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As a literature student, I have always heard amazing things about the Shakespeare Birthplace in Stratford-upon-Avon. This summer, I was lucky enough to be hired by the Birthplace as a helper under its Work Experience Programme. During my one-week stay there, I got the chance to do conservation work, which included checking and cleaning historical pieces of furniture. Not until I had tried the conservation work did I learn how challenging the work could be: to perform the work well, you needed to make sure every piece of furniture, including their nooks and crannies, are not corrupted, rusted, or deteriorated. Absolute patience, thoroughness, and physical strength are therefore necessary. Meanwhile, if you are careless enough to miss a corner of a chest, the whole piece of furniture could end up being ruined, so a lot of responsibility is rested on you.
My experience in Stratford reminded me of rather saddening news in Hong Kong, my home country: 4 historical masonry wall trees in Hong Kong were removed without notification in August 2015. The trees, here since the post-War period, were part of the Hong Kong people’s collected memory, and they were thus there not simply for their ecological benefits, but for conservation purposes too. Heritage might not necessarily be as physically solid as a historical house like the Birthplace, but can be the ubiquitous elements we see in our everyday life. The removal of the trees not only broke the hearts of many conservationists, but showed us as well how heritage is prone to threat of being destroyed.
We sometimes take what we have for granted and do not truly appreciate our possessions. Yet, I think this is the time for us to start feeling grateful for what we have now.
By Jessie Fok
The UoB Linguist Magazine
Guild of Students,
University of Birmingham