Sunday, 12 October 2008

Getting into metal detecting

Ten thousand British "metal detectorists" are in effect helping themselves to the bits of the "pieces of the past" which they fancy from the archaeological record that is the heritage of the rest of the 62 million citizens of the United Kingdom. Some of them act responsibly, keep off what they are supposed to keep off, report what the law or their conscience tells them to report, and are generally model citizens. Others are less so. Regardless of whether they are or are not, they clearly feel the need for togetherness and tend to gather in clubs and online forums. I would not personally recommend conservation-minded members of the public venturing into a metal detecting club (I used to do this in my idealistic and ideologically more confused younger days - a most depressing experience which taught me a lot about this milieu). The online forums and media on the other hand are clearly an ideal opportunity to find out what these people are up to. One can look over the shoulder and hear the voice and opinions of "metal detectorists" and other collectors from all over Britain (or even further afield) on your desktop computer.

It's worth pointing out that there is a fundamental difference in approach to openness reflected in the format of the vast majority of artefact hunters' forums in Britain and archaeological ones. In many of the latter (just to take two examples, Britarch and BAJRForum), an outsider can get direct access to the public archives (though of course they cannot post there) without being a member. The majority of British metal detecting forums on the other hand are deliberately constructed with several visible front pages containing innocuous "fluffy bunny" stuff visible to the non-member. Any real discussion of the nitty-gritty of "metal detecting" is however always firmly closed away in a hidden area which only certain people, approved by the administrators, can even see. In addition, "detectorists" write there most frequently under assumed names (a study of the names they choose for themselves is in itself very revealing). It is hard not to draw the conclusion that all this secrecy shows full well their awareness that they do indeed have much to hide from the 62 million members of the public who are not artefact collectors of portable antiquities, but whose archaeological heritage is annually being progressively eroded by the activity of this small secretive minority.

The observer might ponder the reason for this secrecy and what precisely it is that "metal detectorists" cannot afford to say out in the open. What are they up to in there? Why not join one and take a look? My guess is that for many of the readers here who have not yet had the "MDForum experience", it may change their perception of the hobby and the degree to which "best practice" has been instilled in it by well over a decade of active archaeological outreach, and why best practice is failing to make more headway.

These are some of the forums where the interested stakeholder and other heritage-conscious observers can observe British "unsung heritage heroism" being discussed in a most thought-provoking manner:
UKDN (3734 members)
UKDFD (1006 members) (971 members)
Minelabowners (824 UK members)
EFID (172 members)
Rally UK (members ?)

No comments:

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