Blue plaques (left - the plaque in London on a house where George Orwell lived) are sometimes used to create a public history of a range of people, who may have been important for different reasons. In her opinion piece on Higher Education (see the web page of Hkanhpa Tu Sadan on this site), Mandy Sadan wrote:
As a Lecturer in History, I am aware of the need to be sensitive to how my own country’s history is interpreted by others and how our educational system at all levels has to acknowledge this. I was not born in a generation that feels comfortable with or even any pride in Empire. I grew up in the industrial West Midlands at a time when race riots were commonplace and IRA bombs, or the fear of their bombs, often disrupted school life. Yet I work today just down the road from a building with a Blue Plaque placed by English Heritage to honour the residence of the Black Nationalist and Pan-African Leader Marcus Garvey – a recognition of the contribution of this figure to the life of the nation, despite the discomfiture of his message for many. The IRA’s Martin McGuinness is a mainstream politician. Some of the country’s greatest port cities have public museums dedicated to improving understanding of how the local economy was built on the back of the trans-Atlantic slave trade. None of this is easy. It is socially, culturally, intellectually and morally discomforting in a nation that has to face up to these other realities, and none of it reflects a ‘resolved’, settled society. It is, and always will be, a work in progress. Higher Education systems have an important role to play in developing these new understandings. One might wonder whether the day might come when a revitalised Yangon University might have its own Blue Plaque stating ‘This is the Founding Place of the KIO’ in recognition that more than one reading of this institution is possible.