey group (inventeringen) is just one such disaster.

    So much to do, so very, very little money.

  • Magnus Reuterdahl

    In the best of worlds I think that it is probably needed at least three full time employees working with our runes, but as you say there are 100’s of others projects in dire need of NHB’s resources. My main hope is that the NHB changes its focus from politics to cultural heritage, and once again realizes that it is necessary to do re-search and to build quality knowledge in order to preserve, understand and display our cultural heritage and as a political authority be in the center of debate and not a bystander, to be a true voice for the preservation of the cultural heritage.

  • The National Heritage Board answers back! « Testimony of the spade

    […] article published a few days ago in the same paper regarding runestones (my earlier comments are here) under the headline ” It is not our task to do research regarding the rune […]

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