Here is a chunk of what our colleagues in the British Museum are referring to as "citizen archaeology" at a commercial citizen archaeology artefact grabbing rally at Muchelney (warning, film has some really cheesy music):
The Muchelney Metal Detecting Rally October 2015. Posted on You Tube by
What these people are doing is not archaeology, no matter what recording of the loose products of this collection-driven exploitation of the archaeological record is done. It is not archaeology. What does the British Museum mean by the use of the term? We are still in the dark, my request for an official statement seems not to be being treated there as a high priority issue. After all, the learning, audiences and volunteers department of that museum has a mission to inform only a small audience of 60 million citizens of the UK - why bother about what they think archaeology is? I on the other hand, think it is very important indeed that the British public are not given false picture of what archaeology is by some navel-gazing body out to trumpet its own success, irrespective of what effects that may have on others.
|McKenzie Crook, the |
British Museum's exemplar
of a 'citizen archaeologist'
Furthermore in her reply, Ms Boulton attempts to confuse the issue with reference to "[m]any national programmes run by the Museum" which according to her "focus on what we would describe as ‘citizen archaeology’" (without explaining why this is not simply public archaeology, a well-established term capable of wide use), in which "[i]n a similar way to ‘citizen journalist’, the phrase is intended to reflect the contribution some members of the public make to the study of our past". Artefact hunters are intent on building up collections of artefacts for their own personal use and profit. By the admission of the BM and PAS themselves, most of the artefacts removed from the ground through this activity contribute nothing to any understanding at all. My comment referred to the specific phrase in an official document of the British Museum:
“Citizen archaeology is a growing phenomenon with 82,000 finds recorded by the Portable Antiquities Scheme last year including finds by detecting superfan Mackenzie Crook”.Leaving aside the supremely populist irrelevance of that last phrase, my point quite obviously concerned in what way artefact hunting can be equated with “archaeology”. This fundamental question went unanswered by the "Head of Press and Marketing at the British Museum". Perhaps Ms Boulton should hand the query over to one of the Museum's archaeologists as she apparently did not understand the nature of the issue involved in the phrasing she used in an official document issued in the name of the British Museum. Have they no "Learning, Audiences and Volunteers Department"? Can we get a more sensible answer from the "Learning" and "Audiences" bits? How does the British Museum define archaeology?
In parenthesis I would say there are a number of issues with so-called "citizen journalism" which might urge some caution a major research institution equating their postulated "citizen archaeology" with this genre. Another term for it is "Guerilla journalism".