Thursday 16 April 2020

CBA's new Leadership and Collection-Driven EXPLOITATION of the British Archaeological Record

On 2nd April, 2020, the CBA got a new Executive Director replacing Mike Heyworth. Under Heyworth, artefact hunting with metal detectors and Collection-Driven Exploitation of the archaeological record was promoted (!) as "archaeology for all" and, disappointingly, the CBA was always very diffident about speaking out and never took any kind of an unambiguous leadership role (as opposed to RESCUE) in explaining the difference between Archaeology (with a capital A) and merely "digging up old things". I would argue that archaeology, conservation and the CBA were the losers.

The new head of the CBA, Dr Neil Redfern, said on appointment:
 “I am delighted to be taking up this role with the CBA and looking forward to strengthening our role in championing archaeology in the United Kingdom".
Let us see him do that. But not as a source of loose artefacts for collectors to fill their pockets and shift onto eBay, bringing "the past" within the reach of everybody's online reach. Please. He then is further quoted:
Our landscapes and cities contain the most fantastic stories locked away in the fabric of their buildings and the undulations in their fields. Our role is to help the public ask questions about their places, to drive curiosity and inquisitiveness and use archaeology to help create meaningful places and experiences for all."
It seems that at the moment, a very frequent question the thrill-seeking public are asking of those undulations is "How can I get on there? I bet I could find a lot of stuff there, maybe another Lenborough Hoard, or valuable Roman cavalry helmet". Curiosity and inquisitiveness  and the search for thrilling new experiences should not seek to destroy the fragile and finite archaeological record. Let us see if Dr Redfern can find a way promote archaeology as archaeology and not something that is just awkwardly tacked on to portable antiquities consumerism. 

Apparently, the CBA is 'progressing' [sic] 'a transformation project to modernise the organisation'. Including a move away from an object-centred nineteenth century approach? Good.

Heritage action in their text 'Metal detecting and the CBA’s new leadership' (08/03/2020) also hopes that 'strengthening our role in championing archaeology' means no longer championing non-archaeology, "we trust the CBA will continue to promote archaeology alone, not what isn’t. In just a few decades things have deteriorated". It is time to STOP the rot, isn't it?

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