the twenty questions I sent earlier. Accustomed to being among those almost totally ignored (my FOI revealed it was an official BM policy) by Roger Bland's PAS, I was somewhat taken aback to actually receive some reasonable answers to perfectly reasonable questions. Perhaps shifting the PAS to a department dedicated to 'education and interaction' with audiences rather than being an extension of the 'Department of Coins and other Round Things' bodes well. I sincerely hope that this fresh start means this is how the LVA PAS intends to go on. Thank you.
Here is what was written at the top:
Dear Mr Barford,Now that's how to do it. The "further information" is a duplicated statement about the changes to the PAS purporting to be from the end of April. This is intended to be an answer to my first question:
Thank you for your enquiry. We have responded to each of your questions below and have attached further information to this email. Kind regards,
Susan Raikes Head of Learning, Volunteers and Audiences
Michael Lewis Head of Portable Antiquities and Treasure
Now, when I say there was no official announcement made, it means I have checked and found that no official announcement was made. I am not a coin collector or metal detectorist. When I wrote - as far as I am aware - there really was was no such official statement anywhere in public, least of all on the PAS or British Museum website, which is the first place you'd expect to see it posted. So I am unclear what the PAS consider the phrase "made available" to mean. Certainly it seems the writer of the British Archaeology piece that first brought the information to most people ('The End of an Era: PAS Moves, Roger Bland Leaves' Sunday, 14 June 2015) had seen a document which contains information found in the 'full statement'. To whom and how had this information been 'made available'?The Fate of the National Scheme1) Why has no official announcement been made about the dissolution of the Department of Portable Antiquities and Treasure with which so many members of the public have hitherto had contact?The Portable Antiquities Scheme (PAS) has been part of the British Museum since 2006 and from 2012 operated as part of the British Museum Department of Britain, Europe and Prehistory, at which point Michael Lewis became Head of Portable Antiquities and Treasure. The attached statement was made available in May 2015 following the decision to bring the Portable Antiquities and Treasure team into the same department (Learning, Volunteers and Audiences) as the rest of the British Museum’s activity across the UK.
In answer to my question, the BM deny it to be the case that there had been no public announcement because a "statement was made available" - except it seems nobody saw it, nobody cites it, nobody discussed it. I reproduce both versions of that statement for the benefit of those who, like me, never saw it:
The Portable Antiquities Scheme (PAS) has been part of the British Museum since 2006. In 2012 Michael Lewis was appointed as Head of Portable Antiquities and Treasure when Roger Bland became Keeper of the Department of Britain, Europe and Prehistory.Here is the "FULL STATEMENT", quite why two were felt needed is an interesting question since neither seem to have been widely distributed.
From 1 May 2015 the management of the Portable Antiquities Scheme and the Treasure Act has transferred to the Department of Learning, Volunteers and Audiences. A review of where PAS and Treasure best fits within the Museum showed that this move best reflects the impact of PAS and Treasure across the UK.
Through a range of programmes coordinated by the Department of Learning, Volunteers and Audiences, the British Museum shares its collections and expertise with over 200 UK museums every year. PAS and Treasure are vitally important programmes of activity for the British Museum and link into this national programme of collaboration of loans and wider work with partner museums across the country. The British Museum lent 2,700 objects to 187 venues in the UK in 2013/14, including 1,200 long-term loans. As a result 3 million people saw British Museum objects in museums outside of London, compared to the 2 million UK visitors that travelled to the site in Bloomsbury. Increasingly finders and landowners have waived their right to a reward, enabling museums to acquire Treasure at reduced or no cost and contributing to the wider dissemination of knowledge across the UK.
Another core element of PAS and Treasure benefitting from this move is the Portable Antiquities Scheme's database that holds records of objects and coins found by the public. The two staff members responsible for this database will now sit in the new Digital and Publishing department at the British Museum. The database lies at the heart of the scheme and it can be even better supported by new expertise and extra resources in the Museum’s digital team, allowing it to flourish as technology advances.
29 April 2015This text says less about the new arrangements than it does about what Bland's leadership achieved. Totally unexplained is why there is even a mention of "Roger Bland, Keeper of Britain, Europe and Prehistory has today announced his retirement", given the earlier information. Have they now no partnership gallery in Suffolk with the Sutton Hoo material? But then what on earth do "partnership galleries" have to do with a national scheme of recording finds in private collections? There is a great difference between the BM loaning 'objects and expertise' and using external museums to finance the gathering of information for a database being compiled in the British Museum.
From 1 May the management of the Portable Antiquities Scheme (PAS) and the Treasure Act will transfer from the Department of Britain, Europe and Prehistory to the Department of Learning, Volunteers and Audiences. Following a review of where PAS and Treasure best fits within the Museum, it was decided this move best reflects the impact of PAS and Treasure across the UK. There are no planned changes to staff as a result. Roger Bland, Keeper of Britain, Europe and Prehistory has today announced his retirement.
Funding for PAS and Treasure has been reduced by 6% in line with the grant-in-aid cuts to the British Museum and other non-governmental bodies.
The Portable Antiquities Scheme and the Treasure Act are administered by the British Museum and encourage the voluntary recording of archaeological objects found by members of the public in England and Wales. Every year many thousands of objects are discovered, many of these by metal-detector users, but also by people whilst out walking, gardening or going about their daily work. History is constantly re-written thanks to the scheme with over 1 million archaeological objects and coins found by the public being recorded.
This is a vitally important programme of activity for the British Museum, linking into its national programme of collaboration with partner museums across the country. Increasingly finders and landowners have waived their right to a reward, enabling museums to acquire Treasure at reduced or no cost. In 2012, 137 parties waived their right to a reward in 93 cases; more than double the number of cases five years ago. Museums have also benefited from funding being made available through the Art Fund, the Headley Trust, The Heritage Lottery Fund, the National Heritage Memorial Fund, and the V&A Purchase Grant fund, which all funded museum acquisitions of Treasure in 2012.
Through a range of programmes the BM shared its collections and expertise with over 200 UK museums in 2013/14. The British Museum has 7 long-term Partnership Galleries in museums in York, Newcastle, Birmingham, Truro, Carlisle, Glasgow and Manchester. The British Museum lent 2,700 objects to 187 venues in the UK in 2013/14, including 1,200 long-term loans. As a result 3 million people saw British Museum objects in museums outside of London, compared to the 2 million UK visitors that traveled to the site in Bloomsbury.
I will present the other answers in the post below as written, and then below that I wish to comment on what we have (and have not) been told.