attack of Annie Byard, Oxfordshire FLO on "this site", was on Heritage Action (rather than Rescue). In reply to the eminently reasonable observation HA made about the so-called "Ebroacum Hoard" of shattered pennies sold by metal detectorists at Spink's, she's banging on about "the detectorists that do waive their right to reward and donate to museums, or donate objects that aren't governed by the treasure act". She then refers to those who think rather less of this phenomenon than she does as "somewhat prejudiced and ill informed". This is typical of the PAS. They refuse to engage with any sensible discussion of a topic, and then shout insults down at the grassroots folk from the top of their ivory tower. "Trolls!", "Prejudiced and Ill-informed!", "Buzz off and leave us alone!".
"Ill-informed" Heritage Action are not. The only prejudice here seems to be coming from another quarter, if you ask me. The PAS gobble up millions of pounds of public money to liaise with artefact collectors, and you would think we'd be able to get some simple facts and figures out of them about the effects of current policies on portable antiquities after seventeen years of this liaison and partnership. But that kind of factual interaction seems not to be what Bloomsbury sees to be its function.
I really wonder whether Ms Byard has actually cottoned on to what Heritage Journal is about. She seems to think that a blog t"o promote awareness and the conservation of the incomparable but often-threatened prehistoric sites of Britain, Ireland and beyond" should carry stories that highlight "the detectorists that do waive their right to reward and donate to museums". She seems to be confusing an artefact-centric view of the past with site preservation. A hoard hoiked out of a site is a hole in that site, whether or not the hoiker gets a reward. A hoard hoiked out of a site by metal detectorists digging blind from the top down is not a hoard recovered in any way that enhances out knowledge about the stratigraphy of that site. It is not "prejudiced" or "ill informed" to consider - like the conservation group HA - that archaeological preservation is not about saving artefacts, it is about archaeological context - I though that is what the PAS were saying back in 2003 was their main "aim" (now dropped in favour of another set off ":aims" stressing "partnership". Partnership in what?
As Heritage Action point out:
we aren’t in the PAS game of pretending the majority (in this matter and in the whole of best practice) are well behaved and responsible. They aren’t, and even PAS has conceded that in its published figures. We aren’t apologists for metal detecting and our continuance isn’t dependant upon praising them. Can PAS say the same? “Prejudiced” means taking a particular line in defiance of the evidence. Hasn’t PAS done that for 17 years?There are many places on the Internet where one can hear all manner of 'good news' stories about metal detecting. Many of them originate in British Museum Press Office press releases. They are plastered all over the newspapers, national and local, on Facebook, twitter, metal detectorists slap each other on the back posting links to them on dozens of forums and blogs. There is no shortage of "news" online and on paper about this or that detectorist who is a "hero of the British heritage". The question is why is Ms Byard expecting Heritage Journal to be repeating them too, and in the name of what? It's called Heritage Action, not Heritage Parrot. I think she's getting confused, I do hope she's not been complaining in the same vein that the WWF website carries no stories on the humane side of fur farms.
UPDATE 31st March 2015
As Ms Byard requested, I have updated this post referring to her response, but decided to make a separate post of it. You can find it here.