..Overt and insidious threats mostly originating in the East!

A wonderful lecture by Michael Houlihan who is leaving the National Museum to work in the great Te Papa in Wellington.
It’s a short leaving speech and worth reading in full but here’s 2 great quotes:

“For over seven years I have had the privilege to observe culture in Wales from what one might describe, in military terms, as one of its cultural stützpunkt, or strongpoints; namely, Amgueddfa Cymru, the national museum of Wales. So this evening I would like to don the mantle of cultural anthropologist to present some specific and personal observations on culture in Wales, particularly around the leadership, governance, and administration of its institutional manifestations, and what we apparatchiks like to call the branding of Wales. I believe that these are issues that Wales should take seriously, structural deficit or no structural deficit, if it wants the culture of Wales to survive, thrive and be recognised around the world. Importantly, there needs to be a more overt recognition, particularly in a time of financial pressure, that what sets Wales apart from, say, Surrey is its culture; that the reason we have an Assembly is because of that unique culture; and that, effectively, culture is Wales and Wales is culture. This should have been a project for the good times; in the bad, it becomes essential.”
“….. Sadly, however, cultural tourism, in its broadest sense, has singularly failed to turn up for Wales, in contrast to, say, Ireland or Catalonia.

So why is this? Let’s take the case of history and its presentation in Wales. In Ireland, history is big and very much part of the brand. In part, this has been down to the Irish school curriculum, which presents a very clear and passionate picture of Irish history. This is in contrast to Wales where, despite the valuable curricula reforms of the last decade, the history of Wales is an option and frequently it continues to be an English perspective or context that is articulated in Welsh schools. Ireland has been particularly successful in conveying a continuous story of resistance, blood, martyrdom and the sword as a determinant of politics. This is in part due to its geographical remoteness from the UK compared to Wales’s porous borders, which in the eighteenth, nineteenth and twentieth centuries drew it, almost seamlessly, into the industrial and economic story of the British Empire. You have to look elsewhere for the hidden and passionate history of Wales and the transmission of cultural memory. This is more likely to be found in the Welsh language, with its shared stories of memories, events and people contributing to preserving a sharp sense of identity, but one which is not effectively articulated in the English language. As a result, those with some responsibility for telling the history of Wales, in the fields of education, heritage and tourism do so in ways that reflect the broad sweep of European and English history rather than the story of daily cultural and social interchange in Wales.”
Thanks to Vaughan via Google Translate
Oh and his replacement is Belfast born.

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