Short Saturday: The New Renaissance

We were talking this week about online research, and the astonishing things that are available online. (I mean, holy cannoli, the folks at have got it going on: look at the Ghent altarpiece in 100 billion pixels.) And it seems Tristram Hunt’s position on the subject got more than one person’s dander up.

Writing in the New York Times, journalist James Gleick mentions Hunt’s snit, and says, “It’s a mistake to deprecate digital images just because they are suddenly everywhere, reproduced so effortlessly. We’re in the habit of associating value with scarcity, but the digital world unlinks them.”

A discussion of that statement is a whole other blog post, but for now you can read what Gleick thinks here. He says the old relics—like this copy of Magna Carta—are only talismans: “The real Magna Carta, the great charter of human rights and liberty, is available free online, where it is safely preserved. It cannot be lost or destroyed.”

To which I would add, sir, the real Magna Carta exists not on paper or online, but in men’s hearts.

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  1. Roz Cawley says:

    You say ‘To which I would add, sir, the real Magna Carta exists not on paper or online, but in men’s hearts.’
    Hear, hear, Jamie – could not agree more. All th4ese items are only artifacts – be they the Magna Carta, the Ghent Altarpiece, or my Grannie’s photograph. It is what we do with them – how we utilise them, how we incorporate what they speak to us into our lives that is of importance. But by putting them into the digital world, *more* people can contemplate these artifacts, more people can incoporprate their contemplation into their own lives and more of us can share and inter-relate our observations to each other…how can that be anything other than a good thing?
    Tristram Hunt does not seem to be able to think that far…silly boy.

    • Jamie says:

      Well said! I love the way the Internet is a conversation-starter! :) (And thank you for bringing the Ghent altarpiece to my attention lo, these many months ago.) :)