Friday, 30 January 2015

"RESCUE: Questions to the political parties": Where is Article 10?

"Nope, I see no problem with
article 10... Trade's OK"
Rescue have written to MPs and politicians across the spectrum on behalf of their members to gauge where each party stands on issues key to the future of heritage protection in Britain ("RESCUE: Questions to the political parties"). Key issues highlighted include the protection of local heritage planning advisory services and Historic Environment Records, local and regional museums, the correct solution for Stonehenge and the future of English Heritage.

What is from the point of view of the subject matter of this blog very interesting is the lack of any mention of the Portable Antiquities Scheme and artefact hunting and collecting per se (but see Tim Loughton's question 14 July 2014 and the answer, allocated funding goes only up to 2015-16 but "future funding arrangements will be considered as part of the next spending review"). What I do see as a potentially significant point is the question:
Are you aware that Britain stands in breach of several significant articles of the Valetta Convention (specifically all or part of Articles 2, 3, 4, 5, 7 and 9)? If so, how do you propose to address the issue and to ensure that we comply with our international obligations under the Convention?
Articles 2 and 3 directly affect (among other things) antiquity collecting and the issuing of permits. Go, RESCUE, go.

I was saddened to see that they omitted mention of Valetta Article 10. Why is this omitted from the list of 'significant articles' of which Britain is in breach? Britain is one of the biggest global consumers of decontextualised archaeological artefacts for private collection (see this case involving Rescue just last week), and here we see that this is not something the parties are being asked about. Policies on illicit antiquities and the antiquities trade are apparently considered not 'significant'. Why is this issue continually being marginalised by British archaeologists? In many other countries in Europe and North America, the archaeological bodies take their responsibilities more seriously than in the UK. Why? Are they really all too worried about what the metal detectorists and dealer pals will say? Does this issue not concern Rescue in any way? Look at the six elements of Article 10:
10 (i) not done yet -despite being mooted in the Nighthawking report,
10 (ii) hardly ever done, and then, largely as a private initiative,
10 (iii) not done. No such body.
10 (iv) who knows?
10 (v) see iii
10 (vi) "to restrict, as far as possible, by education, information, vigilance and co-operation, the transfer of elements of the archaeological heritage obtained from uncontrolled finds or illicit excavations or unlawfully from official excavations"
Britain-total-fail, just look at! The Portable Antiquities Scheme does none of these things, and if it does not, what body have we that should? 
 And I personally would say Article 10 is a very minimalistic approach to the issues.

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