Monday 27 February 2012

"Diggers": SAA Letter to National Geographic Channel

A bit late and rather long for dumb-down TV producers, but for what it is worth here's the letter from Society for American Archaeology President William F. Limp to the Executive Board of the US based National Geographic Channel:
I write to you as the president of the Society for American Archaeology (SAA) to express concern about the new reality television show, “Diggers,” which will premiere on the National Geographic Channel on February 28. We ask in the strongest possible terms that you take steps to alter the message of the show, which, based on our review of the material on the program’s website, is contrary to the ethics of American archaeological practice, highly destructive, and possibly illegal.
But the question the TV company are concerned with is merely 'is it good TV'?
[...] the involvement of The National Geographic in this show is particularly troubling to SAA (as evidenced by the numerous letters of concern that we are receiving) because of the iconic position that your organization holds in our nation’s consciousness. The National Geographic is viewed as the national authority in many areas of scientific inquiry, interpretation, and understanding of mankind’s shared heritage, including archaeology. It also plays a central role in public education regarding the importance of preserving the historical and archaeological record.
Certainly the bru-ha-ha around this programme can only be good for viewer figures. I would say the task now for SAA and AIA is to turn this to a national debate about just what it is the Americans expect out of the historic heritage in the ground, and bodies like the AIA, SAA and NGS. Is the aim of US society as a whole today to actually get something from the heritage of the past something more than a source of a quick thrill, some vaguely-'cultural' multimedia edutainment, and a material commodity or two like any other to desire and acquire? Is the metal detecting reality show "Diggers" setting a trend or representing one? That seems to me to be a question the SAA should be asking itself.

This is, too, a question for the UK's Portable Antiquities Scheme - which of course as usual is determined to remain on the margins of public debate on heritage and keeping well out of the discussion.

Vignette: Not only in it for the history


Paul Barford said...

On Tue, Feb 28, 2012 at 7:03 AM, Nigel Swift wrote:
> I;ve written to SAA saying cheer up, it could be worse. Like here. ;)
> I've been trying to post comments with you a lot but it keeps saying I've
> entered the wrong code words when I haven't.
> Todays comment was on the SAA article and was going to be -
> I thought that hinting that getting an archaeological consultant involved
> might make the whole stunt more acceptable was a mistake.
> Of course they will and of course it won't be. We know that only too well in
> Britain - where the claim to archaeological legitimacy is the one and only
> defence the organisers of metal detecting rallies employ.

Paul Barford said...

Hi Nigel,
I think Blogger is changing various things, I've been having (serious) problems inserting hyperlinks, they've changed the comment window... maybe that explains the problems, save your words somewhere else before pressing "send" (just in case) and keep trying...

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