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It occurred to us there isn’t a club or code of conduct for detectorists who just want to metal detect for the love of history alone. Surely, among 27,000 detectorists, there are some who want a club like that? So we’ve made one!

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It’s the first detecting club dedicated to promoting the public’s interest alone. It’s purely for detectorists who believe anything they find belongs to the landowner (or if special, to the country) not them, and who gain their pleasure from gaining the historic knowledge alone. What’s more, they believe the knowledge surrounding artefacts is everyone’s so shouldn’t be withheld or destroyed.

Those simple beliefs are the essence of this club: If we dig, it’s in pursuit of knowledge, not possession. Without that guiding principle, we don’t think it would be right for us to rummage in the public’s historical back yard.

We should stress this isn’t another version of “responsible detecting”. It’s better described as “acceptable metal detecting” for we’re pretty sure, if you speak to any archaeologist, they’ll think it’s the best. Accordingly, since every week hundreds of new people take up metal detecting, in the next few weeks we’ll suggest some of the things they should do if they want to align with our notional club and to act acceptably, in the public’s interest.

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HERITAGE JOURNAL METAL DETECTING CLUB GUIDANCE FOR MEMBERS

1. Getting permission                                                            

    • Please don’t rush to the nearest farmer and ask if you can start. Remember, the knowledge you may unearth doesn’t belong to him or you, it belongs to everyone and he may not know whether it’s appropriate or safe to detect in his bit of society’s historical back yard.
    • So first, (as Historic England advises) contact the Local Authority Archaeologist and local Portable Antiquities Scheme Finds Liaison Officer and say “I’m thinking of asking for permission at a particular farm or area – is it OK? They may say yes/yes except certain places/maybe yes but come back when you can be more specific/ or no.
    • Please abide by their advice. They represent society. Why would you rummage in society’s backyard without society’s permission?

    2. Talking to the landowner

    • You can ask, but please don’t try to persuade. The very first thing you should do is to give him the contact details of the archaeologists you spoke to as he should be advised by them, not you. That’s a basic element of fair-dealing: a decision shouldn’t be influenced by someone with a vested interest. However well-meaning, they may have an unconscious bias.
    • Next, you should give him a signed undertaking that says: we dig for the pleasure of knowledge, not possession, and anything we find belongs to you, the landowner (or, if it’s special) to the country) and consequently, we don’t want a find-sharing agreement, we only ask that everything recordable is shown to the Portable Antiquities Scheme.
    • If he asksare you a member of the NCMD or FID? we suggest you say yes (if you have needed to for insurance cover) but no with regard to following their codes of conduct which are vague and involve find sharing agreements which you don’t want or a clear commitment to showing everything recordable to PAS, which you do.
    • If he asks do you follow the official Code of Practice for England and Wales we suggest you say: broadly, yes, although its recommendation to get a finds agreement to avoid future problems is irrelevant as you don’t wish to own anything.
    • If he asks what about treasure rewards we suggest you say you won’t accept one as doing so would mean your declaration that you dig for the pleasure of knowledge, not possession would be rendered hypocritical, but if he wishes to accept a reward that’s up to him.
    • If he asks what will happen to the finds we suggest you say that’s up to him as he owns them (unless any belong to the country) but can he please show them to PAS (or we will, on his behalf). Thereafter, he could keep them as a collection (we could tabulate them for him) or offer them to a museum or give them to his  local archaeology group, parish council or school.

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    NEXT WEEK:   3. Conduct in the fields

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    __________________________________________
    More Heritage Journal views on artefact collecting
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