Chris Cumberpatch <[log in to unmask]> wrote (in
<000201c34c97$fab8e5e0$7dc387d9@e6r0x8>) about 'private collecting by
archaeologists: was in praise of metal detecting: was (no subject)
private collections', on Thu, 17 Jul 2003:
> John Hooker writes: A focused and specialized private collection is
>ALWAYS better than any public collection. The contents of private
>collections are more accessible than the contents of public collections ...
> This certainly does not apply to pottery and I would doubt that it
>applies to most categories of archaeological material - animal and human
>bone, environmental material, dendrochronological samples etc etc.
>Archaeology is not, (in my view) about collections of shiny things (and
>certainly not about the fetishisation of specific categories of material
>culture which is an object of study in its own right) but about the attempt
>to understand human society in the past through the medium of material
>culture and data which pertains to the human use of the landscape and
>resources. This demands a focus on context (as others have pointed out) and
>the use of comparative methodologies which allow inferences to be drawn from
>diverse datasets derived from different aspects of human activity.
>Publically finded and managed collections are essential if the bulk of
>archaeological material is to be preserved and made available to future
>generations of scholars. I very much doubt that private collectors would be
>prepared to store and curate the hundreds of kilograms of pottery that can
>be produced from the excavation of a Roman or medieval pottery workshop, yet
>such collections are of far greater value in archaeological terms than the
>occasional complete vessels or decontextualised stamped or decorated sherds
>that appear in auction catalogues. The museum collections that I have
>looked at have been made available to me by the curators entirely free of
>charge and without restriction - it is a gross calumny to assert or imply
>that curators (in Britain at least) see their collections as a source of
Please forgive me if this is too harsh, but all you have said is that a
bad collection is not as good as a good one.
Consider that these 'publicly funded and managed collections' are
managed by skilled people, and if one of those people has a private
collection, why is it bound to be so much worse than the 'day job' one?
Furthermore, the facts of 21st century life are such that if curators
can't find a way of using their collections as a source of funds, they
are going to suffer corporate penury and thus put their collections in
jeopardy. Fifty years ago, this wasn't so; all sorts of what we would
now regard as 'scams' were tolerated 'in a good cause' to provide funds
for many and various activities. I, for one, don't welcome this
'progress', but we can't ignore it.
Regards, John Woodgate, OOO - Own Opinions Only. http://www.jmwa.demon.co.uk
Interested in professional sound reinforcement and distribution? Then go to
PLEASE do NOT copy news posts to me by E-MAIL!