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BRITARCH  July 2006

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Subject:

Re: PAS strays from its remit ( was Bill Wyman's light metal )

From:

Paul Barford <[log in to unmask]>

Reply-To:

British archaeology discussion list <[log in to unmask]>

Date:

Mon, 17 Jul 2006 08:50:26 +0200

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Steve Burch presents the metal detectorist vision of the function of the
PAS. He wrote:
> Actually Rob, the PAS do not pussy foot up to
> the detecting community at all.......   <
Some archaeologists who have been close PAS-watchers will probably not agree
with you. Time and time again we have seen that in the face of 'tekkie'
opposition they have not stood their (our) ground.

> ....and certainly not as much as they should do
> considering that this one sector of the public almost
> (almost) single handedly justifies their existance,    <
Hmmm. Should they? A state sponsored scheme as petitioner? The inability [or
lack of will] a decade ago to deal in any other way with individuals who
hunt for artefacts for their personal collections and sale is _one_  reason
why the PAS was set up. Artefact hunters are part of the cause of the
problem rather than its remedy.

The PAS is intended to encourage members of the general public to report
accidental finds. Do they? The annual reports show that the PAS concentrates
most of their effort of visiting metal-detecting clubs. That's where they
can get their hands on "more-database-numbers-per-punter". Actually reaching
the other 52 million people to any degree with their fundamental message
would be the "justification" of their existence commensurate with the
resources poured in. At the moment, most of this costly effort goes into
pleading with a few thousand artefact collectors to play fair.

> The PAS was set up to cater to the general public,
> not the archaeological communtiy.      <
Well, that's not exactly what it says on page 8 of the current Annual
Report, where it is stated to be an "archaeological project", and that is
the basis of our discussion of it here. Is it currently "catering for the
general public" to concentrate largely on providing a service (and
legitimation) for four thousand artefact hunters and collectors?

And when it does produce material for wider public consumption (like the
PAStexplorers webpage we are talking about), it is markedly pro-detecting
[rather than pro-archaeology or pro-heritage management] and fails to get
over even a basic archaeological/ARM message to the intended audience which
is merely an ineffective use of resources.

> it is the detecting community [...] which is by and
> large the only sector of  the genral public that gives
> the PAS the time of day.      <
Is that not because detectorists have recognised that the PAS legitimises
the hobby of artefact hunting and collecting - without it, there would today
be far more condemnation of this erosive and self-centred activity? Also,
apart from a few "finds days", it's clear that the PAS spends so much of its
time getting "finds per punter" out of a few thousand artefact hunters, that
they really are not getting the message through to the same degree to the
rest of the wider public.

Anyway, you are falling into the trap of measuring PAS progress only in
terms of  "finds added to database", when from our (archaeological/ARM)
point of view as 'preservation by record' of a disappearing part of the
resource, their database is in reality but a drop in the ocean. The true
measure of PAS impact is - according to the five aims David quoted for us
last night - in the outreach creating awareness among the public. And in the
opinion of some of us, with all the resources it has behind it, in this
area, it could be "doing much better" than it is.

What a shame that the 2006 "user survey" did not get out in the streets and
measure the awareness of the _real_ "general public" that they even have a
Portable Antiquities Scheme, let alone what it stands for.

Paul Barford

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