Friday, September 26, 2008

I've been doing family history research and research for my local Quaker meeting locally. Something that really alarms and upsets me about the state of education in the mainstream, is the number of libraries and intitutions which put gatekeepers on their online information.

Here I am not talking about new information written by their lecturers or students, but information from books long out of copyright, which the libraries have scanned into their computers and have online as a resource. These are things which cannot be damaged or affected by online access, which they are protecting with passwords, which you have to have in order to gain access to them.

I have often thought about writing an essay from the point of the cliched alien, an exercise so beloved of teachers, but when applied to education, showing up so many nonsensical things. Whose interest is served by blocking access to materials online which can only be of any interest or use to family historians or students of history? Who is being protected when the text is so far out of copright that even if I copied it, adapted it, printed it back to front or at a 90 degree angle there would be no one who could prevent me?

I just can't understand how institutions like the National Gallery or the National Portrait gallery can hold collections which belong to the nation and which are in safekeeping for the nation, can charge people for the privelege of taking photographs or using the image, even though it is lng out of date. How can that improve art education, or give access to the people who actually own the paintings - the people of the country?

Argh. Rant over.

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