Thursday 12 July 2012

"Britain's Secret treasures": Damage-Control Ending?

The  TV Choice magazinen iterview of Michael Buerk, presenter of "Britain's Secret Treasures" gives another taste of what we can expect, and raises a hope:
One of the most fascinating stories is about an object that we can’t  film. It’s called the Crosby Garrett Helmet [...] one of the most extraordinary pieces from the Roman period ever found in Britain. And it’s actually made of brass, so it didn’t have to go through the usual process. The Tullie House Museum and Art Gallery raised the most incredible amount of money for it, as it was being sold at auction. Kids were putting in their pocket money, but it ended up being sold to a private bidder, and we
couldn’t film it because we don’t know where it is.* So this fascinating story, rather than it being about lost and found, it’s found and then  lost again
Certainly from the programme summaries, it would seem to be in the top ten of their reality-show-format competition.  The writers and producers of this programme could help make amends for the damage this programme is going to do to the way the British (TV-choice reading) public see archaeology if the Crosby Garrett Helmet was for its 'celebrity value' number one in this talent show. Certainly it is worth a lot of dosh, it is historically important as an object by itself, and it is (in its tarted-up restored form) pretty. Why would it NOT be number one?

There is a chance that the "we do not know this now is" aspect of this find might get people thinking really hard about what lies behind artefact hunting. Through the Christie's sale and the greed of the landowner and finders (who reportedly rejected efforts to arrange a lucrative purchase prior to the sale) this really is one of Britain's Secret Treasures. Actually it is not true that "we do not know where this object is" - but  it would appear from this that  the covetously-secretive new owner of what should be a national treasure does not even want it to make it accessible to be filmed - a pretty damning example of the reasons why many are against the archaeological heritage being in the hands of private ("art") collectors. 

Perhaps the publicity given to the case - against the background of all the others will kick off a public debate about the way Britain allows the demolition of the archaeological record by collectable-seekers while calling it "preservation", and why the public purse has to foot the bill for it. Or will that point be lost on the British readers of such publications as TVChoice?

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