Well, as I mentioned in my post of April 7th, this blog’s favorite fan, Paul Barford, was the guest speaker Wednesday, at University Campus Suffolk, Ipswich, UK. From all accounts the talk was typical Barford BS, as in how detectorists are destroying history, how his Artifact Erosion Counter proves it, and how, if he had his way, the pastime would be strictly licensed, among other things.
The following in-person account of his talk was sent to me by a friend in the UK, and was posted on a forum there…..
Well, TBH…..anyone expecting anything new would have been disappointed. It was billed as a seminar, with a Powerpoint presentation by his nibs that should have taken 40 minutes, followed by a similar amount of time allotted to debate. However, due to repeated IT failures with the projector, the debating period was much truncated, culminating in a move to another auditorium, which was a great shame because that was by far the most interesting part of the afternoon.
Clive, Tom and I represented the ‘unwashed artefact hunters & collectors’ and East Anglian Archaeology was well represented by Jude Plouviez, Robert Rose etc and by Helen Geake. About 20 people attended.
I videoed the presentation up to a point just prior to the final failure of the projector, but to be honest, there wasn’t much new. It was all very statistic-based, pretty unscientific and drew heavily on the magical Barford/Swift artefact counter that IMO is about as pie in the sky as it gets. Although it took PB about 10 minutes to mention Metal Detectorists – it was largely all about us of course…..and the picture he paints of hobby Metal Detecting is not a pretty one.
He portrays us as a group of scheming, self-centred ‘artefact hunters’ who care little for the Archaeological Context of our finds and far more for the value of the coin/artefact itself – monetary or otherwise. NOTHING was mentioned in the presentation of any of the outstanding contributions made by the hobby to wider archaeology, the endless volunteering, or the alturistic nature of many of us. He refuted David Lammy’s quote that Hobbyists are the ‘unsung heroes of the UK’s Heritage.’ Surprise, surprise. Hobbyist metal detecting was always going to be a compromise as far as the Archaeological Establishment was concerned, but in BarfordWorld, compromise is very much a dirty word.
After the presentation, during open debate, he was asked how he would address some of the the concerns he had raised. And it will come as little surprise to many here that he advocated:
- 1. Strict licensing of the hobby.
- 2. Legislation that re-defines ‘Treasure’.
- 3. An extension in the scope and scale of the Scheduling of sites where significant finds have been made.
The Crosby-Garrett Helmet was mentioned more than once – and here I did have some sympathy for his argument, until he destroyed it with some fatuous argument regarding detectorists in Poland. His argument was that Polish (licensed) detectorists (there are a growing number of them), are largely concerned with researching, detecting and recording WW2 sites.
He was asked what would happen when one of these Polish detectorists stumbled accross finds of a more ancient nature. He intimated that these finders would all be inclined to report these finds – and when they did, that no restrictions would then be placed upon them, but that more stringent recording criteria might be imposed. IMO and with experience of the British model, what is more likely to happen is that the more ancient find is likely to go unrecorded, since it would be highly likely to jeopardize further access to the site. It’s happened here many times. It might be very interesting to discern just how much illegal metal detecting is conducted on Archaeological Sites in Europe where blanket licensing is enforced, but I expect PB’s magical artefact counter might just blow a fuse!
I said the most interesting part of the seminar was the public debate and I have to say that I was very pleased with the questions posed by Plouviez, Geake and Rose. They raised some sound points and while it stopped short of endorsement, it seemed clear to me that the PAS model of dealing with hobbyist detecting is preferable among them to the majority of mainland European models. That at least is something?! Jude Plouviez mentioned that of all the sites in Suffolk listed on the HER, c. 10% were down to the efforts of Hobbyist Metal Detecting alone. One day, she might forgive me for quoting her! But I think the Suffolk statistics are probably not that extraordinary.
Neither of course, is the wider contribution that hobbyists continue to make to our Heritage, which went completely unacknowledged by PB. In any future debate, I would like to see a greater number of Establishment experts invited – Martin Allen from the EMC perhaps, experts from the field of Iron Age coinage and certainly the likes of Rod Blunt and other Big Guns from detectorist ranks, to name but a few. 40 minutes was not long enough for a proper debate, but what was clear from today is that according to PB, it’s very much business as usual. Disappointing.
Apparently the audience was mainly of the archaeological camp (nothing new there), and the question and answer part of the program, all too short. While Mr. Barford finally ventured out into the daylight, allowing all to see the face behind the vitriol, I wondered what miracle caused this abrupt turn about. Is he turning over a new leaf? Could it be that he was paid very handsomely for showing up? Or could it simply be a Barford ego trip? My money is on the latter.
In case you think I am the only one who finds Mr. Barford to be a distasteful individual, check out the comments of April 2nd and April 7th on the Cultural Property Observer blog. If you are interested, here is the NPR Story referenced….
Time will tell what this “coming out” means, but I know for sure it will not alter Paul Barford’s dislike for those of us who enjoy this pastime.
PAUL BARFORD AS VIEWED FROM THE MALAMUTE SALOON
Well apparently there are brainwaves traveling across the pond because Bubba want’s to talk about the aformentioned Mr. Barford as well. To read John Howland’s take on things simply click on the Malamute Saloon link above and scroll down to today’s date!
Thanks again to Eddy Current (UK) for the following articles. If you are on Facebook be sure to type his name in the search area, then “like” his page. Eddy is current on all things detecting, and will keep you up-to-date on all the important issues and happenings….