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Subject:

Re: Canterbury is to lose its museum?

From:

Nick Boldrini <[log in to unmask]>

Reply-To:

Nick Boldrini <[log in to unmask]>

Date:

Thu, 26 Jan 2017 11:44:38 +0000

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AS I am sure John is aware, working at MOLA, this has long been an issue - the storage of finds in museums, as well as perhaps the role of museums 
 
I am going to restrict myself to the former point only. 
 
John asks " Does anyone really think the developer-funded 'final' report, no matter how glossy and/or academically peer-reviewed, produced under intense pressure on manpower, expertise, time and money, is the end of the matter?" 
 
I would suggest in the majority of cases yes it is. As a discipline archaeology has been generally very bad (IMO) at encouraging archaeologists to go back and revisit archives of excavations (with a few notable exceptions) and once the site is written up that IS usually it. 
 
Whether that is good or bad, is debatable, but if as a discipline we are not encouraging the re-use/re-examination of archives, it does beg the question what are they being kept for? Especially when they are a drain on resources for the holding organisation. 
 
The growth in developer funded archaeology was predicated on the idea that museums wanted all the stuff we produced, but that is an increasingly questionable assumption. As a discipline we need to grasp the nettle on archives, and unfortunately (as is so often the case) this only happens when there is a crisis. 
 
As John also suggests the next wave of development (especially things like the A303 tunnel and HS2) may swamp some museums, but that may need to happen, to push the crisis so that this gets dealt with. 
 
There are many suggested solutions, some of which have been tried and work, but they have only been implemented piecemeal, mainly because the Nettle hasn't been grasped. 
 
And final point, I think that there is a danger in this discussion of assuming 'positive view' means the same as 'blind to issues'. It doesn't, you can be aware of issues and still be positive about the future. 
 
Probably should add this is my view not my employers... 
 
 
Best wishes 
 
Nick Boldrini 
Historic Environment Record Officer 
Ext 267008 
 
 
 
-----Original Message----- 
From: British archaeology discussion list [mailto:[log in to unmask]] On Behalf Of John Clark 
Sent: 25 January 2017 19:28 
To: [log in to unmask] 
Subject: Re: [BRITARCH] Canterbury is to lose its museum? 
 
Malcolm was right to draw attention to the ongoing threats to museums and the museum system in this country. 
 
Recently on Britarch there have been some very optimistic posts about the state of 'British archaeology' - at least in terms of the work available for archaeological students leaving university, with all the developments and major infrastructure projects planned etc. 
 
All very well - what happens to the finds all these enthusiastic and (reasonably) well-paid archaeologists dig up, all the site records they generate, using more and more sophisticated technology? Who is going to store and look after them? Who is going to make them available to future researchers? Who is going to interpret them for, and make them available to, a much wider public? Who is going to run the 'hands-on' sessions for school-kids? 
 
Does anyone really think the developer-funded 'final' report, no matter how glossy and/or academically peer-reviewed, produced under intense pressure on manpower, expertise, time and money, is the end of the matter? 
 
There's a life after excavation, and that used to be the role of museums and of archaeological archives within museums. Perhaps it still is - where they exist. 
 
Museums everywhere with archaeological collections are closing, or facing massive reductions in their funding, and equivalent and unavoidable reductions in staffing and services to the public. 
 
How many museums now have any staff with archaeological knowledge? How many expect one person to take responsibility for the whole range of archaeological material from prehistory to 'modern' and their associated site records? The phasing-out of specialist curatorial expertise within museums is something that has been going on for the last twenty years or so (apparently calmly watched by the Museums Association - they occasionally lament it, but don't seem to do anything). 
 
But perhaps it's not only in this country - I recently sent an enquiry to a major museum in a certain (largely) English-speaking foreign country - as far as I could tell from their website, the person in charge of the object I was enquiring about is called a 'Collection Technician'. (That was three weeks ago - I've had no reply.) 
 
[Oh, and by the way - the current successes of 'British archaeology' (and the future availability of work for professional archaeologists!) surely depend on the present planning regime, which (in general  terms) has required the developer not only to facilitate archaeological work but to pay for it and for research and publication. Several contributors to Britarch will know more about this than I do, but I believe local government cutbacks are already seriously reducing the availability of archaeological expertise within local authority Planning Departments to invigilate the system and impose planning conditions (and I don't think Historic England is in much better state). But perhaps I'm worrying unduly - with Brexiteers' enthusiasm for 'free enterprise' and 'less regulation', and a willingness to jump on the Donald Trump bandwagon, our planning regulations will shortly be 'eased' - and there won't be any major developer-funded excavations to overwhelm the few remaining museums with archaeological holdings. (Back to the 1960s, anyone? This is where I came in.)] 
 
John C 
 
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