As the former Post-Excavation Officer for the past 12 years, I consider
it necessary to clarify a few points raised by recent correspondence
concerning the possible demise of the Archaeology Service in North
Hertfordshire, to be ratified at this evenings full council meeting.
As far as I am aware, only staff in the Archaeology Service are facing
job losses in the Leisure Division and possibly even within the whole
Authority, and despite it having been stated that the savings required
are not as great as first envisaged and therefore there would be no need
to cut jobs!
It may be possible for the development control work and SMR to be
conducted centrally from the County Council, but is that what the people
of North Hertfordshire want?
It has been suggested that the cost of the current service is £23,000 or
even more. In truth the 'real' cost is only something in the order of
£10,000! The apparent high cost has been the product of internal cross
charging. Could the County Council therefore provide an equivalent
service to process some 18,000 applications per year for such a low sum?
Archives, identification of portable antiquities, museum displays and
public information is best undertaken by museum staff. That has in fact
been the case for decades, what is being proposed is for the remaining
museum staff to carry out these duties. With all due respect to the
staff, they could not handle c.1,100 items for identification a year,
identify, research, photograph and illustrate the items where
necessary. It is also likely that many enquirers would not go to the
museum and unknown staff. Over the years the Archaeology Service has
developed wide and sustained relationships with detectorists which now
is placed in jeopardy. There has been a great wealth of new information
generated which now is likely to dry up thanks to North Hertfordshire
Regarding the post-excavation work, and mainly that of Baldock, 1978-94,
all that has been achieved has been done by the illustrator and my self
PART-TIME due to work on finds enquiries, development control activities
and other museum and corporate activities. It has been said that if a
project of such a magnitude was to be resourced today, there would be a
full-time staff of 12 to 15 people. It has therefore been a great
achievement for us to have produced to draft stage the first three
volumes and the entire burial catalogue for volume four. The size of
the project can be measured in the thousands of illustrations that have
been produced and some 11 Mb of text! There has always been a lack of
resources, a situation soon to be made even worse with staffing way
below critical mass.
It is suggested that the one remaining officer can continue the work and
without the assistance of an illustrator!!! What a joke. It suggests
to me that the council is not serious about completing its obligation to
the post-excavation program.
The question has been asked, does anyone care? The answer is yes, I
care, the remaining museum staff care, the people of North Hertfordshire
care. Over the past two years the local archaeological society has seen
its membership more than triple, partly through the efforts of the staff
of the Archaeology Service. The local detector community care as their
service will no longer be available for their needs.
The question is, do you care?
Leader of the Council: Cllr FJ Smith, 01462-474307
Chief Executive: Mr. S Philp, 01462-474000