Yesterday we had a guest entry from Lars Amréus, the Director General of the National Heritage Board about the signage with fringe theories at a much-visited archaeological site in southern Sweden. As I read it, the main take-away message is ”Sorry, I know this used to be our job but it isn’t any more”. So if you want to be charitable, you might say that N. Heritage has not strictly speaking abdicated from its responsibility. It was dethroned and had to hand the crown to N. Property. I haven’t heard that N. Heritage fought the decision, but I don’t know everything. Maybe they did. Or maybe they invited it.
This however raises the question of what Qaisar Mahmood was doing, answering questions about the site in the local newspaper. He’s a section head at N. Heritage, immediately subordinate to Amréus. As late as a few days ago, he spoke about the signage at Ales stenar as something N. Heritage owned. His boss now tells us that what Mahmood should have replied was “Don’t call us, call N. Property”. Did Mahmood even know when the journalist called that the site was not his responsibility? In fact, N. Property has been in charge of Ales stenar since 1 January 2015. And they still haven’t gotten around to putting their logo on the official sign.
Amréus invokes freedom of speech. He has misunderstood it. Freedom of speech does not mean that you have the right to express yourself in media owned by other people. I don’t have the right to write whatever I want in official pamphlets from N. Heritage. I don’t have the right to put up permanent signs on public property. And nor does Bob.
The Director General’s reaction to my words about a hypothetical sign is nothing short of bizarre in its prim formalism. Look at this exchange:
MR: “You should get rid of Bob’s crazy sign. I mean, it’s not like you would let extreme-right Odin cultists put up a sign. So you should take down Bob’s too even though it’s not political.”
Director General: “I strongly resent Dr. Rundkvist’s implication that we would take down a sign put up by extreme-right Odin cultists!”
I’ve spent most of the past quarter century doing archaeological research. Over this period I’ve seen the National Heritage Board grow less relevant to what I do. Three of its units are still extremely important to me: the world-class Sites and Monuments Register, the ATA archives, and the library in Stockholm, though that is run in collaboration with the Royal Academy of Letters. I also greatly appreciate the Runes Project (staff: 2 PhD runologists), though if I’m not misinformed it is at least partly funded by the Royal Academy. What N. Heritage increasingly offers is answers about heritage ideology. This is not useful to me. But then, I am not the Ministry of Culture and N. Heritage makes no claim to cater primarily to my needs.
So. Who should we talk to at the National Property Board to get the Ales stenar situation rectified? Anybody know?