Thursday 24 November 2011

Metal Detecting Under the Microscope: So, that would be "No" then?

The "metal detectorists" of the UK all say to a man (woman) that they only do it because they are really really passionately interested in the history. So, on that basis it was pretty understandable that a request should be sent to one of their forums to help gather information on heritage crime:
The Centre for Urban and Regional Development Studies (CURDS) at Newcastle University, together with Bradley Research and Consulting, the Council for British Archaeology and Loughborough University have been appointed by English Heritage to establish the extent of crime and anti-social behaviour facing designated heritage assets, including ancient monuments, historic buildings and other important sites and features.

The true extent of heritage crime has proved very difficult to measure. By taking part in this survey you will help English Heritage and other agencies with responsibility for protecting the nation’s heritage to understand better the risks and vulnerability of different heritage assets in different settings. The research also seeks to identify the characteristics of the main victims, and the main perpetrators, of heritage crime.

By ‘heritage crime’, we mean any offence which harms the value of England's heritage assets and their settings and could include crimes such as theft, removal of objects of historic interest, criminal damage, arson and offences of anti-social behaviour leading to harm to historic buildings, monument or spaces.

The types of heritage assets that our research will cover are:
· World Heritage Sites
· Scheduled monuments;
· Listed Buildings
· Protected marine wreck sites
· Conservation Areas
· Registered Parks and Gardens
· Registered Battlefields
· Protected military remains of aircraft and vessels of historic interest)

Many metal-detector users may, through the outdoor nature of the hobby, be aware of local issues, including instances of criminal behaviour affecting the sites known to them, we would like to ask you a few questions about possible heritage crime known about by your organisation.
We note there is no typology of heritage crime here limiting it just to sites a collector might find visually attractive or attract bad publicity if its filled with holes.

Forum members were not exactly falling over each other in their eagerness to help report the "minority of black sheep wot is criminals and wot gets are hobby a bad name". The whole idea of gathering information about the real scale of heritage crime revealed fears among forum members that that this information might be "used against the hobby". This rather obscures the fact that this information is to be used against those who are criminally damaging Britain's heritage and one wonders why artefact hunters fear that if they reveal what they know, this might affect them and their fellows too.

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