Sunday, August 30, 2009

Lean Budgets Lead to More Reliance on Amateurs to Record the Past

As noted in Derek Fincham's "Illicit Cultural Property" blog, the Guardian reports on how lean times in the U.K. make it virtually inevitable that more reliance will be placed on interested members of the public to record the past. See:

Unlike many U.S. archaeologists, Fincham thinks the Treasure Act and Portable Antiquities scheme may have something to offer to other countries. See generally

I really don't understand the hostility of many U.S. archaeologists towards the Treasure Act and PAS, particularly when they don't even have personal experience with how the U.K.'s system works. Even Lord Renfrew, a well-known critic of the antiquities trade, has had kind things to say about the Treasure Act and PAS. See:

The typical claim of critics is that the Treasure Act and PAS merely "pays people to loot."

But the fact remains that even in boom times, there is never enough money or enough archaeologists to excavate and properly record all the minor artifacts (particularly coins) out there. There certainly is not enough money to ensure they are all properly conserved.

Why not encourage the public to work with archaeologists rather than against them?

What's wrong with letting the public keep minor artifacts after they are recorded, particularly when they will otherwise just be forgotten in the stores of underfunded state museums?

Shouldn't it all be about recording and preserving artifacts rather than "keeping control?"

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