Therein lays the greatest danger of Joseph of Bute, as we should presumably now call him. The things we ‘could’ do with our heritage are fairly inexhaustible, especially if you want to put ethics and reason to one side. The article above goes on to tell readers that this is ‘our’ (Welsh) heritage. Is it though? Is it really? Okay, lets for one minute take off our rationale hats and swap them for our money making hats:
Crook #1 ‘If we want to attract visitors to Cardiff, why don’t we just tell everyone that Joseph of Arimathea is buried here?’
Crook #2 ‘Good point, we can’t prove it, but that doesn’t matter.’
Crook #1 ‘Another good point, because we can’t prove a lot of things, but we can still say they happened right?’
Shortly after we can expect the Cardiff City sightseeing bus tour to suddenly call in at the burial place of Owain Glyn Dwr (conveniently buried directly under the pub of the same name, so ‘they’ say), metal shavings reputed to have splintered from Excalibur itself (new to the Origins gallery in the National Museum) and the final resting place of Madoc’s hat, washed up in Cardiff Bay. If you don’t take an ethical position on anything, we really could say and sell anything we wanted to about Welsh history.
Does this sound a little extreme? Perhaps, but the other story to catch my attention this week might make us think about this issue for a little longer. China and the £58m Jibaozhai Museum, which was recently forced to close its doors to the public following a scandalous revelation that the majority of the artefacts displayed, were cheap fakes. Some wonderful quotes from the senior museum staff suggest that ‘some’ of the 40,000 objects were real, but not many. It would appear that this ‘institution’ has come to embody the very worst of museum corruption and deceit – morals and museum ethics have no place here, as the development of an attractive product seems to have consumed everyone involved. International condemnation and general mockery followed shortly after the story broke.
So, with China in mind, let the cautionary tale of the museum that got caught out for misleading all of its visitors be a reminder. We certainly could say all sorts of enticing things about Welsh history and its connections to the world, indeed we can do that perfectly well with our legitimate and proven historical narratives, but let’s leave Joseph of Arimathea where he belongs, wherever that might be: it is certainly not in Cardiff City centre. We do not need to pretend, or need try to dupe anyone else into thinking anything other than that, and were we to do so, we would deserve the exact same scale of international mockery and derision faced by the Jibaozhai Museum does now.