Trust in Change

Historians and curators in heritage organisations, such as the National Trust, do not invent the past, they uncover it. 

Ben Jones

A leader in the Daily Telegraph, published on 25 September and headlined ‘The National Trust needs to drop its woke nonsense’, propounded a series of theses about what the National Trust, the charity for heritage conversation in England, Wales and Northern Ireland, exists to do (Scotland has a separate organisation). The job of the Trust, which has 5.6 million members and an annual income in excess of £630 million, ‘is to conserve, not comment’, was one thesis. But to conserve what? Things that ‘the nation holds dear’. Which nation? Well, the present one, or at least the Daily Telegraph’s idea of the present nation, which it thinks it understands pretty well, at least at a very high level of abstraction: ‘Most people’ value the National Trust’s sites out of a ‘love of place and character’. But then it appears that there are other stakeholders to be regarded. The Trust should not be casting aspersions on ‘the historical reputation of properties’ in a way that ‘breaks faith with the families that donated them’.

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