What sort of things to British metal detectorists get up to in the closed parts of their forums the reader may wonder? Well, yesterday a quick review of one of the ones I listed below, the so-called European Federation of Detectorists (aka “Sheddy’s Detecting Forum”) revealed some interesting material related to our discussion of the relationship between artefact hunting with metal detectors and the management of the archaeological resource. One thread however is more related to what David Ian said about the personal attacks archaeologists may expect to experience when the criticise the pro-collecting lobby.
"Sheddy" is, I believe, the pseudonym of Richard Lincoln, garden shed retailer from Canvey Island. The replies are telling. One EFID member immediately replied with tautological emoticons for: “laughing”, “Laughing”, “Twisted evil”, “laughing”Posted by Sheddy: 14.10.2008, 18:31 Paul Barford contact details,Anyone want his email address, home address and telephone
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One pseudonymous character, a “Burge” adds:
lets have his home address, I'm sure I could find a nice soft juicy dog turd to send him, all wrapped up in nice Christmas papera ”Gary J.”: advises:
Nevermind asking who wants it, just print it, then no one knows who,s copied it for ulterior motives.Another concurs: “this thing is good”.
Good? What is good about it that Mr Lincoln is now offering publicly to distribute my home address and phone number to all the metal detecting hoi polloi? I do not think for a minute that it will be to send my family and myself Christmas cards, or telephone me in office hours to ask advice what to do about a find they have made. I think its pretty clear from the context what sort of "ulterior motives" the metal detectorists of Britain would have in distributing amongst themselves Paul Barford's personal data. Mr “Burge” has indicated the sort of harassment of myself and my family he has in mind.
Unlike the “Sheddy”s and all the rest of this pseudonymous bunch, I have never been afraid to use my real name in writing about archaeological matters (and whether or not my more diffident 'politically correct' British colleagues accept this, the effects of artefact hunting and collecting on the archaeological resource is indeed an archaeological matter par excellence). I say what I think on these matters, and do not see why I should have no reason to hide that, especially in the framework that makes "heritage heroes" and culturally-motivated connoisseurs of these people. If what I say is uncomfortable to some, let them show that my argumentation is faulty. Simple as that.
For the same reason, neither has my email address been hidden from any of them. As a result over the years I have had numerous “off-list” communications signed by many artefact hunters, metal detectorists and collectors sending messages of support and saying things that they would not dare on the forums for fear of running foul of the "Sheddy"s there. Or asking questions. I always have answered these (I have three to deal with after writing this).
I also have had many less interesting emails delivered to my various email accounts. They are almost all cowardly and anonymous. Some contain not too-thinly veiled threats, some abuse or general nuisance mail. One guy - a Wiltshire "businessman" - regularly sent an email with animal noises two times a day for several weeks after I said something about where he was "detecting" (a known Roman site). I suppose he thought his puerile behaviour was a great laugh. This is aside from the 'regular' on-list abuse and derision which critics of collecting attract on an almost daily basis (see for example blogs of certain coin dealers, the Unidrot-L discussion forum, the several "metal detecting" forums etc)
My wife, who is not an archaeologist, does not understand why her husband, home and family life are the target of such things. “What is it you write” she asks me, “that leads people in Britain to behave this way?” Well, what indeed? This is a question the British public could be asking themselves, this is after all their past, their heritage these people are taking away and hoarding somewhere (or flogging off). Please take a look at the blog (and buy the book when it comes out). If artefact hunting and collecting are the benign and harmless pursuits of a cultured few, then there must be answers to the issues I and my colleagues raise. If there are no answers, and the only recourse these people have is this sort of behaviour, what does this mean about artefact hunting and collecting?
PS. The next day Mr Richard Lincoln did indeed post up an address and phone number on at least one metal detecting forum, telling his fellow "detectorists" that this is where Paul Barford and his family live. An open invitation to carry out the threats made earlier.