Sunday 9 September 2012

Task Force for Metal Detecting Rights and Minelab

There are some interesting comments in a thread on the American Detectorist forum  on the topic of anti-preservation-law lobbying on behalf of artefact hunters in the US, including some discussion of the efforts of metal detector manufacturer Minelab. Dan LaMontagne has this to say:
Minelab has tried to get other manufacturers to go into somekind of joint venture and solicite some lobbying but was unsuccessful , they have promoted some other causes though. they just met with archaeologists i have worked with and i believe they are going to coopperate with their project and use this example of collaboration to generate goodwill and PR.
In reply to this another member, Dick Stout, however pointed out that the anti-preservationist Task Force for Metal Detecting Rights also was financed by Minelab, to the extent that:
The Task Force IS Minelab.  They donated thousands to the group, and so far no other manufacturers have come on board.  Likewise I have checked out their website pretty much every day....nothing new to see or read.  Difficult to get other manufacturers involved in a group created by one of their competitors.
Here we have in a nutshell the two approaches adopted by the metal detecting fraternity both sides of the Atlantic. The first, the declarative but pretty minimal and self-interested co-operation for the PR benefits (followed by the 'we did what they want and the problems have not gone away' reaction). The second is the downright bolshy, "fight for yer rights and freedom to do just whatever you want" school of thought. The problem is in what we do not see, the third option, of a genuine attempt of artefact hunters to see their hobby in any other category or to understand what the issues are on a broader canvas. Thus it is we get the attitude seen on the Stout "Standards" blog:
You will have a hard time changing my mind… [...] I have given up on the possibility of any reasonable, realistic pact with the archaeological community. Their goal since the late 70′s has been to put us out of business, and I see nothing here to indicate a change in that objective. To them we will always be amateurs, grave diggers, pot robbers and looters…
I would say when the majority act in a way that is no different and a loud few take every opportunity to spread offensive and aggressive anti-preservationist sentiments in the social media, the general public and heritage professionals would have every justification for holding such a view. He continues:
I have just seen too many years where “token crumbs” are thrown our way, and after pissing in the wind way too many times, I have given up.
How much more than "token crumbs" of understanding and collaboration have the US artefact hunting community been able to muster since the late 1970s? The very existence of the "Task Force" shows exactly what they want, and it is quite clear that this is not that protective legislation and operating practices are strengthened.

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