Saturday, August 13, 2005


The UNESCO Proceedings of the St Petersburg conference for the World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS), I attended this past May, are on the Web:, then click on 'Final Document' in column to left. My own paper is embedded in 'comment' below. It was a splendid conference with participants from all over the world, discussing the need for communication among all the people, rather than only government/commerce ('We the People'), and it particularly spoke to the need of better participation in policy development processes for 'Memory Institutions', such as libraries, archives, museums, universities. Indeed, our Swiss-owned, so-called 'English' Cemetery, with its English, American, Swiss, Russian tombs, of writers, of sculptors, and countless others, now catalogued on the Web,,
etc., with which descendants and scholars interact worldwide; with its parallel library of nineteenth-century books written by and about the people buried here; and with its CD Florence in Sepia, of Florence in nineteenth-century poetry, prose guidebooks and sepia photographs, is a part of the 'World Information Society', a 'Memory Institution' that this conference celebrated.

The UNESCO WSIS also publishes a photo album of the conference in which you can glimpse, in one picture, myself, the sessions held in an imperial palace on the shores of the Baltic:, then click on 'Photo Album' in column to left, going to Section «Policies of Cultural and Scientific Heritage Digitization and Preservation» where I am talking about the need to save Florence's 'English' Cemetery, its Library, and their websites, and asking the participants for their advice on how it could become a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

And then, following this, I was at the Leeds International Medieval Congress in July and went also to visit Saltaire, my great-grandfather's model mill in Yorkshire, for he had travelled every year to Russia and spoke that language fluently, trading in wool and woven cloth. Saltaire, which is very beautiful, is now a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Sir James Roberts also bought the Brontë's Haworth Parsonage and gave it to the nation, and endowed a Chair of Russian at Leeds University. But he had started working in Sir Titus Salt's mill at twelve, walking across the Yorkshire Moors barefoot, becoming its manager at eighteen.

Earl Mardle, also at St Petersburg, strongly recommended creating a blog. And we have taken his advice, at
And a petition. We shall so appreciate your signatures. And send this, too, to others to sign. We have another petition here, on paper, same words, which is now at signature number 250, that our physical, rather than virtual, visitors sign. So we are close to half of our goal of a thousand signatures.

We hope upon hope we can save the 'English' Cemetery and the Library, which the Swiss want to close. Sir Franco Zeffirelli telephoned Florence's Mayor and seven persons came from his office and assured us of their help if we can also get private help. Newspaper stories have appeared in The Independent, La Nazione, The Florentine, The Grapevine, and the 'Emergency Appeal' is also posted on the Website about Poets' Graves:
The Independent story has a photograph of Dame Judi Dench hugging the wrong tomb in Tea with Mussolini! I'd never seen the film, so was amused to find this out!

Yesterday, in a freak storm, the top of a large cypress came crashing down on several tombs. Aureo Anello, our cultural association for the cemetery and the library, will pay 300 euro to have the branch cut up and removed. We have also paid 1000 euro to have beautiful Victorian iron railings on the stairs so we are more accessible. And, further, we have disbursed 150 euro for paint for the great wrought iron gates that were rusting away, doing the labour ourselves.

The crisis of the threatened closure is causing everyone in Florence to speak of this place as a 'jewel', and as worth saving, though it has been neglected and abandoned and unappreciated for 125 years. Let's work together to restore it and have it become a UNESCO World Heritage Site, in which the English, the Americans, the Swiss, the Russians and countless others can all take pride. Though from the past it is the shape of our future, a peaceful co-existence amidst great beauty.