Monday, 22 February 2016


It is being reported that Trevor Austin, General Secretary of the NCMD and combative promoter of collectors' rights has died. Here's what I wrote about one of his texts a few years ago:
The text by Trevor Austin "Building Bridges between Metal Detectorists and Archaeologists" (pp 119-123) is a very interesting insight into the mindset of the detectorist, read "between the lines" the author says just a little too much. Please read it, the guy is priceless. He starts off by placing all the blame for everything on the archaeologists with whom "detectorists" had been pleading to cooperate with them from the very beginning and they were stubbornly refusing. The situation Austin describes (pp 119-20) however was on a different planet in a parallel universe. On this planet in this one, a search through the early archival numbers of UK hobby magazines such as "Treasure Hunter" or the (even rarer) newsletters and minutes of meetings of the ephemeral UK metal detecting clubs of the period would give a more objective picture of the source of the conflict. On page 120 Austin writes that the PAS "has been instrumental in awakening the general public and the media to our hobby of metal detecting" - but also it has "awoken" other organizations who ("not to be trumped by the PAS") are busily producing "reams of documents codes and guidelines" and sometimes - shock horror - "without consultation with the NCMD".
Today[,] I want to send a clear message to these bureaucrats: 'get off our case', and leave the responsible hobby alone. Attempts to inflict (sic) archaeological controls prevent serious cooperation: matters that relate to the detecting hobby should be channelled through the PAS. The Scheme had already succeeded in gaining our confidence (sic) while other bodies were messing about formulating rulebooks! [...] We will not tolerate meddling in the hobby or the Scheme.
Then a warning:
providing the PAS continues to treat the detector users as 'customers' and does not become over-confident (sic), then customers will remain loyal.
That is one of the purest expressions of the nature of the "partnership" seen through the eyes of the collector in "proper print", and we should thank Thomas and Stone for printing it. No rulez, gettoff are case, we'll arnser to th' PAS and not to the restof yer. But only if the PAS does not get "over-confident" about the loyalty of the detector users to the principles it stands for, and does not push its luck. So much then for instilling any of that "best practice" stuff, eh? This talk was based on an even more comical one he gave at a PAS conference a couple of years back about "empowerment of the detectorist" which had a memorable bit about the "Train to Liaisonville", remnants of which remain on page 123.
As more and more of the diehards of the 'DIG-generation' leave the hobby, perhaps we may expect a decline of their outdated defensive facadism approach to best practice in artefact hunting to one based on genuine understanding and desire for truly responsible co-operation. Of course that would mean there being agreement just what is entailed by the use of the words "truly responsible". So far, there does not seem to be much chance of that.

Vignette: time to get to grips with portable antiquity collecting issues.

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