Wednesday 24 July 2013

US Relic Hunting: "What we won the right for from the British"

Chicago Mike (Michael Burmeister)  contributes (24th July) to a thread ("Anthropology Group Objects to TV Show 'Dig Wars'..") on Inside Higher Education very revealing of the tekkie thought processes:
I as a person who has enjoyed the metal detecting hobby for more than 30 year's I believe that the archaeologist would be more open to us . I mainly look for coin's or item's that people have lost , I have never gone relic hunting and would like to some day in England where when you find something it is turned in to a corner who either say's that it is either part of a hoard or just a lost by someone and if it is a hoard it's part of the crown and if it's a item of historic value the museum's bid's on the item and the finder has a right to accept or reject the offer if he take's the offer the money is split between the land owner and the finder if the offer is rejected the finder can either donate the item.
Wow. I suppose it was too much effort to check those "facts"...Even in Chicago, I bet you can find out how the system in "England" actually works, and the real name of the official to whom  you report Treasure finds. Anyway the hapless apostrophe-abuser continues, addressing the readers of Inside Higher Education:
We find what you are looking for and we don't take forever putting it on display. You have a wealth of information that you have either been told about or which is in documents that can lead you to these site's . And instead of putting the item's out for people to see they sit in locked room's being either studied or cataloged all of which you should already have information on . I haven't been to a field museum because of this when will you say enough and show all the item's that you have not just what you might think that people would like to see . In high school I was very interested in our history I got B's and C's in school we are told in school about thing's that happened but we were never showed at the museum how an item was used we had to guess and that is what we in the hobby . Once I found out what happens to item's that you have and don't display I lost interest in history
Well, I hope in his no-kid-left-behind school this guy got Fs for the punctuation of his written work. I am a bit puzzled about why these people want to see rows and rows of pieces of pottery and broken flint laid out on permanent display so "people can see what you have".  Is it part of the "your government is keeping something from you" trope? When I was a kid in England, I lived near two museums which still had exactly this approach to display, they both had rows of massive mahogany cases (where are those tropical hardwood cases now?) with boards with rows and rows of potsherds pinned to them, several tens of thousands of them. Further along there were rows and rows of flints. Fascinating places for a kid obsessed by archaeology. I looked and looked at them every time I was there, which was any weekend my parents were in town shopping (they'd dump me there and collect me several hours later I made it vocally very clear that I hated traipsing round shops). I am not sure what it actually gave me. Those old nineteenth century displays were changed, first Colchester, then Ipswich. I resented that to be sure, there was an air of old-world charm about the old displays, but the new ones were what (I think) people needed more. It is interesting though to see the artefact collector hankering after the nineteenth century approach. He goes on to make the point they all do: 
I don't make a lot of money doing this hobby that's because I'm in this hobby for the fun and exercise that come's with the hobby but now day's I don't get to do my hobby much because people like you are telling the people that are in government that we are people that don't care and that is the farthest from the truth we do care . You see us as thief's and looter's we want everyone to see what is out there and we want everyone to enjoy but if you don't let anyone enjoy his freedom in his hobby you are going to lose something very close and that is the right to be free . And isn't that what we won the right for from the British .
Ol' King George was an implacable opponent of metal detecting. Famous for it. (I do not think it was because he saw them as "thiefs and looter's" as much as information thieves and losers.)  Notice here how the argument about conservation has been shifted to "telling the people that are in government that we are people that don't care" - and this allowing the rejoinder, "but we do care". Sneaky, or is the writer actually totally unaware of what the issue actually is? (That's a rhetorical question by the way).  

I wonder if Chicago Mike can see a way for "everyone to see what is out there" and "everyone to enjoy" without greedy individuals digging holes into it to take out the collectable items and discard the rest? Is trashing sites by hoiking out collectables making "the past" available to "everybody"?  I do not think it is, any more that shooting rhinos to hack off their horns to sell to those who want to buy some is making this bit of "nature" available for "everyone to enjoy". It's the same argument.

So to come back to the argument: "we don't take forever putting it on display" or "putting the item's (sic) out for people" instead of hoarding them away in "locked room's" (sic). when, for example, will metal detectorists like Chicago Mike "show all the item's (sic) that [they] have"? Where is the Chicago-Mike Field Museum, for example?   Where are all of Chicago Mike's finds on permanent display  for "everyone to enjoy" and so "everyone [can] see what [was] out there", that is was out there in the archaeological record before Chicago Mike and his mates hoiked them out and carted them away to their personal collections?

Vignette: off to kill some Brits.

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