Thursday, 31 January 2013

Wassat? Engagement with the Public? We'll Ask Our Boss First ...

Pretty astounding, the PAS are "too busy" to spend a few minutes to exchange a few thoughts with a grassroots conservation organization representing a section of the British public passionately interested in the past and its proper study interpretation and preservation (Alan Simkins [Heritage Action], "Why you might not get to know your FLO", 31/01/2013).

Heritage Action have been inviting archaeologists to share a few thoughts in a series called "Inside the Mind of…". So far the eleven archaeologists asked have been perfectly happy to do so. As HA says "we’ve been struck by how generous they have been with their time no matter how prominent they are". The series editor thought it would be a good idea to do something similar by putting some relevant questions to the specific subset of the archaeology world actually paid to do full-time liaison with the British public, to outreach to them  – the Finds Liaison Officers (FLOs) at the Portable Antiquities Scheme. As the recount:
Sadly it went pear-shaped. One of them seems to have contacted their boss, Dr Roger Bland at the British Museum, asking if they should respond and he sent us a message expressing surprise we had contacted the individuals direct “as they will come to me and my colleague Michael Lewis for advice on how to respond.” To say I was surprised in return would be an understatement as the questions were very similar to the ones sent to other archaeologists, completely uncontroversial and personal and nothing to do with PAS policies. 
I'm not surprised. From my own experience with corresponding with these folk, it is quite clear that the Organization is run in precisely such a fashion. Very few PAS staff will answer even a simple question (IF they answer at all) without consulting it with Comrade-Director in Bloomsbury Head Office who will tell them what to say, or deal with it himself - usually in such a dismissive fashion as Heritage Action were subject to. From my experience of dealing with them, FLOs seem rarely to have a voice of their own. I'd therefore say there is little point in sending these folk any invitation to share their own thoughts on the ten questions. As things stand, all I reckon you'd get is 'What my boss Told Me To Say". Back to Mr Simkins:
In fact not one of the 39 FLOs has said they would be willing to take part and only two have even replied (both using remarkably similar wording and saying they were far too busy but wishing us luck with the project). Hmmm. If people can tweet they can surely find a few minutes. And I don’t think FLOs are the only archaeologists with very busy jobs yet many archaeologists have found a few minutes for us. 
Pathetic. I bet if it was "Searcher" magazine asking they'd geta a Bloomsbury-Directive and there's be 39 monthly installments.

One question, did HA ask Roger Bland to participate in "in the mind of..."?

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