Wednesday, 6 January 2016

The PAS and UK "Nazi War Diggers" Re-Release

Bloomsbury Pete, the national
representative of Avian Concern
 for Cultural Heritage, the most
 vocal portable antiquities issues
advocate in Bloomsbury
The PAS responded to my query about what stance they were taking over Channel 5's proposal to put a "documentary" about three metal detectorists and a controversial Nazi Relics dealer on British screens. I am treating his brief and somewhat dismissive reply as private correspondence but here is my response to it.

Dear [...], Yes, as I reported several times on my blog, I have seen four of the six the episodes which were withdrawn by Fox TV in 2014 after protests from the archaeological community. A few weeks ago with minor editing (the worst scene shown in the trailer cut and a few subtitles added) they were released on Polish TV (before it was pulled half way through the series – guess why). On my blog I also linked (yesterday) to the private downloads of three episodes which are available on You Tube.

It is not really a case of me “wanting you to”. It is a matter of record that the PAS was set up to instil best practice among finders. That is its job. It is not just me that expects PAS to be doing this job. After coming up to two decades of your “outreach”, we still find this sort of thing being produced and widely represented as historical research. PAS should surely be at the forefront of efforts to get the public and media  to recognize what is and what is not best practice on sensitive sites with a metal detector and spade. That is what it is for.

That it has not been doing that but taken a very passive role (and also cutting itself off from the external discussion as we see here) is the point your archaeological critics are making. Your continued public silence on matters like this when a firm stance was needed is having the opposite effect to the intended, it is encouraging this sort of thing to be duplicated, it is encouraging bad practice.

No, it is far from “entertainment”, but that is precisely the institutional point one would expect a PAS with balls to be forcefully making to and via the media. PAS should have been at the forefront of the public debate on this, as other issues. We need to make the media wary of making any programme like this in future by giving Channel 5 a run for their money and getting this off British screens. People outside your organization (also all of us also “very busy” with other things) are attempting this, while the PAS instead of being the institutional spokesperson, sits back and even seems unaware that anything of the kind is going on. PAS is marginalizing itself from the heritage debate while (as we saw yesterday) having the ambition of monopolising it.

Oh, by the way, where are the “responsible detectorists” PAS has nurtured? Are they protesting alongside us in any numbers about this irresponsible behaviour? (clue: that was a rhetorical question).

And just type “Nazi War Diggers” into Google and see what PAS has (again) slept through. I would not bother typing “Nazi War Diggers”+"Portable Antiquities Scheme" if I were you.

I believe other people are or will be contacting the PAS suggesting an official response is needed.  Paul Barford
While Bloomsbury seems oblivious, I would be interested to hear from anyone who has seen or heard individual PAS FLOs making public remarks about the "Nazi War Diggers" affair, Are any of them actually aware of this issue or do they all have their work computers set up to filter out social media discussions of heritage matters? Surely, is not talking to members of the public about things like this part of their job of "liaison"? How can they express a professional opinion about it if they are prevented by their employer from knowing what is going on?

1 comment:

heritageaction said...

You're FAR too polite Paul. We have an artefact hunting outreach quango so unwilling to upset artefact hunters that it won't even express disgust at an artefact hunter waving a soldier's bone about. And do I gather they say they're too busy? It's unconscionable.

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