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Subject:

Re: Museum of London jobs

From:

Malcolm J Watkins <[log in to unmask]>

Reply-To:

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

Date:

Fri, 20 May 2011 09:49:06 +0100

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I suspect that some nonsense is being peddled in this discussion.

The likelihood of any 'income' from the average archaeological study is zilch to nothing so writing a book on Outer Mongolian Toothpicks is only likely to allow others to determine whether your research abilities are any good - and of course their perceptions will be affected by their own knowledge/ignorance/prejudices.

As a former public serant (who took seriously the concept of public service) I don't gind anything especially strange about the job rates. It is still not uncommon to see jobs requiring umpteen qualifications being advertised at rates below the threshold at which the employee would need to start paying back his/her university fees loan. The reality is that our profession, whether museums or archaeology, is not valued by the public purse. Incidentally, the research post elsewhere on this list, which looks interesting and worthwhile, is offering 2k less and asking for a masters or equivalent.

You don't become an archaeologist for the money. You don't enter museums expecting a fortune. 
 
I don't quite understand the squabble over 'intellectual proerty' either. Both sides are right, and both sides are wrong. There is a vested interest in keeping mum about the site location which you have identified until such time as you might make some return on the investment of time and money involved, which is what I think one side wants, and there is no reality of the 'intellectual property' of the location, as the other side claims. There is no protection for an idea -  an interesting comment that has stuck with me since hearing a well-known TV archaeologist mention how one of his own ideas for a TV programme was developed without his involvement because he tried to have it adopted.

As I get older I find myself torn between two camps: I used to see my role as something of an enabler, helping others to develop their ideas and make their names, but as I got older I found myself increasingly, and perhaps unreasonably, resentful of the number who gave me no credit, and worse still simply used me as a means to both hone their own ideas and steal mine. One particular project is still raw in my mind decades after the event.

So I can see both sides of this coin. 

Ultimately, it boils down to two issues - that archaeology is, and always has been, an essentially nasty profession in which people are happy to stab backs for their own development (something I discovered at University) and secondly that we need to decide which is the key issue - our own ego, or the betterment of knowledge. Most of the time, understandably perhaps, the frmer wins our own personal battles.

As I reflect on what has gone before there is much that I can hand on heart say I achieved, discovered and proposed, but very little of it is credited to me. It rankles, especially when others have benefited at my expense but ultimately I have the warm glow of knowing that my ideas have made a difference, even if history will credit somebody else. 

Finally, and less introspectively, I too have used Google Earth and Google Maps imagery to enable me to understand and identify historic landscapes and landscape features which I have then happily divulged to others in talks and lectures. Having seen sites destroyed because people did not know they existed, I am firmly of the opinion that we need to tell teh largest number of people about discoveries we make, so that occasionally one or two will stand up and defend against threats, or as with John's context, undertake work to confirm or deny our interpretations.

On this issue, I would strongly recommend that people consider the network of footpaths and bridleways that are generally valued only as rambling opportunities, and therefore not actively defended against closure or alteration. In my ECW researches I have realised just how important they are for showing how troops could move easily and quickly around the countryside. They are, just as battlefields which were once also ignored as archaeology (baout which I have an entertaining but potentially libellous anecdote), archaeological features we should protect and study.

But frankly, the pay does not seem unusally (as opposed to unreasonably) low, and the interpretation fo a landscape as an historic site is only of any use if it is made public. I can understand the reluctance of someone to go public - I have a theory about a certain type of medieval site which could completely alter our understanding of medieval topography and land-planning, but can't quite bring myself to give it to others to prove or disprove. Like John, I arrived at it by examining maps and aerial photos. I would, however, make at least an MA and perhaps a PhD.

Greenhouses and stones spring to mind......

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