Enfilade

Hamburger and Grafton on the Warburg Library

Posted in opinion pages, resources by Editor on September 8, 2010

From The New York Review Blog (1 September 2010) . . .

Jeffrey Hamburger and Anthony Grafton, “Save the Warburg Library!”

. . . both Labour and Tory governments seem bent on rearing hierarchies, crushing autonomy, and destroying morale. The idea, apparently, is to reconfigure the universities on a corporate model—not, however, the democratic model used by Google and other corporations that are flourishing now, but the older one of the 1950s, which did wonders for such British industries as shipbuilding and car manufacturing.

Particularly painful is the University of London’s attempt to disperse the unparalleled collections of the Warburg Institute. Named for a supremely imaginative historian of art and culture, Aby Warburg, the institute began as his library in Hamburg, which was devoted to the study of the impact of classical antiquity on European civilization. The library was rescued from Hamburg in 1933, following Hitler’s rise to power, thanks in part to the help of British benefactors. . . .

Recent articles in the German and Swiss press have called attention to the Warburg’s travails. If the University of London insists on following through with its plan, perhaps the German authorities can find the means to bring the Warburg back to its original home. That would certainly be preferable to watching as philistines demolish a great European institution.

The rest of this version of the essay can be found here at the New York Review Blog; a longer version will appear in the September 30 issue of The New York Review.

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