Wednesday, 23 December 2015

Incoherent FLO Interview

Metal detectorist "gardansolyn" has posted a video called "FLO Interview" on You Tube. If I was to set about creating a caricature of a tekkie and his "views" and mannerisms, this is what it'd look like. At the beginning he is seen firming down a clod of turf after he's hoiked and pocketed something, and stating that he thinks that "it's a part' ov being a responsible detectrist". No, being a responsible artefact hunter is not only connected with shutting farm gates but reducing and mitigating the damage done to the archaeological record (innit?).

Also, he says "annuver fing, always make sure you record your finds, a lo'a people arn't sure what is Treasure and what is not Treasure, what should be recorded and what shouldn't (sic)". It seems to me whether something is Treasure or not is by no means the only criterion determining whether it needs recording to qualify as a "responsible detectorist".

Anyway, just to make sure that fellow detedctorists know about responsibly reporting Treasure finds, he goes along to Annie Byard ("from the Oxfordshire FLO [sic]"), when she is very very busy at a commercial rally, no less, and asks her... all about the Treasure Act (!).  There were 75 people there, 68 finds recorded, the rest being pocketed without record.

After she's reiterated what the Treasure Act is and how it works, he then stumbles through a question about how the "contribution" of Treasure Hunting contributes to "preserving British history". This provided the FLO with a key opportunity for some pukka online archaeological outreach, hoiking artefacts does not preserve anything much. That's not what the lady in the yellow anorak said though. She fluffed it. "You're doing well".

He then gets her to say that in countries with different laws a PAS would be a better way of dealing with preserving the archaeological record than leaving in situ and preventing its commercial exploitation. This whole bit of hers from here to here are an egregious example of PAS-based  ignorance and arrogance. No Ms Byard a PAS would not be "very successful" [to record finds]" in countries where pilfering the archaeological record for collectables is illegal.  Making it legal so you can then set up a PAS to record what is hoiked is not any kind of solution to anything. What nonsense.

"Have we got it right?" asks Gary the tekkie. The answer is surprising: "good question, I've not really thought about that one" (prompting the question, what do FLOs think about?) I suggest that FLOs might do well to think about things like how what they do fits into the wider scheme of things. I would say that is fundamental to giving answers to questions from the public (who pay for what they do) precisely like that one. But then engaging in any form of heritage debate seems to be the last thing most FLOs are in any way equipped for.

It goes from bad to worse, the FLO is induced into saying that "organized digs" (ie commercial rallies) is the key ("yes" she blurts out). Did she really mean to say that? We get almost to the end of the video (451s.) before the FLO imparts the information that she is there not for Treasure but non-Treasure items. And then propaganda, stopping at the base of the topsoil. Listening, Ms Tyrell?

UPDATE 23.12.15
I wonder whether that interview would have looked different if, instead of a dozy artefact collector, Ms Byard had me in front of her looking her right in the eye and asking the same questions.
1) Would she say that responsible detecting is just following the Treasure Act and knowing what to report, or is there more to it than that?
2) To what extent would she say artefact hunting and collecting "preserves history"?
3) Is the Portable Antiquities Scheme the "answer" to the problem of the exploitation of the archaeological record as a source of collectables? (Careful with the answer to that one Ms B.)
4) Don't commercial metal detecting rallies lead to damage to the archaeological record?
5) Are the PAS only interested in artefacts made of metal? Why do metal objects and coins in particular far outnumber any other type of archaeological material on the PAS database when 'in the ground' they are far rarer? What does this tell us about the way these "data" (I use the term loosely) are gathered?
6) Would she consider that a metal detectorist that has dug any item, regardless of whether it is Treasure or not, from undisturbed layers under ploughsoil has done "well", or something reprehensible? 
I bet she'd have given me different answers to the tekkie-favouring fluff we hear in the video. The question is why. Why can the public not expect to hear it how it is from an archaeologist employed by the PAS? Why should they hear a different message from the same official of a public body depending on who she's addressing? The job of the FLO is to do outreach, and that outreach has to be consistent and coherent. Ms Byard, you are perfectly welcome, indeed invited, to answer those questions in the comments section below. I bet you won't though - but I suggest you save the fluffy bunny crap for the section of the public you are more comfortable addressing, slow-thinking people in baseball caps.

No comments:

Creative Commons License
Ten utwór jest dostępny na licencji Creative Commons Uznanie autorstwa-Bez utworów zależnych 3.0 Unported.