Sunday, October 6, 2013

What's his "Provenance?"

Archaeo-blogger Paul Barford is quite the critic.  His dislikes include metal detectorists, "coineys," "dealers," the Portable Antiquities Scheme, British archaeologists who cooperate with PAS, other archaeologists who cooperate with collectors, US museums, the US Government (excepting Customs and the State Department's Cultural Heritage Center) and pretty much anyone who disagrees with his archaeological centric views.

Mr.  Barford, like some of his fellow archaeo-bloggers, is also obsessed with the provenance of objects in private and museum collections.  But what do we know about Mr.  Barford's own background or "provenance" if you like?   CPO has touched on this issue before, but Arthur Houghton, who was wondering about this issue, suggested that CPO ask the following questions for Mr. Barford to answer.  He's welcome to answer these on his own blog or on this one, or  to the extent he chooses not to do so, others are welcome to provide any accurate information they may have.

1.  Exactly what academic and professional credentials does Mr. Barford have to back up his claim to be an archaeologist?  What scholarly works has he authored about archaeology?  What digs has he participated in and has any fieldwork he has performed been published?

2.  Mr. Barford has evidently lived in Poland since 1986.  At that time,  Communist Poland was an international pariah for its military crack-down on the Solidarity movement.  Why did Mr. Barford move from the Democratic West to Communist Poland?  Did he work for the Communist Government as has been reported?  If so, in what position and did he make any oath to that Government?  What has he been doing since the fall of Communism in 1989?

3.  Mr. Barford is reported to work as a contractor for UNESCO.  Does Mr. Barford derive any income from organizations or groups that seek to prohibit or limit the access of dealers, collectors and  museums to cultural goods?  If so, what organizations or groups and how much do they give him?  In short, does Mr. Barford have an undisclosed financial interest behind his commentary?


Cultural Property Observer said...

Arthur Houghton asked me to post this comment:

"Peter, all your questions are good and to the point -- particularly those that go to the question of what dark reason lies behind his anti-western screeds. Perhaps he was in the pocket of the Soviet Bloc even before he went to Poland? Of course Mr. Barford will wiggle and squirm, and not answer them at all, but will try to change the subject. The central issue that your questioning raises is whether Mr. Barfrod is in fact a fraud -- a fake archaeologist if you will -- with no substance at all. He certainly has no credibility among reputable scholars who look on him as if he were some sort of insect that has gotten into their soup.

I need not say more, but for the following: Among the readers of this discourse, if there are any who can help answer the many questions about Paul Barford, could they kindly communicate them to this blog?"

Dave Welsh said...

I don't think Paul Barford's meager qualifications as an archaeologist have impressed the international archaeological community favorably.

To begin with, there is the open and very important question of his education. Mr. Barford left the Institute of Archaeology in London without matriculating. I believe that he was later awarded a baccalaureate degree from the Institute of Archaeology, University of Warsaw.

In the USA and the UK, a bachelor's degree is considered sufficient to educationally qualify its holder as a professional. In Europe, however, a "Bac" is really more like a high school diploma, and no-one who has not matriculated from a graduate program is considered to be a professional.

Absent facts that only Mr. Barford can provide, it seems reasonable to suppose that his "Bac" was the entry qualification to a graduate degree program at the Institute of Archaeology, University of Warsaw.

Reasonably supposing a bit further, it would be logical to assume that Mr. Barford's expectations for matriculating with a doctorate in archaeology from the Institute of Archaeology, University of Warsaw, were thwarted by the fall of the Polish Communist regime, after which Mr. Barford's position as Inspector of Monuments was not continued.

To be fair and objective about this, if that scenario is indeed more or less what actually happened, there is nothing in it that is discreditable to Mr. Barford. It would be fair to say that he was in the wrong place, with tragically unfulfilled expectations, at the wrong time.

However, all this effort on my part toward being fair and objective about Mr. Barford's qualifications still does not award him an earned doctorate in his chosen field of study, research and presenting himself as an expert authority.

This observer must confess to holding a clearly dichotomous and significantly inconsistent perspective regarding Mr. Barford and his varying utterances.

On the one hand we have "The Early Slavs," a well regarded survey of the history and archaeology of the Slavic cultures which preceded modern Eastern Europe.

On the other hand we have a blogger whose notorious online utterances appear to be intentionally directed toward infuriating and provoking those with whom Mr. Barford has philosophical differences.

Dave Welsh
Classical Coins

Cultural Property Observer said...

Arthur Houghton asked me to add this:

"Dave Welsh makes a number of excellent observations, and may have hit the nail on the head with regard to Barford's unwillingness to discuss his past. He has also given fairness its due with regard to what Barford has done in the past -- the Eastern Slavs -- and leads to the real question of why does this man waste so much of his time and others' when he could be doing useful and creative work that advances scholarship? And, to add, why does he choose to demean himself with his continuing and unconstrained use of gutter language?

Warm regards,


Voz Earl said...

As someone who spent the past three years in a PhD program closely related to archaeology I couldn't care less whether Barford has a PhD or not. Some of the silliest rubbish I ever read has been published by PhDs, many of them considered "stars" in the discipline. On the other hand, I met a scholar without a PhD who had a long successful career and even now in retirement continues to research and publish on topics of great interest.

Hence, Barford and his arguments should be judged on their merits rather than his credentials. The problem for him, however, is that any valid point he makes tends to be buried under a mountain of ad hominem innuendo and anti-American vitriol. In this respect he is his own worst enemy: like a city broken through without a wall...

Dave Welsh said...

Arthur Houghton inquires:

" ... why does this man waste so much of his time and others' when he could be doing useful and creative work that advances scholarship?"

In my opinion, Mr. Barford suffers from massive frustration regarding his pretensions to be an active archaeologist, and the manner in which he is regarded by those who have been denigrated in his toxic blog.

Barford seeks, by writing journal articles (in which journals?) and doing minor volunteer fieldwork in Poland and Egypt, to maintain some visible credentials as a practising archaeologist. But all of what he does is in reality small scale, and not important in the view of real archaeologists, who are involved in major digs and/or publications and teaching the subject in leading graduate programs.

Arthur further inquires:

"... why does he choose to demean himself with his continuing and unconstrained use of gutter language?"

He is under the impression that pejorative language demeans his targets, and does not realize that it instead actually demeans and discredits himself.

My wife holds a doctorate in psychology, and she has explained to me that such behavior reveals a personality disorder characterized by narcissism and unrealistic, irrational fantasizing. One example of this disorder was 19th century "Emperor Norton" who "reigned" over "These United States" from his "palace" in San Francisco.

I refer to Mr. Barford's fantasy land as Warschau-Wolkenkukkuksheim, a German combination word that translates as "Cloud-cuckoo land in Warsaw." This term (less "in Warsaw") originated in "The Birds" by Aristophanes.

Dave Welsh
Classical Coins

Cultural Property Observer said...

Arthur Houghton asked me to post this:

"Dave should be thanked for his comment. If I understand correctly, Paul Barford may have a clinical disorder, and should seek treatment as soon as possible. Would it be helpful, perhaps, if I were to contribute a little to a "Barford Therapy Fund?" I have some money saved up from the sale of one or two antiquities I made some years ago and would be happy to start the fund with this.

Best wishes and thank you for your blog,


Archaeolaw said...

I'm not crazy about the guy, but I'm not really comfortable with the personal attacks against him and inquiries into whether he worked with communists 30 years ago, either. They remind me too much of when PB went after WS's wife with the stalky satellite imagery photos and digging up photos of her shop.

Did dignity amongst intellectuals and professionals disappear with the advent of the internet or is my impression that it even existed just false nostalgia?

Cultural Property Observer said...

I understand your point but would suggest questioning a very harsh critic's credentials is quite different than going after someone's spouse.