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It's All Academic Festival: Uncomfortable Reading: Controversial Books and...

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Gustave Tuck Lecture Theatre

University College London

Gower Street

London

WC1E 6BT

United Kingdom

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This talk explores the sometimes problematic and controversial nature of books and the responsibilities and dilemmas they create for librarians, focusing on the UCL Institute of Archaeology Library’s copy of ‘Die Ausgrabungen in Haithabu (1937-1939)’ by Herbert Jankuhn.

Jankuhn was a leading member of the Nazi Ahnenerbe, which was established to research the archaeological and cultural history of the Aryan race by Heinrich Himmler in 1935. This copy still carries the stamps of the Reich governor of the Sudetengau, the controversial Sudetenland (now part of the Czech Republic) annexed by the Nazis in 1938, and was the property of the district government department of prehistory, suggesting it was passed from one department of the Ahnenerbe to another.

How the book found its way into the Institute Library collections is uncertain, but its presence – particularly with Nazi stamps – is an uncomfortable one. What should we do with this book? How should we resolve the ethical dilemmas it presents?

Using documents from the Institute Library’s archive, the Librarian of the Institute Library, Dr Katie Meheux, looks at these dilemmas from both a modern perspective and that of British archaeologists in the immediate aftermath of World War 2, establishing the differences in attitude that allowed them to view the book as vital archaeological research rather than the product of a murderous enemy regime.

If the Institute’s former Director, Professor Vere Gordon Childe (1892-1957), an outspoken anti-Fascist campaigner, was able to overcome his hatred of the Nazis, help to rebuild German archaeological libraries and retain his admiration for German archaeology in the aftermath of the war, should we behave differently? Instead of seeing this as an object of anathema, should we instead see it as a symbol of support and reconciliation?

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Gustave Tuck Lecture Theatre

University College London

Gower Street

London

WC1E 6BT

United Kingdom

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