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Thursday, 2 December 2021, 1:00PM - 2:00PM
Barnard's Inn Hall

Attacks on Knowledge from Ashurbanipal to Trump

Richard Ovenden

This lecture explores the destruction of libraries, archives and other knowledge, from Babylonian times until now, and its implications for society today. What are the motivations for destroying knowledge, and how have libraries and archives responded to these threats? What must we do now that knowledge is digital, and controlled by a small number of very powerful companies?


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Richard Ovenden.jpg

Richard Ovenden has been Bodley’s Librarian (the senior Executive position of the Bodleian Libraries, University of Oxford) since 2014. Prior to that Richard 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 Libraries 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 is a member of the Grolier Club (New York) and the Roxburghe Club.

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 is a member of the Academic Advisory Board of the Deutsches Literaturarchiv (Marbach). He is also a member of the Libraries Committee of the International Alliance of Research Universities and the Information and Open Access Policy Group of the League of European Research Universities.

He is Chair of the Legal Deposit Libraries Implementation Group and a member of the Legal Deposit Libraries Committee, the Agencyfor Legal Deposit Libraries and the Joint Committee on Legal Deposit.

Richard has written extensively on professional concerns of library and information management, on the history of photography, and has written a history of the deliberate destruction of knowledge, Burning the Books: A History of Knowledge Under Attack published in the UK by John Murray, in the US by Harvard University Press, Germany by Surhkamp etc.

Richard is also a Fellow of the Royal Historical Society and was awarded the OBE in The Queen’s Birthday Honours, 2019.

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