Liberties get interactive at the British Library
entering the British Library's free exhibition "Taking Liberties: The Struggle for Britain's Freedoms and Rights", visitors are tagged with a bar coded wristband -
odd, for an exhibition on liberty you might think. After visiting the
exhibition last week, Cit Ed Intern, Stephen, explains...
ironic how a 900-year old document has come to symbolise much of the
contemporary debate around civil liberties. In September 2007 the Magna Carta was even invoked by US
Senator Jeff Bingaman in his campaign to limit the power of the US government
to detain people without charge. The American Bar Association occasionally
meets in Runnymede, Surrey, where the document
was originally signed.
the threat of terrorism, debates around "hate speech" and the impact of
devolution on the UK, the British Library has organised an exhibition on
‘Taking Liberties: The Struggle for Britain's Freedoms and Rights'. The display
aims to guide attendees through the various historical developments, beginning
with the Magna Carta in 1215, that
have established our notion of ‘civil liberties' such as the English Civil War
(1642-1651), Habeas Corpus (1679), American independence (1776), the National
Insurance Act (1911), Women's suffrage (1928) and the Universal Declaration of
Human Rights (1948). Furthermore, the exhibition is split into sections dealing
with the rule of law, parliament, the right to vote, human rights and freedom
the historical artefacts and documents are various interactive terminals where
you can give your opinion on various issues that affect people's rights and
freedoms including whether there should be an English Parliament, do we need to
regulate the use of CCTV cameras and should Cornwall be independent. You scan
your answers using a wristband and at the end of the exhibition you can see how
your responses compare with other attendees.
method really helps to tease out some of the tensions between balancing individual
freedom with the need for security and whether we've lost our sense of
responsibility in gaining so many rights. The displays also give us an
excellent historical context for these important questions. It is interesting
to see how as our idea of citizenship has developed we have actually become
more prosperous as a country. Or is it the other way around? Have we demanded
more rights as we have become wealthier to safeguard our assets? Perhaps
economic liberty and its relationship to social liberty, is an area that could
do with further examination.
about the international perspective on human rights and freedoms? After all,
some institutions affect our liberties beyond the level of the nation-state.
For example the International Criminal Court have indited and convicted people
from places as diverse as Liberia
for abusing human rights. The European Union also has an important impact on
our lives through legislation such as the Working Time Directive (which
guarantees all EU citizens four weeks holiday). There is no doubt that these
sorts of globalised organisations are profoundly changing the relationship
between the citizen and the state. King John and the Barons might have had
something to say about that!"
exhibition runs until 1st March 2009. For more information visit... http://www.bl.uk/onlinegallery/takingliberties/
accompany the Taking Liberties exhibition at the British Library from 31
October 2008 to 1 March 2009, free workshops are available for Secondary,
Further and Higher Education groups of more than 10 participants. These
interactive workshops will take place in the exhibition, using artefacts and multimedia
material to bring to life the struggle for rights in the UK.
The workshops are
most suitable for those studying History, Citizenship
or Politics. They are available from 3 November 2008 to 27 February 2009.
information, visit... http://www.bl.uk/onlinegallery/takingliberties/learning.html
Taking Liberties Interactive
If you can't make
it to the British Library with your students, you can still make use of many of
the resources available at the exhibition via Taking Liberties Interactive.
The website is
full of useful videos and interviews, as well as an interactive activity which
places you at the centre of current debates and allows you to vote on where you
stand on these issues. As you give your answers, you can see how your views
compare to everyone else's - all illustrated through innovative 3D graphics.
Interactive can be found at... www.bl.uk/onlinegallery/takingliberties/interactive.html