Thursday, 11 June 2015

CFRTs: PAS-led 'Karaoke Recording' goes Live

"Want to get involved in the PAS? Check out the awesome new county pages!" pant the sycophants excitedly as the PAS launch "something", not clear what, as what we see at the moment looks like just a rehash of the old blog pages (like Leicestershire with the "Boswell Boar" as "news", and the HER officer's 2014 Day of Archaeology piece). Now, it is still not clear what the Heritage Lottery Funded PASt Explorers (borrowed name from something else) "initiative" actually consists of and what relation it bears to what the PAS was set up to do (or rather what it now sees this year's shapeshifting incarnation to be). The blurb has always been very vague: "a five-year project to recruit and train volunteers from local communities to record finds found by members of the public".

Apparently these "County Pages" are intended to be "one of the primary means of disseminating information about, and generated by, those involved in PASt Explorers".
The content for each set of County Pages will be generated by members of the Community Finds Recording Teams (CFRT) of PAS volunteers alongside their local Finds Liaison Officer. The Pages will contain background information and case studies in the form of blogs, features about finds and general research. [...] In time, there will also be links to finds guides, recording guides and other learning resources [...]
Eh? So they are training volunteers to record, and "in time" they will produce the very fundamental material that is needed to start that training? What kind of recording is going to be taking place until they actually pull their fingers out and write those guidelines (and in fact after seventeen years of Scheme functioning, why are these guidelines not already up on the main website? What are "community finds"? How are they defined and how will "community finds" be differentiated from what the FLO records?  Where are the records of these community finds recorded by the Karaoke recorders going to be, in the main database, or in separate little karaoke database fragments in the County Pages?

The piece finishes with the expression of a hope that readers will:
enjoy exploring the County Pages and discovering more about the work of the Portable Antiquities Scheme, its Finds Liaison Officers and volunteers, and the finds they record.
I rather think the aim of the PAS is to record the material being brought to light by various activities of members of the public so the information about what has been found where is not lost and made available. We already have a website for  "discovering about the work of the PAS and its FLOs" and we'd have a lot more information if they'd open their forum to public view. We have seen that the "work of its volunteers" is effectively shielded from view in both the database and overall statistics by a set of codes which deliberately obscure their identity and the nature of the work they are doing.  It seems an odd use of resources to me to make available at additional expense information which is hidden by the same organization from the outset. Why not just restructure the archive to reveal that information? In effect, those who want to discover more about the work of the PAS and the FLOs do not need any new websites with bells and whistles to pad out the picture. What is clearly needed is more transparency on the main website so that it is possible to use it to analyse just what it is the PAS is doing. At the moment, this is impossible, and it is difficult to avoid the conclusion that this is entirely deliberate.

UPDATE 17th June 2015
It now turns out that this post missed the main fact (mainly because it was not announced), that the PAS had itself been dismembered as a national scheme and scattered within the BM in an "internal' reorganization. This had happened on the 1st May. The relationship between the CFRTs and the FLOs and the rest of the remnants of the old Scheme remains unclear. Meanwhile look at the cutesy tone of this independent detectorist and PAS self-recorder's contribution to the 'County Pages' ... yuk. This is today's British Museum... This is what has become of the PAS.

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