Wednesday, January 16, 2008

in small things forgotten

The Portable Antiquities Scheme is a voluntary scheme to record archaeological objects found by members of the public in England and Wales. Every year many thousands of objects are discovered, many of these by metal-detector users, but also by people whilst out walking, gardening or going about their daily work. Such discoveries offer an important source for understanding our past.
Save the Portable Antiquities Scheme
At a meeting of the Portable Antiquities Scheme's Advisory Group the Chief Executive of the Museums Libraries and Archives Council (MLA) announced that funding for next year would be frozen at the 2007 level, even though at the press conference for the Annual Report he and the Minister announced that the funding for current levels of activity would be preserved.

The PAS as an organisation of 50 staff needs £1.49 million to keep going at the same level of activity in 2008 and freezing the PAS budget will mean losing 5 posts out of 50.

The MLA also wants to review PAS's funding for 2009-11 and integrate them into the programme called Renaissance in the Regions which it is funding 42 hub museums. If that happens the work of the Finds Liaison Officers will be diluted and the national side of PAS will be weakened. This will result in 9 separate PAS groups, all with their own priorities.

The DCMS (Department of Culture, Media and Sport) should reassign the PAS from MLA to the British Museum that is fully committed to the long term work of PAS.

At a time where Heritage and recognition of the public interest in our shared heritage, to act in such a manner is contrary to the principal of providing support to the public and providing a secure and sustainable future for the PAS.
What this means in layperson's terms is that what is currently a unified service to receive small archaeological finds from the public will be split up and have its funding cut. I suspect also that this is yet another instance of heritage and the arts being squeezed to pay for the Olympics. Grr.

A Finds Liaison Officer is the one who actually is the point of contact for the Portable Antiquities Scheme in each local authority.

This is not just about the current funding issue (frozen for this next year at present) meaning 5 lost jobs, but about the ultimate safekeeping of the PAS as it is. What the MLA propose to do is effectively break the PAS up and move all the Finds Liaison Officers out to Renaissance Hub Museums. This will mean the demise of the PAS in all but name. This potential move will bring differing standards that will result in losing the scheme's cohesion; also the fact that many FLOs would just leave and get a different job. Then factor in that the end-users of the scheme will now be forced to have to travel to record their finds, because Dorset and Somerset for example don't have a Hub Museum.

Sign the petition
to show your support for the Portable Antiquities Scheme.

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