Thursday 4 November 2021

The BM Did Not Bin This One.


When in mid-December 2010, I reported internal documents a concerned member of PAS staff had leaked me about a proposed TV show provisionally titled "Britain's Secret Treasures", I was told by somebody who claimed to know that "when this proposal came to them they tore it up and binned it immediately". As we all know, my information was correct and the programme was made and released in December 2012 (at the same time as the real archaeology programme Time Team was cancelled) and a second series followed a year later. Both did enormous damage to public perceptions of what archaeology is about. A treasure hunt.

It seems they did not "bin" the next one either. Channel 4's "More 4" has commissioned a new series "Great British History Hunters" (News Release, 'More 4 links up with the British Museum to learn more about our hidden history' 3 November 2021). They've commissioned a series "following the real-life detectorists and the journey their fascinating finds make through the British Museum’s Portable Antiquities Scheme and Treasure processes" from independent TV production company Tuesday’s Child (creators of "LEGO Masters", "Killer Camp", "Ghost Bus Tours", "For What It’s Worth", and "Superstar Dogs"). Real Class.

This series will tell warm characterful stories about ordinary people that are out-and-about all over the country making extraordinary discoveries every day. Whether metal detectorists, mudlarks or amateur archaeologists, they all have a passion for finding the missing pieces that help tell the story of our past. It's every detectorist’s dream to one day find “treasure” that ends up on display in the British Museum or a museum local to where they live. With unique access to the Museum’s dedicated team of archaeologists, curators, conservators, and scientists, the discoveries are filmed from soil to gallery,
and the process by which "some of these artefacts can reap financial rewards for the finders". That is how the majority of finds made by artefact hunters end up in cases these days, they have to be bought from the finder-landowner looting partnership. Most of the ones that don't bring a Treasure reqward get scattered in private collections, get dumped or go on eBay (PAS, BM, Channel 4, prove me wrong).
Against a backdrop of the Great British Countryside in all its glory [...] we’ll meet a colourful mix of finders, including an 11-year-old YouTuber finding Bronze Age gold, an Indiana Jones enthusiast, female detectorists giving the guys a run for their money, war vets, devoted dads and a host of other finders that illustrate the camaraderie and companionship that detecting can bring, and the important role they all play in the British Museum’s mission to involve people in archaeology

Artefact hunting is collecting, not archaeology.

This is probably the same, Henry Cole has worked with "Tuesday's Child" TV before. [Update: It turns out that it was not, there were two of them within a few weeks of each other. The one was crass in the extreme, the second (the one discussed here), we will see in a week's time Update PMB 21.04.22].

"Great British History Hunters" will air on More 4 next year. And then we'll see the numbers of metal detectors sold soar even higher beyond the number the PAS are now, and ever will be, under-resourced to deal with. Irresponsible TV, irresponsible of the PAS to take part. Though we all know the weak excuses they'll proffer for doing so, the same ones that they proffered in 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013... and er... what actual effects did they achieve in fact? (That actually is a serious question, and one to which all the people putting money and hope into the Scheme deserve to have answered substantively)



Unknown said...

I know for a fact, one find on this programme wasn't found where the finder said it was found. He was seen putting the find in his finds bag the morning of a weekend rally.

Paul Barford said...

If you remember, I expressed scepticism about the 1936-45 Verwundetenabzeichen that was allegedly found there.

Peter Sharpe said...

Great British Treasure Hunt is a rare programme these days; it is one made entirely without the irritating production gimmicks which infest and ruin most programmes of a similar nature; no ridiculous two-minute intro and no hopping between parallel stories to cater for those with the attention span of a gnat. So rare are programmes such as this that it deserves all the praise and support it can get.

By way of contrast, The Great British Treasure Hunt is shallow rubbish, made almost unwatchable by the pointless inclusion of the intensely irritating Henry Coles.

Paul Barford said...

Thanks Peter, I think you've mixed the titles of the two programmes here, but from the context your meaning is clear.

Yes, I found the loud and persistent puerility of Henry Cole's presentation style incredibly irritating and cannot imagine the sort of audience this would actually appeal to, except perhaps the drinking-game ["take one gulp when somebody on the programme acts like a prat"] crowd.

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