Thursday, 30 August 2018

British Lawmakers Make Your History into a Commodity

In Westminster, the Houses of Parliament are falling down. Barry's 1840s Neogothic building is by all accounts a disgraceful wreck and the grade 1 building that is the working base of many British polititians is a metaphor for the state of the country they run (I use the term loosely). But renovation and restoration work has begun. The Palace of Westminster is a valuable heritage asset so, one might wonder why nineteenth century encaustic tiles removed from the building (one presumes with full approval of the heritage services responsible) are now being flogged off in the institution's shop.

The Palace holds the same lawmakers that deem it perfectly OK and appropriate for archaeological sites all over the country to be ripped apart by amateur and commercial artefact hunters wanting to find something collectable to keep or sell as the fancy takes them. It's quite OK for them, some of these politicians have even been known to call artefact hunters 'heritage heroes'. So we have a Portable Antiquities Scheme and an official building-salvage operation flogging off collectable bits of Victoriana stripped from one of Britain's most iconic historical buildings - with a COA.

And what angers me is that there are UK archaeologists out there in Twitterland tweeting away that the removal of 160 year old tiles from a Westminister broom-cupboard floor  (or wherever) is a 'national discgrace'. Yet they cannot be bothered to even mention in their social media outreach the wholesale trashng of archaeological sites and assemblages all over the country which (while its happening under their noses and with this 'partnership' receiving their tacit approval) is a national disgrace on a much larger scale.

Shame about the tiles, shame about the archaeology. Shame on the lot of you.

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