Monday, 22 November 2010

Crosby Garrett: An Adequate Record? Hardly

In a post yesterday I quoted the opinion of UK artefact hunter and author Julian Evan-Hart on the Crosby Garrett helmet fiasco. I think a couple of things he said need further discussion:
The main focus here is :- the find has been measured, weighed photographed and probably drawn so it matters little whether such a find goes into a main national collection or indeed a private one..there is enough associated reference material now for any academic to make comparitive studies etc about this great object . [...] Im glad a private individual now can cherish the artefact as can we all by looking at all the information and images of it.

Now in fact it is not true that an adequate record has been made of the object - or at least what is in the public domain is by no means an adequate reccord for those who want to do a little more than just "look at pictures of it". What "measurements" were taken? What for example was the thickness of the metal sheet at various points? What in fact WAS the "weight" Mr Evan-Hart? It was apparently NOT "drawn". I have seen the conservation report and the version I have seen is, quite frankly, judged as a report on the conservation (I use the term loosely) of an archaeological artefact of this nature, an appalling piece of work which raises very many serious questions of professional accountability. I hope they may be aired in public at some time. The viewing of the object by BM and PAS staff in Christie's offices, apparently already half-way through the restoration process, hardly provides the best facilities for proper observation and documentation, the whole process was a farce from beginning to end.

Mr Evan-Hart, here the blame must fall entirely on the finders (and landowner) who carted it off down to London to Christie's at the first opportunity, not giving the PAS or local archaeologists the chance to see the find in situ at the time of discovery, to work on it in a proper environment for its study, or to make more suitable arrangements for its analysis and conservation. The people at fault here are those that are now smiling on their way to the bank having sold off a bit of the British archaeological record from under our noses. Here are the rewards for NOT being a "partner" of archaeology and heritage management. Oh yes, they were perfectly entitled to do what they did by law, the "partnership" with archaeologists and the rest of society is (still) purely voluntary. But then that is precisely why voices are now being raised to say that since artefact hunters and collectors are consistently abusing that trust, cases like this clearly show the need to change that law to make sure such abuses are not repeated.

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