Letter: Historic archives under hammer

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The Independent Online
Sir: Your report on the sale of Marconi archive material (10 February), coming so soon after the sale of Brunel material last November, raises once again the urgent need to protect our national heritage archives from loss by dispersal.

It is clear that there is a continuing haemorrhage of historically valuable documents through random sale to the highest bidder, and that there is a need for an agency to control such degeneration of the national heritage. Such an agency, preferably part of a government department, would aim at: identifying the owners of archival material with high heritage value; advising them about appropriate national repositories to which it might be sold, if not actually donated; arranging for independent valuation of such collections; and facilitating the flow of heritage funds for the acquisition of archives by approved institutions.

By firm but judicious action such an agency could rapidly improve the condition of our heritage archives, and establish public access to them for posterity.

R ANGUS BUCHANAN

Emeritus Professor of the History of Technology

School of Social Sciences

University of Bath

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