Thursday, 4 November 2010

Crosby Garrett New Photo, New Questions, no Answers

Earlier on today I commented on the sudden appearance of a new photo on the PAs website showing the you-know-which helmet in a completely different state from the available photos which to my mind raised a number of disturbing questions (Crosby Garrett New Photo, New Questions). Obviously some of them could easily be resolved by the people who'd posted the new photo, they'd presumably know where it had come from and why it was now on their website. So I wrote what I imagined to be a perfectly civil letter enquiring about it. The Portable Antiquities Scheme is publicly funded and such requests for information really should be entertained. Not so, it seems. One of the people to whom it went sent an out-of-office mail (though I know a colleague got a mail from him not long ago) and the other a somewhat uncivil reply. I am not so ungentlemanly as to post what I suppose could be considered a 'private' email here, but I can post here my reply (spelling mistake corrected). You can guess to whom it was sent, and what he'd said to me instead of supplying the information I requested, it was not "bugger off Barford", but close to it.
No, of course you do not owe anyone (except the British public who pay for the PAS of course) anything. I think however I asked politely.

On the other hand, I really do not see where an apology is necessary for my attempts to discuss openly my concerns about portable antiquities collecting or, since it is intimately related, the place of the PAS within this complex of issues. I cannot see why a public organization like yours would not welcome open discussion of these issues by all sides, metal detectorists, members of the public and archaeologists (both those who unconditionally support you and those that do not). That seems to me to be part of what "outreach" and [true] "partnership" are all about.

If I am misleading people, please show them where. The public do deserve to know the truth, don't they?

It seems to me to be de rigeur for the pro-collecting lobby to constantly hide behind the accusation that their critics are "misleading" people but never actually coming up to the plate to show where and how. Instead they may engage in personal attacks on the critic (an excellent example of which can be seen here) or another favourite tactic (involving less effort) is to pretend to be offended by the mere fact that somebody is questioning, discussing and - horror ! - criticising and therefore pretend that discussion with "such people" is beneath their dignity (and that they "never read such rubbish"). That is the way the pro-collecting lobby deals with uncomfortable questions, avoids addressing the issues. While that may not be surprising in the case of amateurs like the ACCG officers, it is an entirely different matter when it concerns public employees who are actually employed to be doing "outreach".

Come on PAS, on whose side do you think I am on? On whose side are you? What is stopping you from openly discussing these issues? I do not have all the answers and neither do I expect you to, but that is no reason to ignore the questions. Is it?


Anonymous said...

Hang on, are you saying that PAS, despite the universal public upset and puzzlement and concern over how this helmet popped up at an auction house and how it hasn't ended up in a museum - is refusing to tell you where the latest image has come from and why it is now on their website?

Seems a bit rum for an organisation that spends it's time promoting the benefits of the sharing of information about finds.

Perhaps it's the way you tell 'em? Maybe you should lay out exactly what information you'd like them to supply and ask others to cut and paste it into emails to them? Get the detectorists to chivvy them, that should do it!

;) ;)

Paul Barford said...

It's funny isn't it? When I say what I imagine/deduce/conclude etc. to be the case about the PAS and their tekkie mates, I get told off because "if you'd checked with us first..." blah blah. When I do try to check with them the facts of the matter, I am told in effect to go away and leave them alone...

It really is getting difficult to take anyone involved in portable antiquities in ANY capacity seriously. Nobody among them is interested in giving real answers to real questions.

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