Friday 7 September 2018

Fundraising for the FLO: DCResearch Review Suggestions Examined

Naked Archaeology for Sale?
In a previous text, I reiterated some of the suggestions made for funding the PAS beyond 2019 if central core funding fails to meet the need: ' Friday Retrospect: Fundraising for the FLO'. I'd like to go over some of the points in more detail, since nobody else seems to be venturing to subject them to open scrutiny.The suggestions are contained in this anonymous document: 'Review of the Portable Antiquities Scheme Partnership Model', published online about 28th March 2018 without much of a fanfare. A key passage is:
 To be sustainable beyond the immediate short term (i.e. beyond the current funding arrangements to March 2019), PAS now needs to directly address a number of challenges that [it] has previously been able to navigate around. [...] given the core and partnership funding constraints faced by the Scheme, most consultees feel that PAS is now at the point where greater operational flexibility is necessary to maintain the principle of national coverage.
We really need some wider-ranging discussion of the suggestions made by to the British Museum and archaeological establishment by the anonymous authors about the nature of the proposed 'operational flexibility' in the Review's and how they relate to the Scheme achieving what it was, in fact, set up to do (beyond keep about fifty arkies in work). They can be found in the Review's Table 4.1 (p. 21) representing some of the opportunities to raise funding 'over the next five years' (p 20). Here's my summary:
Respondents highlighted the need for additional resources - it was suggested that the BM could use its expertise and influence to generate income by allowing the PAS to become a separate trust' (p. 20). The first suggestion on financing the Scheme is going to be a controversial one: 'introduce a 'Treasure tax' or levy to fund PAS, a % of all Treasure finds used to fund PAS' (!!) and 'make metal detectoring (sic) licensed through payment of a yearly fee' with this given as a funding solution - 'mandatory licensing of detectorists (potentially administered through PAS)' - they see this as an adaptation of 'mudlark permits'. Another way they see of raising funds is 'consider how skills of FLOs could be developed to generate income' and 'char[g]ing for developing high resolution imaging of finds [brought to the Scheme by finders]' and the PAS 'producing specialist finds reports for commercial units, developers etc, provision of training courses' and 'schools and HE workshops' and... 'charging [finders?] for expert work, attendance at rallies etc.'
Let us have a look at them,

1) The BM could shed its responsibility for funding the PAS and get it to look after its own funding 'by allowing (sic) the PAS to become a separate trust':
This is one solution, but then the central staff of this Trust would need to be spending a lot (most of) their time continually looking for furtherance of funding. Also removing the PAS one step further from the central role within Britain's chaotic heritage management system could be a fatal step. If the PAS is to fulfil a role protecting heritage assets, it needs to be more centrally situated (and its position made stable by legislation) and that position strengthened, not weakened.  In any case, how could a separate trust become part of the process of issuing permits (suggestion 3)?
2) Money could be raised for the running of the PAS by introducing a 'Treasure tax' or levy to fund PAS, a % of all Treasure finds used to fund PAS'
One can safely assume, given the fuss made about allegedly 'low' Treasure valuations as it is, that this will be unpopular among the Treasure hunters.  Look at the Just Giving appeal to help fund the BM to provide a PAS started on 25th Aug 2015. There are probably about 27000 detectorists in the UK, and this fundraising has raised a paltry £1,037.53 in that time from them (and others). The idea is also ideologically (ethically) dodgy, that a body administers public money spent to 'reward' mining the country's archaeological heritage which it then siphons back for its own use. Also, it should be kept in mind that (according to the law as it still stands) PAS is nothing to do with the Treasure Process, but was set up to deal with the recording of items that do not fall under the Treasure Act. The erosion of that ideal is one example of the phenomenon mentioned in the 2018 review of the PAS losing a sense of its own purpose and identity.
3) Money could be raised by 'making metal detectoring (sic) licensed through payment of a yearly fee' with the additional constraint: 'mandatory licensing of detectorists (potentially administered through PAS)':
A yearly fee would be unfair to those who go out barely three weekends a year if they pay the same fee as the old bloke who's out there all day five or six days a week amassing a huge collection. What is needed are project-specific permits. A 20 quid flat payment from the 27000 detectorists would only raise 540 000 pounds, not enough to run the PAS we have now, let alone one that could process even 70% of the finds made annually by 27000 hoikers. So what is a realistic detecting fee that would be selling off the nation's heritage to collectors to generate money made necessary by current laissez faire 'policy' (I use the term loosely)? And when we've decided that, how do we get the artefact hoikers to pay it, and how would you police (and punish) non-payment? This is unworkable without a change in law. Again, what mandate does the PAS have to issue a permit that allows X to take artefacts from the property of a distant and unknown Y? Also are metal detectorists going to be required to finance a Scheme that serves all finders, whether collectors or not and provides a public service?
4) Money could be raised for the running of the PAS by considering how the skills of FLOs could be developed to generate income:
Whoah. These 'skills' are? That they can identify coins and artefacts like any small finds specialist in the average archaeological project team? Or is it their ability to talk, among others, to a group of people (metal detectorists) who include some of the most ignorant and nastiest people I personally have ever come across? How can you make money out of that? I think this places the cart before the horse, the people who support having this Scheme to deal with whatever it is set up to deal with need to find a way to adequately remunerate these FLOs (and finds advisors and all the rest)  commensurate with those skills, qualities and pressures of work, not the other way around. It comes out from this Review that FLOs are already overexploited and ill-treated by the Byzantine organization they work for.

5) Money could be raised for the running of the PAS by charging for developing high resolution imaging of finds [brought to the Scheme by finders]:
I have already identified the selling of photo rights to metal detected finds as an issue several times on this blog. This involves a complication that the DCResearch reviewers do not see. In order to use the image of an object lent to the Scheme by a finder to raise money for the Scheme (or anyone else), there would have to be clear confirmation that the landowner who gave a finder each individual object has resigned not only from the intrinsic value of the object itself, but its other separate values as well (such as the photo rights). How would the proceeds be divided in these cases, 33% each for the PAS (and its photographer), the finder (provided they can show paperwork that they have acquired title to the object itself) and the landowner who only explicitly resigned from the object itself, but not the other rights associated with it?  Readers might remember the case of a Museum that attempted to raise money by pimping photos of their FLO. What next, a nude calendar? 

6) Money could be raised for the running of the PAS by the Scheme staff getting cash for producing specialist finds reports for commercial units, developers etc. :
As if there is nobody else capable, it is how I made my living a while back and I met a lot of people who did (and still do) exactly the same. In any case, if FLOs are not keeping up with recording objects brought in by finders, how will they cope with doing that alongside regular post excavation work on a project's material? Also, where exactly will the FLO work on, and store, the material when it is being worked on? Adequate working space is a major issue in post-excavation work, and I foresee all sorts of problems related to this - and indeed intellectual property rights to their work.
7) Money could be raised for the running of the PAS by the Scheme staff provision of training courses ' and 'schools and HE workshops':
But this kind of outreach, with finds-related themes is surely one of the Scheme's core tasks - so actually part of what the funding is being raised to support.  What 'workshops' are currently needed from FLOs, specifically?

8) Money could be raised for the running of the PAS by the Scheme staff 'charging for expert work'
It depends what this means. Charging who? Finders? Members of the public? If it is writing up finds brought in for recording, then again this is a core task of the Scheme. One wonders how many finders of any kind will be bringing objects in for recording if they have to pay the market rate for the cost of processing each object, and what incentive there would be. Let us recall that there is a UKDFD too - which would be cheaper? On the other hand, I am all for this if those expert services involve doing an excavation for properly recording the context of a find that is found by an artefact hunter on a known site (so finding stuff is like shooting fish in a barrel) and a detectorist has gone down blindly below the topsoil. The detectorist should be prepared (if necessary insuring themselves for liability) to cover the full costs of any investigation done as well as the full costs of conservation of the finds occasioned by their deliberate disturbance of this site in the search for pocketable collectables for themselves.
9) Money could be raised for the running of the PAS by the Scheme charging for attendance at commercial artefact hunting rallies etc.:
Been on many metal detecting forums have you DCResearch? Who would pay? The landowner who makes money by selling off  the heritage in his fields to collectors, the collectors themselves who pocket them for a moderate fee paid to the farmer, the organizers (who are in it for the not inconsiderable profit) or maybe the charity that gets cash from it too? Why would any of them pay if recording is 'voluntry, innit M8'
The promise of Brexit
fooled many
So, how much would a proper PAS cost in fact? If we accept that Sam Hardy is right and we are talking about something like 27000 detectorists hoiking away and pocketing away a load of finds from their 'productive sites', and let us assume that we can be happy to get 75% of them on record (there's always some 'black sheep' eh?) How many finds is that?  Let's, erring on the conservative side, use the HA estimate, that's 28 finds from 'each' of them = 750600 objects a year should be being added by now to the PAS database each year. Estimates of cost-per-object (and how they are coming down 'with no loss of quality') from the PAS look a bit dodgy. If we say that a single object costs twenty quid with all things covered we'd need to raise annually something over 15 million quid - just to service the metal detectorists and mitigate 75% of the information loss from current policies on Collection-Driven Exploitation of the archaeological record. If we drop recording costs to a tenner an object, we'd only have to find between seven and eight million a year.. Anyway, with all that money saved by Britain not paying Brussels after march 2019, not only the UK Health Service can be properly funded for once, but also heritage protection and the Portable Antiquities Scheme. Or, Britain could change the law to better protect the archaeological record from unmitigated destruction by exploitative hobbyists.   

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