The thing is, artefact hunters are desperate to have the public (and landowners) believe they are purely history lovers with no interest in the monetary value of what they find. But it doesn’t work as almost every big Treasure find involves a press story about an impoverished local museum desperate to scrape together the money to “save” the object whereas the public are well aware that museums are closing everywhere and that “saving” the find means the museum giving the landowner and detectorist enough dosh to prevent them from not declaring the find and selling it on the side.
Add to that, the press reports invariably contain a standard quote from the detectorist -“The money’s not important, it’s the history” whereas the public are not daft and are more than capable of knowing that if the money WASN’T the most important thing and the detectorists love of history WAS then he’d renounce some or all of his reward money so as to ensure the museum could acquire the Treasure at a lower price. The fact that this happens so rarely constitutes a huge barrier preventing detectorists ever convincing anyone they are lovable.
So here’s how we have decided to help everyone – detectorists, museums and the public purse:
It’s easier to renounce a portion of a theoretical sum of money than a real one so from today we are asking all detectorists to pledge, via the Comments section of this article, that if they find Treasure in future they will renounce at least 50% of their reward in order to make it easier for it to be acquired by Britain’s financially stretched museums.
We hope others will encourage them to do so too as it’s a campaign that has great advantages for both the finances of the museum sector and the reputation of metal detecting so it has no downside. In addition, no-one can feel it’s an unreasonable pledge to expect of anyone since it involves giving up money they don’t have and probably never will [as only a minority find items that qualify for Treasure rewards] and anyway, as every detectorist that has ever had a reward always says in the press, “I don’t care about the money, I only go metal detecting for the love of history”.
It is to be hoped there will be a big take-up for this. (Pledges to be accompanied with real names only please). Periodically we’ll highlight the number of people that have responded. Every pledge will represent a blow against the critics of metal detecting so we’re sure that of 10,000 active metal detectorists in Britain a large percentage will sign up for the pledge.
In a few days we shall publish a second proposal, this time for consideration not by detectorists but by archaeologists and the Establishment but since it comprises something developed entirely by metal detectorists alone then a lot of them will like it too. If adopted nationally it would enable every artefact hunter to carry on seeking and collecting artefacts as much as they liked and without restrictions while being regarded by the public, the Establishment – and us – as not merely lovable but utterly adorable.