Tuesday, 9 September 2014

Fresh Volunteers to do Finds Recording

The new PastExplorers vacancies (financed through the Heritage Lottery Fund) are now being advertised. One of them is an "Outreach Officer": 
The successful candidate will have a degree in history, archaeology or a related subject, as well as experience of working creatively in a heritage environment. You will have good communication and interpersonal skills and the ability to work with a wide variety of groups, including children, young adults and academics [...] Experience of working with volunteers and of training others is highly desirable.
Note no prior experience with archaeological finds and/or collectables - nor education experience is quoted. In what way would working with children be involved in creating community recording schemes, is the PAS going even further than free volunteer labour to child labour?  The advert gives as the 'Key areas of responsibility', without really indicating precisely what is actually involved:
• To co-ordinate delivery of the project, implementing a volunteer recruitment programme to reach individuals not currently engaged with the PAS, and providing additional volunteering opportunities for those already engaged; and to work with FLOs to recruit volunteers [to?] create local Community Finds Recording Teams to help with recording and outreach at a local level,
• To co-ordinate a volunteer training programme devised by the PAS Central Unit,
• To co-ordinate the project’s outreach programmes and to publicise the project in local communities,
• To create a record of activities and manual for delivering project activity, which will be used by all PAS staff afterwards,
• To maintain online communities in conjunction with the ICT officer, 
• To pursue PASt Explorers partnerships with local and national organisations.
So they are going to create Community Finds Recording Teams from just a loose gaggle of freshly recruited volunteers (where from)which might include children, and write a manual on how to continue to run the PAS on this basis after they've gone? What kind of "outreach" (= education) will these freshly recruited volunteers be doing? What is the intended relationship of this new outreach officer (apart from writing a how-to manual) with the existing professional staff of the PAS? If they are going to maintain "online communities" does that mean resurrecting the PAS forum for interacting with the wider public? If so, how will they avoid it being highjacked to their own uses by metal detectorists this time?

How easy is it to train a person from the street (including kids) with no previous experience in correct identification or archaeological finds, pottery fabrics and stone types for example? How are they going to spot the finds that have been planted or somebody is trying to launder through the Scheme, an issue that exercises the skills of FLOs with many years experience?  What margin of error are the PAS considering is acceptable in these records?

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