Friday, 11 June 2010

More Plugging of the ACE

Once again the ACCG in a press release (and see here) is plugging its pet project the scandalous "Ancient Coins for Education". This uses free gifts of ancient coins donated by coin dealers in what purports to be an "educational" scheme, but in fact has a less altruistic agenda. It is quite clearly intended to create a future market for ancient coins and support for no-questions-asked trade in ancient artefacts by ensnaring young children in the hobby. A hobby which as I have shown numerous times on this blog shoves aside discussions of ethical considerations, is riddled with self-deception, and which in part is based on the market being supplied by those doing business with those who break cultural property protection and export laws (for example in the Balkans), a hobby which closes its discussion forums to outside view. A hobby that as a parent I certainly would not approve of my child taking up, mixing with people of this calibre, and would advise other parents against letting their kids get involved in. There are other ways of encouraging an interest in, and knowledge about, the past.

I've expressed my opinion on the ACE and what lies behind their activities before and really cannot be bothered to do so again (see here in particular). I am not alone in looking askance at their methods and agenda, and particularly the material used in these lessons (here and here).

I was however interested in one section of the ACCG press release which (falsely) claims that as well as lessons in loot appreciation these coineys are giving their captive audience "archaeology" lessons in the form of "simulated digs where they can excavate authentic ancient coins". (Whoopee.) But:
The coins used in this project are mostly in poorer condition than the coins used as inspiration and prizes for the essay contests or in the museum displays. Though actually quite common, they are typical of the coins also found at most Roman period archaeological sites.
So where do they come from then? Are these coins used in this simulation not in fact actually from foreign archaeological sites? If so, how insulting that they were looted and then used by the ACE to show kids how they should have been recovered from the ground inswtead of reaching the no-questions-asked market. Is this actually pointed out to the kids in the ACE "educational" packs that accompany these decontextualised archaeological artefacts (and if not, what kind of an education" are they providing)?

Secondly, note the implied dichotomy, the crappy coins are the ones that come from archaeological sites, but it is hinted that the "nicer ones" used as "inspiration and prizes [...] or in the museum displays" do not. They come from elsewhere? So where? Coin elves?

Photo: Wendy Owens, 15-year old schoolkid from Linganore High School (just down the road from Peter Tompa's office) won a denarius (of Trajan ?) for an essay that she wrote in her Latin class. Lots of writing on the label, but I bet it does not say where it came from, how it got on the market and how it got to America, but we can guess. (Bill Ryan/The Gazette). Wendy without the coin, you look just like my niece, currently studying to be a nurse.


Anonymous said...

Hi Paul,
Like you I wouldn't want my kids or grandchildren mixed up with the stuff you complain about so I'm very opposed to dealers going within a million miles of schools (ditto metal detectorists, who insinuate themselves into British classrooms in much the same way).

Your posting summarises things very well. Could you not send a link to it to some education bodies in the States? I rather think they'd get the point. Maybe they've only ever heard the dealers' version of reality?

Paul Barford said...

I think it would be very interesting (though time consuming) to contact as many teachers as possible who had taken part in the Scheme and alerting them to the controversy about it.

I'd be interested whether their reaction was as defiant as the dealers and collectors, or whether they would be concerned that they had not been presented with all the facts by ACE-ers [who like anyone involved in ancient coins over there "avoid such discussions like the very plague"].

But then is this something we should be having to do? Where are the concerned archaeologists of America?

Its like the British archaeologist who is scared to say "boo" to metal detectorists over there and criticise the All-powerful PAS.

Over in the USA, the AIA says a few things, but when there is action to be taken actually educating the educators, we do not see any evidence that any such action is being taken. [AIA, I'd be happy to find out I was wrong there, where are you?]

Meanwhile we all saw a lovely picture of Mr AIA Pressie Rose sitting smiling holding hands with collector Shelby White.

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