Tuesday, 6 September 2011

Wholly inadequate response

UPDATE 7th September 20011:
I am putting this update at the head of the original post so that readers can consider lawyer Peter Tompa's understanding of what I wrote:
Utter Foolishness Now I really have seen everything. PAS critic Paul Barford is so upset with another blog that he has asked the PAS to step in on his behalf.
. As I point out I do not get a penny for answering questions about the fundamentals of archaeological conservation from the British public, and running this blog takes time. The PAS is a professional organization employing some fifty people which has swallowed up at least thirteen million quid of public money for doing precisely such outreach. It is outrageous that thirteen years on into the PAS "outreach" a team of fifty people working for all that time has not produced a single resource to which one can point enquiring members of the public in answer. I am certainly not asking PAS to "step in for me", as the questions posed are ones that proper outreach by them would be answering and would have done so more than a decade ago if these people were doing what they are paid for. I feel merely allowing an FLO to visit a few metal detecting clubs is getting away with not doing public outreach, certainly not getting value for the thirteen million quid thrown at the problem. It is an "inadequate response".

Original text follows:

A while ago (Aug 22nd) I wrote to the PAS:
A metal detectorist based in Bournemouth has recently started a blog about "People's archaeology" I expect you have seen it. In it he (its a he in disguise, not a she) is attacking the tenets of the need for the sustainable management of the archaeological resource and is attracting a comparatively large number of readers (17 followers for example) and thus spreading misinformation over increasingly wider circles.

Over in the UK, you probably are not aware of my blog in which I discuss various issues connected with the sustainable management of the archaeological record and cleaning up the international illicit trade in portable antiquities.

Mr "Candice" seems to have taken exception to this (not the only metal detectorist in the UK of course to find such ideas worrying).

Recently I posted something about the parallels between the illicit trade in 'tainted' antiquities and the trade in poached ivory - a perfectly valid analogy showing the need to clean up the illicit market in antiquities in order to curb illegal artefact hunting and undocumented removal of artefacts from archaeological sites.

As you will see here,
"Candice" says that there is no need to do this because "there are millions of antiquities".

That is not the point of course, and I explain it here.

But it occurs to me that explaining these issues to a member of the British public all by myself is not really my job, but educating the public in such matters and instilling notions of "best practice" is surely very much the task of the Portable Antiquities Scheme (Article 10 of the 1970 UNESCO Convention requires it of states party and it seems to me that PAS is the body set up to best fulfil this function).

Candice's "peoples archaeology" blog is now being widely read amongst metal detectorists and other members of the public in England and Wales (and beyond) and spreading misinformation about "Portable Antiquities" and related issues. Since "Candice" is based in Dorset, could I ask you to keep an eye on what he is writing, and where necessary step in with a comment or two as part of PAS outreach to clarify what he apparently does not understand? Perhaps (through the comments section of the blog) invite him in for a talk about portable antiquities and conservation, or offer to go to one of his club's meetings to discuss it?

You will note that he says in his profile and earlier posts on his blog that he is fully supportive of the PAS, so should be amenable to some PAS guidance and outreach.

I of course also cordially invite you and your colleagues should you so wish, to also send comments and criticism to my blog, should you consider that something say there is not kosher or in line with current PAS policy. I seem to have a lot of readers these days, so if I too am guilty of spreading misinformation, I would be glad of notification of this and closer contact with the UK's Portable Antiquities Scheme..

Today I got a reply which was as curt as evasive of the fundamental problem:
Dear Mr Barford, I have now had the opportunity to look at the links you kindly sent me in your e-mail. If your belief that the author of the "Candice" blog is based in Bournemouth is correct, you may be pleased to know that I my outreach activities frequently take me to the east of the county (Christchurch, Poole and Wimborne Minster) and that I am in contact with both a metal detecting club that meets in Merley and the recently formed Bournemouth Metal Detecting Club.
Regards,/-/ Ciorstaidh Hayward Trevarthen (Finds Liaison Officer)
Historic Environment Team, Dorset County Council, County Hall, Colliton Park,
Dorchester.[...] Visit the Portable Antiquities Scheme website: www.finds.org.uk
Well, of course what I wrote about was the PAS mission to ALL members of the public not those who go out and deliberately seek artefacts to collect and sell. What about the people who foot the bill, have they not the right to see the PAS countering misleading information being put out by PAS' "partners"? What on earth is the use of Ciorstaidh Hayward Trevarthen going along to two metal detecting clubs when what we are talking about is material being put out in the internet right under Ms Hayward Trevarthen's nose by a person who might not be a member of either of them? I suggested the PAS regional contact get in touch with this person and talk some sense to them, Ms Hayward Trevarthen is popping along to a metal detecting club instead.

Looking at the website of the second of the two clubs mentioned, I really cannot see them being too interested in a talk on the "sustainable use of the archaeological record". All they want to do is discuss the "club digs". And this BMDC is one of the "All detectorists abide by the Code of Conduct " clubs - the NCMD code, not the real one. I was amused by the "Landowers permission form" ("If you are a landowner and are willing to allow us to detect on your land then please complete the form below. We very much appreciate your kindness": "Is your land a Site of Special Scientific Interest or been declared an Ancient Monument? If so we are be unable to detect on your land, but thank you for contacting us"). As for the other one, Merley is part of Poole, the only thing I could find out about detecting in Poole is "you are however aloud to metal detect on all pooles beaches".

The invitation at the end of Ms Hayward Trevarthen's email to the PAS website adds insult to injury because it is precisely there that a member of the public should be able to go for answers to these questions as part of outreach. There is nothing of the sort there.

I guess PAS is these days too busy servicing its "partners" the artefact hunters, that it has no time for outreach to the rest of the 60 million people who live in the UK and pay their salaries. Let them read just any old nonsense, eh?

Photo: PAS partying, apparently on the day they discussed the ITV Treasure hunting ("we binned the proposal") programme in December last year. So what kind of PUBLIC outreach are they doing when not swigging beer in the BM and visiting their "partners' the artefact hunters? (Photo PAS website)


Paul Barford said...

Natalie Hunter (http://www.blogger.com/profile/13643410484467251421) says:
"How problematic! Where does the money all go then? To sit people like Ms. Hayward at desks in order to deflect inquiry?

Unrelatedly, do you accept guest posts for your blog? I would've emailed you but I can't seem to find your contact info".

I think they "ignore" rather than "deflect".

No, I do not accept guest bloggers (as you can imagine, not a few people would be glad to have the login details here). If you want to write something for me to post (either under your name or anonymously) I'd be glad to consider it. But if you want to write about heritage matters and education (which I see is your main area of expertise) then please start a blog about it, the more the merrier.

Mo said...

I am not saying that I agree with taking artifacts out of their context however I do think that the PAS should be advising landowners about their legal rights. They should be visiting and advising Young Farmers, NFU etc.

It may make them think twice about letting metal detectorists onto their land when they know where they stand legally rather than the metal detectorists version.

We have seen two major finds recently where it seemed apparent that both landowners were unaware of their rights. One of these cases has now resulted in a high profile fall out between the parties.

On a previous thread there is also the mention of sharing 50/50 everything that comes under the Treasure Act. Well the Crosby Garrett did not, so in the case of a similar find the landowner would lose the entitlement to a share in the proceeds.

Although these detectorists say that they are only in it for the history they seem pretty clued up when it comes down to shafting the landowners.

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