A few weeks ago as the result of some problems some US portable antiquity collectors were having with the law, I asked in this blog about South Dakota: "Presumably the region has had some rescue archaeology where is the material from that archived? Perhaps it is a lack of cultural outreach about the rich prehistory of the territory of North America which leads its citizens to hanker for bits and pieces looted from archaeological sites across the seas?" Well, it turns out it had. But not for long.
In a move which will probably produce excited anticipation in the ranks of anti-archaeological collectors' groups like the Ancient Coin Collectors' Guild, South Dakota State legislature has reportedly completely cut the State Archaeologist's office out of the state budget, which provides nothing for its continued operation. The State Archaeological Research Center in Rapid City is reported to be extremely active in public outreach and have been good stewards of cultural sites for many years. This facility also houses all Federal collections for the state (as well as some others).
I guess then that the state's administrators assume that it will henceforth be in the scattered personal collections of pot-diggers and arrowhead collectors that various newly discovered bits of South Dakota's archaeological heritage are likely to be curated in future. It remains to be seen whether the citizens of South Dakota perceive a need for any more of their land's (pre)history and how they will satisfy it if they get rid of the archaeologists.
I suppose that while collectors' groups persist in persuading the US public that the real roots of America's past lie in the "pieces of past in your hand" cuneiform tablets and cylinder seals of a no-questions-asked market, the ancient coins and "partifacts" metal detected and dug from Balkan and Middle Eastern archaeological sites bought via the Black Market, then there's not much perceived need to spend money on producing proper information about the past of their land.
What are the long-term consequences for archaeology of the effects on public perceptions of the discipline caused by the current laissez-faire policies in some countries on portable antiquity collecting? I think this is something the pro-collecting lobby should be thinking very hard about. When is portable antiquity collecting "archaeology for all" and when is it not?