Saturday 22 May 2021

Brexity Dumbdown and Fobboff in UK Museum over Antiquities Trade


Derby Museums has a policy of replying to queries within 28 days (Museums' Trustees, please note, not good enough). So it was, I am sure only coincidentally, the day after the next Hanson's sale with the "car-boot-sale harness mount" that looks a bit like the harness brooch I was enquiring about (Query about Museum Engagement with Item from Hanson's Artefact Sale 25th February 2021 PACHI Friday, 23 April 2021), that I got something that the Museums apparently consider is a reply. Possibly Brexity England is now a place where any old fluff will do to fob off the Museums' usual uncritical public. The problem is if you write a reply that in its brevity  in two places completely contradicts the actual 'record' made in your own museum, some people (understandably) will not just swallow the fluff, and suspect you have either just not adequately prepared yourself to answer the questions (which is just disrespectful), or you are hiding something. 

I think there is a point of principle here, nobody likes being fobbed off. Since Mr Butler has presumed to cite the Museums Association's somewhat sketchy Code of Ethics to me, I'll cite it back: 

[...] This places museums in an important position of trust in relation to their audiences [...] Museums must make sound ethical judgements in all areas of work in order to maintain this trust [...] Museums and those who work in and with them should: [...] treat everyone equally, with honesty and respect, provide and generate accurate information for and with the public, support freedom of speech and debate
We can hardly debate the relationships between Derby Museums and those involved in the antiquities trade without accurate information on just what that has involved, for example in the case of the DENO database entry about this controversial harness brooch.

Watch this space. 

I really do not understand why within days of these issues being raised before the February 25th sale, those involved, Derby Museums, the Derby and Notts FLO, the Portable Antiquities Scheme and the British Museum  did not immediately clarify (together with Hanson's auctioneers and its staff) the whole situation here. Three months on, and the sale of another very similar mount, we still have a story full of holes.  Why, when all of these entities should be governed by the principle of transparency? Does not the public have a right to know just how much they can "trust" what is happening to their archaeological heritage? 

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