Monday, 12 March 2018

UK Heritage Professional, "Raising Conservation Concerns = Bullying"

Benjamin Westwood has an FB avatar figuring a depiction of Europa and the bull from a Greek Red Figure vase (that crystallized from the tears of a captive bezoar goat in the Munich Antiquities Elves magical underground antiquities creation facility from which such things "surface" onto the market). Very apt for an FLO. He comments RESCUE's reposting of the Heritage Action text on PAS failing to discourage archaeological site erosion:
My reply:
Where do you see "bullying" Benjamin? HA raise what seem to me to be perfectly valid questions. Why does PAS so rarely express opposition to the depletion of sites by those who mine the same fields for objects to collect over and over again (especially when it is a site already known on the HER)? Why doesn’t the Code of Practice mention it and the need to do it in a manner that creates a systematic record addressed to the specific conservation needs of that site? Why are archaeologists 'getting comfy with site eroders“? Why do archaeologists backslap artefact hunters at mass, repeated rallies and constantly smile at detectorists as if they approve of what they’re doing when they don’t? Is asking questions like that "bullying", or is it just asking questions that need to be asked about Collection-Driven Exploitation of the archaeological record, Benjamin?
In reply to the 'better-than-nothing' minimalism that it seems to me Mr Westwood's apparent lack of concern reflects, I added:
Paul Barford Is it really 'just' the legal framework which determines best practice? Or do you accept that the latter (in most things) goes beyond just doing the mere minimum required by law?
What a rough, uncouth bully am I to ask such questions of a Greek Red-Figure vase lover.

But what a jolly good jape, eh? Merely label as "bullies" those who ask questions of the group you belong to, and thereby label the questions they ask "bullying", and you avoid answering them. Simples. Replace reasoned and informed public discussion by simplistic platitudes, and very soon public debate founders, and the end result is that the whole country rapidly slides into rabid-bonkers Brexit-suicide mode....

1 comment:

Paul Barford said...

Benjamin Westwood wrote (on Facebook):
Benjamin Westwood: "I’ve ‘ummed’ and ‘ahhed’ about whether to respond to you or not, since whatever I say is just more grist to your mill, and will inevitably end up on your blog. I was actually quite happy to respond straight way when I saw your original FB comment, until I saw you’d already blogged without giving me chance to respond.

But, I feel your ‘blog’ contains a number of inaccuracies and unnecessary implications, that in essence question my professional reputation and dedication to archaeology. Consequently, I have decided, belatedly, to respond.

‘Better than nothing minimalism’ and ‘lack of concern’: I’m not sure how you read that into my original post. Perhaps I can clarify: The work we do as heritage professional is always a compromise (just as in the rest of life). Whether you work in development led archaeology, museums, research/academia (and yes, even the PAS) we always have to compromise, working within budgets, time-constraints, person-power available, limits of our knowledge etc., and of course the legal framework we have. Does this mean we accept the status quo? Not necessarily, and advocating for improvement and change is a positive thing. Nevertheless, the job at hand has to be done: you may be heartbroken that the early-med pit in front of you will be trashed by a 360 come next Monday morning, but the fact remains that if you don’t dig and record it, it will be gone. Forever. With no record that it was ever there. Whilst in my heart I may be an ideologue, in my head I’m a pragmatists: what I care most about is the preservation of archaeology and the resulting advancement of archaeological knowledge; where preservation is simply not possible or practical, then the preservation of the archaeological data is the next best tool we have. I haven’t met many archaeologists who simply do ‘mere minimum required by law’, and it’s quite a stretch to imply that is what I meant. Most of us are just doing the best we can, putting in extra time and hours, often for relatively poor pay (compared to the level of qualifications and experience most have).

As to the rest of your blog post: a bit of back and forth on twitter, even a robust discussion of ethics is, of course, all fine. When it turns into multiple posts, across various platforms (with ‘updates’), questioning an individual’s professionalism, cutting out peoples ‘smiles’ to make a cheap point, then yes, in my very humble opinion it’s crossed the line into online bullying. Polemical and overly combative attitudes when discussing issues with fellow heritage professionals really help no one.

One final point if I may. I’ve no particular fondness for vases, Greek or otherwise. Quite why you chose to pick that out as such an important issue is mystifying. It’s simply an image I googled of Europa after the travesty of the EU ref (although, I think you’re the first person to pick up on it, so well done you).

I’d say I'm looking forward to your response on your blog, but I’m not really, since I suspect that whatever I write will not really make any difference".

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