This week I’ve continued my efforts to arrange and preserve Special Collection’s many photographs of the Nag Hammadi texts. In doing so, I’ve begun to think a lot about the role the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) plays in helping preserve antiquities. This institution was critically important in helping Claremont’s own Dr. James M. Robinson publish a facsimile edition of the Nag Hammadi trove approximately 40 years ago.
What might motivate UNESCO to engage in this endeavor? Interestingly, UNESCO sees protecting pieces of cultural heritage as a form of peacebuilding. As its website explains,
“In today’s interconnected world, culture’s power to transform societies is clear. Its diverse manifestations – from our cherished historic monuments and museums to traditional practices and contemporary art forms – enrich our everyday lives in countless ways. Heritage constitutes a source of identity and cohesion for communities disrupted by bewildering change and economic instability. Creativity contributes to building open, inclusive and pluralistic societies. Both heritage and creativity lay the foundations for vibrant, innovative and prosperous knowledge societies” (http://en.unesco.org/themes/protecting-our-heritage-and-fostering-creativity).
With this in mind, I’ve been wondering how all these precious Nag Hammadi images might prove a unique source of creative inspiration and spiritual guidance in a world that is very different than the one in which these records were originally created. I am fascinated by the ways in which ancient scriptures and philosophies are used, revised, and re-purposed in light of each generation’s changing/historic needs. I hope over the next few weeks I’ll be able to find and share some examples of how people – both inside and outside the scholarly community – have found new and unique meaning in the Nag Hammadi texts!
On that note, I’ll sign off by pointing you in the direction of a really neat document I found this afternoon: a copy of UNESCO’s magazine, The Courier, from May 1971. Check out the article Dr. Robinson wrote on the Nag Hammadi findings inside!