On this day 8 years ago the closure of English Heritage’s Outreach Department was announced, leaving as we commented, “a situation in which there’s no national outreaching to 56 million ordinary members of the English public but there’ll still be about 45 PAS archaeologists outreaching mainly to 8,000 English metal detectorists”.

Of course, there’s still some great unpaid outreach by archaeologists but no paid posts other than PAS. Is that sensible when every farmer is outreached to by metal detectorists keen to get access to their fields and loads of detectorists hold show-and-tell sessions in schools, “teaching” children about their version of how to behave?

We wish farmers were well enough informed to say “no, if anyone comes here we’d rather it was amateur archaeologists with archaeological standards and goals”. Plus we wish schoolchildren were sufficiently well informed to say Hey Mr, last week we did some archaeology using archaeological methods to maximise knowledge and minimise damage and treated the finds as everyone’s. Yet you lay claim to yours and want applause for showing them to us. Stuff saying they’re your finds. If you do it for everyone, leave them all here!”

That’s the problem with no proper state outreach. If 24,000 detectorists and 45 PAS archaeologists are telling people metal detecting is fine when “responsible” the actual effect is the inexorable mining of the buried archaeological resource mainly by the irresponsible. Anyone willing to deny it? Thought not!

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More Heritage Journal views on artefact collecting
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