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TLRH | ‘Burning the Books’, Series Finale of the Out of the Ashes series

Tuesday, 25 May 2021, 7 – 8:30pm

TLRH | ‘Burning the Books’, Series Finale of the Out of the Ashes series

An online lecture by Richard Ovenden, Bodley’s Librarian, University of Oxford, and author of Burning the Books: A History of the Deliberate Destruction of Knowledge (John Murray Press).

Richard Ovenden's lecture will discuss the deliberate destruction of knowledge held in libraries and archives from ancient Alexandria to contemporary Sarajevo, from smashed Assyrian tablets in Iraq to the destroyed immigration documents of the United Kingdom’s Windrush generation. He will examine both the motivations for these acts—political, religious, and cultural—and the broader themes that shape this history. He will also look at attempts to prevent and mitigate attacks on knowledge, exploring the efforts of librarians and archivists to preserve information, often risking their own lives in the process.

The event will include a response by Helen Shenton, College Librarian and Archivist, Trinity College Dublin.



About the speaker

Richard Ovenden has been Bodley’s Librarian (the senior Executive position of the Bodleian Libraries, University of Oxford) since 2014. Prior to that he held positions at Durham University Library, the House of Lords Library, the National Library of Scotland, and the University of Edinburgh. He moved to the Bodleian in 2003 as Keeper of Special Collections, becoming Deputy Librarian in 2011. He was educated at the University of Durham and University College London, and holds a Professorial Fellowship at Balliol College, Oxford. He is a Fellow of the Society of Antiquaries, the Royal Society of Arts, and a Member of the American Philosophical Society. He was awarded the OBE in The Queen’s Birthday Honours 2019.

Richard serves as Treasurer of the Consortium of European Research Libraries, as President of the Digital Preservation Coalition, and as a member of the Board of the Council on Library and Information Resources (in Washington DC).

He has written extensively on the history of the book, on the history of photography, and on current concerns in the library, archive and information worlds. 

Previous Books

Burning the Books, A History of the Deliberate Destruction of Knowledge (2020)
John Thomson (1837-1921): Photographer
A Radical’s Books (with Michael Hunter, Giles Mandelbrote, and Nigel Smith) (1999)

About the Out of the Ashes Lecture Series

This three-year lecture series explores the theme of cultural loss and recovery across the centuries, from the destruction of the Library of Alexandria in antiquity to contemporary acts of cultural loss and destruction. Across twelves events, a panel of world-leading experts has reflected on how societies deal with cultural trauma through reconstruction and commemoration, and on how the international community should respond to cultural loss. The series has been global in scope, pan-historical and multi-disciplinary in approach, and featured international scholars and practitioners of the highest calibre.

The Out of the Ashes lecture series is generously supported by Sean and Sarah Reynolds.

This evening lecture forms part of a day-long research showcase from the Beyond 2022: Ireland's Virtual Record Treasury Research Project marking the centenary of The Custom House Fire, 25 May 2021, organized in association with the Local Government Archives and Record Managers and supported by the Government of Ireland, through the Department of Tourism, Culture, Arts, Gaeltacht, Sport and Media, under Project Ireland 2040

Please indicate if you have any access requirements, such as ISL/English
interpreting, so that we can facilitate you in attending this event. Contact:

Room: Online webinar
Research Theme: Manuscript, Book and Print Culture
Event Category: Alumni, Arts and Culture, Lectures and Seminars, Library, Public, Special events
Type of Event: One-time event
Audience: Undergrad, Postgrad, Alumni, Faculty & Staff, Public
Cost: Free but Registration Required

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