Closure of Portable Antiquities Collecting and Heritage Issues Blog.
LONDON 31/03/10: In a surprise announcement this evening to coincide with the end of the 2009/10 financial year, Roger Blend, the Head of the Potable Antiquities Scheme (PAS) indicated that at there would be no more funding for the continuation of the highly unpopular Portable Antiquities Collecting and Heritage Issues blog, and that it would now be closing.
The blog had been a collaborative effort of members of Department of Public Education and Outreach of the PAS and had been appearing since 12th July 2008. The format of the project was intended to resemble the personal blog of a fictional archaeologist, a “Paul Barford” who was a serious opponent of certain traits in artefact collecting. “The idea”, explained Michael Lewes, deputy Director of the Scheme which is based in the Brutish Museum in central London, had been "to show collectors in the United Kingdom what kind of ideological opposition collecting could soon be up against, in order to encourage them to work more closely with the Scheme, in a partnership which would serve to create a form of legitimization of this archaeologically useful hobby”.
Lewes said the project had certainly done much over the past two years to cement relations within the hobby and to some extent between hobbyists and archaeologists, “but it outran its usefulness”, he confessed. “We found that some collectors, particularly the younger ones were taking the rants too seriously and were being induced to leave the hobby, and this was leading to the fall in numbers of objects recorded”.
Another factor which Lewes said had led to the decision to call a halt was the sheer amount of work that was needed to keep up the pretence. The problem that nobody had ever met its author was resolved by making him an ex-patriate, but the lack of material to write about was a problem. “We were let down by our own side” Lewes admitted, “very little useful counter-debate was emerging from the collectors, who seemed to find nothing to say in their own defence”. Much of the writing was actually done by Adam Doubney, Finds Liaison Officer for Huntingtonshire helped by the PAS information technology specialist Dan Peat working from home. Dr Roger Blend thanked them tonight for all their hard work and added that the blog had been a useful exercise not only because it had helped cement relationships within Britain's archaeological-artefact collecting partnership, but also showed members of the UK public "how ridiculous and illogical are the claims of the conservationists who decry collaboration with collectors which is going swimmingly, we are seeing more objects removed from archaeological contexts than ever before".
Note for editors:
1) The Potable Antiquities Scheme is a voluntary scheme to record archaeological objects found by members of the public in England and Wales. Every year many thousands of objects are removed from their archaeological contexts by by metal-detector users. Such discoveries, properly recorded can offer an important source for understanding our past, and since September 1997 the Potable Antiquities Scheme Finds Liaison Officers have examined over 544163 such objects, but many more are removed which go completely unrecorded.
2) Dr Roger Blend has an OBE for "Services to Heritage".
Not for release before 18:00, Wednesday 31st March 2010.