Friday, 8 October 2010

National Council on Metal Detecting Goes Back on Responsible Metal Detecting Agreement

In Britain, the National Council on Metal Detecting (NCMD) claims to represent "responsible metal detectorists". To what degree is that actually true and to what extent is that label a smokescreen? NCMD membership requires each member to:
observe the [NCMD] Constitution, to adhere to the NCMD Code of Conduct and be free from conviction for any criminal offence relating to metal detecting activities.
The NCMD Code of conduct says the member must:
acquaint yourself with current NCMD policy relating to the Voluntary Reporting of Portable Antiquities.
Which is?

The only document on this matter is that appended as Appendix D to the current NCMD Constitution, the NCMD 'Policy Statement on the Recording of Finds Data with Third Parties'. This reads:
The NCMD recognises that landowners hold a greater legal title to all non-Treasure items found by metal detection or other means on their land. In doing so, NCMD members need to recognise that they have a duty of care to ensure that they uphold this at all times. This duty also includes an intent to ensure that before recording any finds with third parties they have full permission from the landowner/tenant/occupier to do so and then only to an accuracy and detail to which all relevant parties feel comfortable. Issues surrounding the potential publication of find spots data, such as on the Internet and elsewhere as well as the possible use of such data by recipients should be considered in discussions with landowners. Where necessary, recording organisations should be informed of any required restrictions on publication at the time of recording and should make provision for this information on recording forms and/or receipts.(Appendix D to the NCMD Constitution AGM June 2007).
So what happened to the assurance given when it agreed to this Code along with a number of other organizations that a condition of NCMD membership placed on all members would be adherence to the Code of Practice for Responsible Metal Detecting?

There is not even a link to it on their website...

So is it "responsible detecting" to go onto land to hoik things out where the finder does not have the freedom to report with adequate "accuracy" what they have found. No, of course it is not. Does the NCMD state that? No, it does not.

First of all, if it the farmer who has issues with the degree of reporting, it is up to the farmer to come to an agreement with these "third parties" (the PAS in England and Wales and the Treasure Unit in Scotland). The metal detectorist cannot act as the farmer's agent in such matters. Secondly, while the finds are the property of the landowner, the information gained as the result of the artefact hunter's search (what was found where is the intellectual property of the artefact hunter, which is not owned by the farmer who has given him permission to go onto the land to obtain that information). The NCMD policy is not in accord with British law.

What does it mean that a metal detectorist will discuss the "possible use of such data by recipients "? The data are recorded in Historic Environment Registers in order to manage the finite cultural heritage (historic environment), that is their "use". Putting those data there is the whole rationale behind Britain's "partnership" of artefact hunters. If the whole process is automatically geared by NCMD policy at the very beginning to limit the accuracy and usability of those data, then what use are they? Are the data supplied by all NCMD members to the HERs of deliberately lowere usability and accuracy? What kind of "responsible" approach to the historical record is being engendered by the NCMD and its policies of obfuscation, and refusal to ensure the adherence of all its members to the Code of Responsible Metal Detecting?

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