Thursday, 22 November 2012

Focus on UK Metal Detecting: Rewarding the Wrong Thing?

Dorset County Museum needs to raise £23,000 to buy the Chesil Mirror, a 1st century AD copper-alloy mirror found by a treasure hunter, Carl Walmsley between Abbotsbury and Chickerell in 2010.
See "Focus on UK Metal Detecting: Iron Age "Skully" and His Mirror to be Sold" PACHI blog, 28 September 2012. Anyway, the Museum is holding a fundraising lecture to help raise the funds to pay the metal detectorist off for beeping-up this object from the place it was lying 45cm down deep in an undisturbed grave.
Professor Andrew Fitzpatrick from Wessex Archaeology will be giving a talk at 7.30pm on Friday, November 30, about the mirror’s discovery and what it adds to our knowledge of Iron Age and Roman Dorset. [...]  Tickets for the lecture cost £10 from the museum shop on 01305 756827. 
So, if they manage to get 2300 people to come, paying a tenner each (and Professor Fitzpatrick resigns from a honorium and travelling expenses), that should do it. Mr Walmsley cvcan get his reward and the British public will be able to see a bit more of the common archaeological heritage that's been ripped out of the ground by a beep-box owning Treasure hunter.

Mind you, the folk are coming to hear about what this object and its assocuiations in the excavated grave "add to our knowledge" of Iron Age and Roman life in the region. Presumably the Museum realises that Mr Walmsley recounting how his box bleeped (or screeched or whatever) and he dug a hole and pulled out a "Skully"  is not going to bring too many (non-metal-detecting) punters in. It's the "knowledge' they are selling, not the mere hoiking out of artefacts. So, in that case, as in the lecture being held a day earlier, one might ask why it is the beep-box bloke that gets the dosh these people are paying to learn about what new knowledge we have, rather than the people (archaeologists from Wessex Archaeology) who produced the documentation which produced that knowledge. Beeping just shows where the knowledge may be found, it does not in itself generat anything but an archaeological problem - which then has to be paid for.   

Wouldn't it be nice if the PAS could tell it like it is and justify this, without simply recoursing to the argument "it's the law, innit?". If that's the way they go about it, there is no way there will ever be any incentive to revise that law.

Anon, 'Museum lecture hopes to boost rare mirror appeal' Dorset Echo, 20th November 2012

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