Wednesday 1 April 2020

The Sting in the Tail of UK Culture Minister's Praise of "Responsible Treasure Hunting" [UPDATED]

Amidst the Coronavirus emergency, the UK’s newspapers are reporting that a total of 81,602 artefacts were recorded with the Portable Antiquities Scheme (PAS) of which 1,311 were declared as ‘Treasure’ under the definitions of the 1996 Treasure Act’. at the launch of the Treasure Report, Culture minister, Caroline Dinenage, is quoted as saying that said it was brilliant so many items were going on display in local museums. “Each one of these valuable discoveries tells us more about the way our ancestors lived and I want to congratulate all those who played a part in helping uncover more about our shared history". This jubilation was tempered by the next part of her announcement that did not get such extensive coverage in the tabloid press. It reads:
"It has come to the notice of Her Majesty's Government that there are a substantial number of unprincipled individuals who are not following this example and are just filling their pockets at the expense of the common historical heritage of everybody. My government has decided to take action against the perpetrators. The financial year that ends on March 31, 2020 will see a reassignment of public money from the Portable Antiquities Scheme, which will now go to setting up more regional rural crime units to deal with looters. I would like to thank the staff of the Portable Antiquities Scheme for the excellent service they have so enthusiastically provided over the years. They can be proud of the massive amount of information that was saved, and will share our frustration and disappointment that despite all their efforts, this was just not enough."
The Government released this morning a White Paper containing the full text of the new 'Act to Amend the 1996 Treasure Legislation and to make fresh provision in relation to archaeological material found in the territories and waters of England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland' (31st March 2020) and outlining future action that will be taken. Most of this follows the provisions that were outlined in a recent public consultation (Revising the definition of treasure in the Treasure Act 1996 and revising the related codes of practice). This is in line with current negotiations concerning handling of cultural property in general connected with Brexit.

It is about time.

UPDATE 2nd April 2020
Of course, thirty-five people yesterday realised that this was an April-fool post. But the question remains, why?

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