I’ve been making an effort to be more cultured lately, and part of that grand plan includes visiting more museums and art galleries. So last Friday I ventured to the British Library for the very first time to have a look over the Taking Liberties exhibition, which runs until 1st March.
The erosion of our civil liberties is a subject much passed over in our media; the constant desire to hunt down and punish ‘terrorists’ of all kinds masking the fact that detention without trial could happen to us too, and on flimsier and flimsier pretexts. “Taking Liberties” offers a solid foundation in the history of the “900-year struggle for Britain’s freedoms and rights” and there was a lot more to learn than I’d expected.
The exhibition is laid out nicely over a myriad of rooms, the hushed lighting lending a contemplative air to proceedings. For short-sighted me it was a little too dark at times though – there’s a lot to read. Artefacts like a copy of the Magna Carta, paintings of Cromwell and King Charles II and a tiny purse and return train ticket belonging to Emily Davison (the suffragette who brought down King George V’s horse at Epsom) bring the mysterious past in to stark reality.
A nice interactive touch is the voting system – collect a paper wristband at the start of the exhibition and you can give your opinions on a variety of topics at computers throughout the exhibition. Questions like “Should Cornwall have self-government too?” and “How free should writers and artists be?” are great for bringing the big issues in to focus on a personal level, though the reasonably liberal responses shown in the results at the end reflect the sort of people who are visiting the exhibition – it’d be fascinating to get every household in the country to take part! Take part they can, though, with a really well put together interactive quiz available online.
In the true name of liberty and equality, visitors are invited to post their comments on a messageboard at the end of the exhibition and it makes for an interesting and often humorous read. We’re all definitely agreed that free speech is a good idea? Are you sure?
“Taking Liberties” runs until 1st March 2009 and is absolutely free. Check out the British Library’s opening times here.
All images courtesy of warriorgrrl’s Flickr stream (that’s me).