Monday, 10 August 2015

The right to stitch: Visiting the Magna Carta

Dateline: Wednesday, July 8, 2015
Place: British Library, Magna Carter Exhibit 
Time: 10 - 11:30 a.m.
Temperature: 21° C
Song of the day: Oo-de-Lally by Roger Miller

The Magna Carter (or "Great Charter") is having her 800th birthday this year and the British Library is celebrating with a special exhibition that runs until September 1, 2105. 

Although it's an "optional" visit for our class, who wouldn't want to go back to the library and pay homage to the document that brought to the citizens of many nations the right to a trial by jury ... theoretically a fair trail. And vanquished (sort of) bad King John?

The Magna Carta was signed in 1215 at Runnymede and according to the description of the exhibit on the British Library (BL) website, the exhibit includes:
  • Two of the four original 1215 Magna Carta documents (two other copies are on tour in Canada this summer);
  • Thomas Jefferson’s handwritten copy of the Declaration of Independence;
  • one of the original copies of the US Bill of Rights, both on display in the UK for the first time;
  • and other manuscripts, paintings, statues and royal relics.
(Google Maps)

The BL exhibit is detailed and interesting because it traces the history of events leading to the initial demands for reform through to the influence of the ideas contained in the document on other nations (e.g., the U.S. Declaration of Independence.

What I found really captivating, however, was the display of Cornelia Parker's Magna Carta (An Embroidery). As the BL web page on the embroidery explains, this project reproduces in stitch the entire Wikipedia article on the Great Charter as it appeared on the document’s 799th anniversary in 2014. Many hands worked on the stitchery from all across Britain, "from prisoners to lawyers."

I teach students to avoid depending upon Wikipedia as a reliable research source ... but now I will have to qualify this advice as clearly it can be a source of tremendous creativity and understanding of rights at a fundamental level.

The right to stitch ...

Google Maps. (2015). [Runnymede and Heathrow Airport]. Retrieved from,-0.566031,13z/data=!4m2!3m1!1s0x487670a3d510c4c7:0x3bc6c9ff2d410d7a

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