Saturday, 20 January 2018

Is this Really a 'Way Forward'?

I have on more than one occasion given an account of my concerns about the privately-owned UK Detector Finds database run since 1st September 2005 by a group of renegade tekkies in protest against the discussions then going on about the original official Code of Practice for Responsible metal Detecting in England and Wales. And yes, I said it would not survive as an informal body run on a shoestring by volunteers. It is still here, though, but in a vastly altered format. Gary Brun announced yesterday the launch of its newest incarnation, the new UKDFD. :

After going on about the 'successes' of the original voluntary scheme, they have decided to fund their costs by charging a subscription:
We have sought to spread the cost equitably across the various types of user, and minimise the impact on those who already pay to record. [...] All who wish to view the records and use the database will need to register and purchase a Membership Plan. These start at £15 per year. Those who also wish to record will need to buy a Recording Package. These start at £5.  [...] Further details of the subscription arrangements can be found on the new website.
So much then for the UKDFD as an alternative for the PAS.  I wonder how many tekkies support this as a way forward.

Let us note that this heritage paywall now involves all the 47000 items originally 'recorded' there under a different form of regulation- when the recorders thought the results of their work would be a permanent record visible to the general public for free. They must now feel cheated that the showcase has been removed from public view. In the same way, all those landowners who donated their property (the artefacts found on their land) to the finders on the understanding there would be an open access public record have been cheated - because the money generated by people accessing information about those objects is now going into the pockets of the UKDFD team, and not a penny to the landowner. Have they all been contacted to ask if they would like a cut of the proceeds?

In my opinion, this is a massive shot in the foot for the hobby. It is pretty startling to note that there are detectorists so "responsible", they'll pay more than fifteen quid a year  in order NOT to use the PAS as a form of legitimation-of-the-hobby-by-'recording'. That sends a pretty nasty message to Britain's main stakeholder community - the non-collecting public - that they'll have to PAY to see what the heritage pocketing Treasure hunters have taken from them. A non-public 'record' is information hidden from the public. I do rather think this move will ultimately go against the detecting community as a whole.

 It also suggests to me - unless I have missed something, and if so UKDFD organizers please enlighten us - that the 'Revised Code of Practice..." is now shown pretty conclusively not worth the paper it is printed on. And let us recall that it was from the publication of the original PAS/CBA 'code' that the UKDFD took its beginnings.

But maybe there is a message here for the PAS - start charging for membership packages for recorders. Why is it that you expect the public purse to pay your salaries and expenses, when the UKDFD shows that it can be done at the cost of the database users themselves? In 2016 there were 326,502 users of the PAS website, in addition to 10,633 registered users. If the PAS had membership packages at 15 quid a shout, they'd raise more than 5million quid for operational costs. That'd even pay for a proper Welsh PAS too. Maybe the UKDFD ("recording Our Heritafge for Future Generations') has shown Whitehall the way the PAS should be going. After all, each detectorist probably pays that much a year for batteries and petrol. All they need to do is put a few more duplicate collectable metal bits on eBay and they'll soon cover the costs - just look at the valuations in 'The Searcher'. Or perhaps the sum can be deducted from Treasure rewards. Why should the British public any longer foot the bill for the legitimation of collection-driven exploitation of the archaeological heritage by artefact hunters and pocketers?

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

BTW, paying £15 not to use the PAS database is really no big surprise. It's in line with paying a few quid to the NCMD to use their derisory Code instead of the official one, which has been going on for many years.

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