Friday, 27 November 2015

English Artefact Hunting: And When PAS has Gone, We Will.... ?

The British love the Portable Antiquities Scheme of England (and for the moment, Wales). Metal detectorists love it because it spares no effort to totally legitimise their exploitive hobby. Archaeologists love it because it gets metal detectorists out of their hair and produces all sorts of "data" (I use the term loosely) to study. The public love the constant flow of ooo-ahhh glittery Treasures each with a neatly-packaged story to go with it (such as the stereotypical "local man does good, surprises the experts" kind of stuff).  Local government so far have been happy that by funding a cheerful lady in an attic room at the end of a long corridor to do the metal detecting head patting and keep Bloomsbury in touch, they can show the public all sorts of said glittery treasures (not making too much noise about who actually pays the Treasure ransoms so it can go in the local museum instead of a private collection).

All this is about to end. In May the PAS underwent a silent shakeup, and is now under new management in a precarious financial situation. As I predicted (and it gives me zero pleasure in being proven right here) the 'local partners' are dropping away. Recently it was Norfolk (you can sign a petition here), now it is Lancashire. Details of the approved Lancashire County Council heritage and other cuts are available here. Rescue are raising questions about how this will affect planning and its role in archaeological resource management. Meanwhile the local FLO is worried:
  7 godz.7 godzin temu  Reading this makes me think my host museum is actually on the list of museums to be cut :-(
 So, in the case of the PAS, it's no longer really a question of "what would happen if..." but "what measures do we have in place to deal with the situation when....". So, what measures have the archaeologists supporting artefact hunting and collecting in England have in place? Wishful thinking and naive hoping only? Of course 18 years of the incessant presentation of archaeology as something anyone with a metal detector can do and get "good results" has not exactly been very helpful in persuading local authorities that HERs are all that important in the public eye as vote-catchers.

All that is needed to tick off the 'archaelogical provision' is a smiling volunteer in an attic room at the end of a long corridor of dusty boxes containing an archive printout of the former HER in a museum prominently displaying a few heaps of coins and a gold torc in some well-lit cases and a few "recent metal detector finds in the news" by the gift shop.

Vignette: Time running out.

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