Friday 19 June 2009

Spirals of Silence about Artefact Collecting

Within an hour or so of my posting a message on my blog concerning a disastrous attempt to clean an unfired Mesopotamian clay tablet by running it under the cold tap, instead of the two posts in the original thread, the following message appeared here and here in the archives of the discussion group concerned.

"Message does not exist in Ancientartifacts".
This is very interesting. An attempt has been made to push the original post "Down the Memory Hole" (as in Orwell's "1984"). The collector in question posted the information to an artefact discussion list about what happened as a warning to other collectors not to do anything like this. This was done with perfectly honourable intentions and also at the risk of attracting criticism, but hopefully eliciting discussion and information of benefit to other collectors about how to deal with such objects in future. Such a discussion will not now take place since somebody with their finger on the "delete" button obviously wants to try to hide certain aspects of collecting under the carpet. Surely instead of deleting the post from the archives and digests, a much more helpful approach would have been to draw attention to the point in the Portable Antiquities Collector's Code of Ethics which I discussed earlier here :

"(4) Recognise your role as custodian/ Do your utmost to ensure the wellbeing of the objects in your care./ Consider the condition of artifacts prior to purchase and whether you will be able to carry out any necessary conservation or repairs. Any intrusive operation should ideally be carried out by a competent professional."
There are two points here, first there should perhaps be a short guide (with references to more extensive literature) written specifically for the collector of portable antiquities which explains in simple terms what can and should not be done with artefacts of various commonly-collected kinds. It seems that while antiques of various types have a number of such guides, but there is nothing to help the collector of fresh "dug-ups".

See also here for another collector wanting to do dangerous things to the object in his stewardship, this post has not been removed yet from the archives.

The second thing is the issue of how the collecting community deals with criticism. In general the collector justifies themselves that they are "doing nothing wrong". In face of criticism some turn away and block out any criticisms as applying only to "other" collectors and not themselves. By this means they try to hush up embarrassing issues which they would prefer not to talk about (perhaps trying to shame the critic into not mentioning them). Others react more aggressively with loud protests that they are misunderstood by individuals who are themselves members of a group that are not above reproach. Thus the spiral of silence about the issues surrounding collecting of portable antiquities and the archaeological resource continues to develop.
Vignette: ammonite logo.


Paul Barford said...

The moderator of the ancient artifacts list points out
"I can only assume that the post(s) was/were removed by the party that posted. I have NOT deleted any posts. Tim Haines, moderator."

Thanks Tim for the clarification.

[It's two posts of quite different character by two different authors that have gone].

Paul Barford said...

The author of the original post has confirmed that it was they who deleted the post and asked the persomn who replied to do the same.

Apparently within a short time of posting it they were recipient of five off-list messages which said much the same as my first blog post.

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