Thursday, 19 March 2009

"Reams of pointless documents, codes and guidelines"


While on the topic of the missing Strategy Report on Illegal Artefact Hunting in the UK, and who might be interested in it being hidden from view, I am reminded of calls to stop producing such reports altogether. Four years ago, David Barwell until July 2005 chairman of the National Council of Metal Detectorists gave a paper at the March 2005 PAS conference in the British Museum about “empowering finders” (in a gross misinterpretation of the aims of the PAS he took this to mean metal detector using artefact hunters). What he says is still on the PAS website and is quite revealing:

Since it’s (sic) inception, the Portable Antiquities Scheme has been instrumental in awakening the general public and the media to our hobby of metal detecting, it has also woken up English Heritage, the Forestry Commission, English Nature, DEFRA, ALGAO, Tony Robinson and Uncle Tom Cobley and all, and not to be gazumped by the Portable Antiquities Scheme, they are all producing reams of documents, codes and guidelines, some have been threatening, some pointless. Not only have the NCMD been deluged with mountains of paper but it has been very counter productive to the mission of the Portable Antiquities Scheme and has at times served only as a threat to the success of the scheme! Today I want to send a clear message to all these bureaucrats - GET OFF OF (sic) OUR CASE - leave the responsible hobby alone, go and do something you think you understand, like managing sheep or planting trees. You are preventing empowerment by trying to inflict archaeological controls; matters that relate to the detecting hobby should be channelled through the Portable Antiquities Scheme. The Scheme had already succeeded in gaining our confidence while you were messing about formulating rulebooks!
So according to the NCMD, creating heritage conservation policy guidelines and strategic reports is “threatening” and “pointless” when we have the PAS in partnership with metal detectorists (what about the other “finders” Mr Barwell?). Creating policy is furthermore “counter productive to the mission of the Portable Antiquities Scheme” – which Mr Barwell presumably sees as an autonomous body divorced from Britain’s cultural heritage policy. I wonder what kind of "empowerment" is threatened by the UK looking at conservation policies?

It is worthy of note that David Barwell acts as a consultant for Jimmy Sierra’s [James (Jimmy Sierra) Normandi from Forest Knolls California] “Discovery Tours” metal detecting holiday company. I suppose anybody who makes money from finding “productive” sites for US “metal detectorists” to come on paying trips (c. 3500 dollars a head) to take away little pieces of Britain’s archaeological record as keepsakes,* might be more than a little bit interested in policy makers “getting off the case” and leaving "metal detectorists" alone.

The NCMD spokesman tells English Heritage, the public body responsible for heritage policy in England and other conservation organizations to “get off the case” of the effects of artefact hunting and collecting on the finite resources of archaeological record still surviving in the soil of Britain. I say to English Heritage and all the rest of the British heritage management organizations, GET ON THE CASE of the actual long term effects on the exploitation of the archaeological record for entertainment and profit and public perceptions of archaeology as a discipline and an asset.

* The website makes a great play of how "responsibly" they are taking away pieces of the archaeological record. A reader of the 2009 update of their webpage might take note what it indicates that they do NOT comply with. More about these businesses offering artefact hunting holidays maybe another time.

3 comments:

oxfordian said...

I guess it is no great surprise or mystery that Mr Barwell prefers PAS to English Heritage, the Forestry Commission, English Nature, DEFRA and ALGAO but what is a surprise and a mystery is why a public body such as PAS should letting him use their webspace to attack other public bodies!

It gives the appearance of NCMD and PAS versus the rest. I don't think that's the position they were set up or financed to adopt. Some sort of explanation is needed.

Paul Barford said...

I think, Oxfordian, it is there because it is what WAS said at that conference. What is missing is any kind of reaction to it. I presume that in the discussion the staff of the Scheme would have slapped him down for this at the conference (I believe it is being published, or was that the next one? They are all much the same pro-PAS fluff).

I do not think the PAS is there to censor the words of "metal detectorists" is it? They should instead be showing the public who they serve (and who pays for it) all sides of this "metal detecting" and collecting of the common archaeological heritage - warts and all.

Part of the problem with the Forum that PAS scrapped was that it dispayed a goodly selection of the naked oikisms, selfishness, ignorance and hostility of UK "metal detectorists" to public gaze. Pretty uncomfortable if anyone would want to hide those facts from the public for some reason. I say, bring the Forum back. Let the MDs and other collectors show who they are and what they represent and let the public decide if they want to support a scheme that is in partnership with them, or whether some other resolution is more socially acceptable.

oxfordian said...

"I do not think the PAS is there to censor the words of "metal detectorists" is it? They should instead be showing the public who they serve (and who pays for it) all sides of this "metal detecting" and collecting of the common archaeological heritage - warts and all."

Fair point. There should be no censorship and everything should be displayed, warts and all. But presumably more people than Mr Barnwell spoke at that conference. How come only his contribution was selected to appear in PAS's list of documents? I remain puzzled.

Whether he was slapped down that day I don't know but what is clear is that he was subsequently given publicly funded webspace to attack a range of public conservation organisations and there is no comment or slapping down alongside what he says. That cannot be right.

 
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