"Don't Call Us, Call National Property"

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?

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I was going to make the point about freedom of speech, Martin, but you have already made the point I was going to make. It is irrelevant, and it is seriously messed up that Mr Amréus even thought it was relevant to mention it.

If I am wrong and it *is* relevant, then I trust Mr Amréus has already sent sternly worded letters to all of the peer-reviewed scientific journals, pointing out that they are oppressing people's rights. But I am pretty confident that he has not done that, and that it would never occur to him to do so.

By John Massey (not verified) on 22 Jul 2017 #permalink

Dear Dr. Rundquist,

Thank you for allowing me the space to respond to your entry on Ales stenar. I'm sorry to hear that you don't feel that the RAÄ is as relevant to you as it used to be. Perhaps that's a discussion that we can follow up some other time. It sems somewhat off-topic in this context.

RAÄ had no objections to the "dethroning" at Ales stenar and other sites. On the contrary, there are good reasons for this change of responsibilities. As government agencies we're not competing with each other, but co-operating to ensure that our combined resources are used in the best possible way.

I was sad to see the fictive quote you gave in your latest entry. I don't feel comfortable being "quoted" like that, even fictively. To be honest, I really don't think it's fair. Since I have taken the time and effort to respond personally, I was hoping that you would let me speak for myself.

Finally, yes I think it's a good idea for you to contact the site manager at the National Property Board and the County Administrative Board of Skåne if you want to bring about a change at Ales stenar. In fact, I encourage you to do so.
Lars Amréus

By Lars Amreus (not verified) on 22 Jul 2017 #permalink

Thanks, I'm interested to further explore the feeling you express that RAÄ doesn't feel as relevant to you as it used to. Hopefully, we can get back to that after the holidays.

By Lars Amreus (not verified) on 22 Jul 2017 #permalink