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By Nigel Swift

No-one is keener on improving the behaviour of metal detectorists than me but I feel the Establishment’s enthusiasm for the latest well-meaning attempt to form a metal detecting “Institute” will prove counter-productive.

  1. It is being widely attacked by detectorists which suggests only a small number will sign up to it (something which the organiser openly admits).

2. There’s a big risk that it will be used at farm gates by many who don’t sign up to it as a badge of “false valour” (which already happens with the official Code).

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“Now I’m doubly responsible! I’m Official Code compliant AND a member of the Institute!”

3. I personally tried to set up the FIRST Institute of Detectorists years ago but it was totally rejected. The NCMD warned its members not to sign up and my co-sponsor, a detectorist, was condemned as a “traitor”.

4. More recently, the Journal made a further attempt to improve standards using the simple mantra “detect only to gain knowledge and only for the benefit of the public” but again it attracted very little support.

5. Perhaps most telling of all: the new Institute intends to fully support the official Code so why would all those who currently ignore it sign up to an organisation that requires them to comply with it?

The “Institute” is very well-intentioned but it seems to me that rather than proceeding on the discredited hope that “persuasion will be enough” the archaeological bodies would be better employed lobbying Whitehall and Westminster with the message that persuasion is not enough. Legislation is also needed.

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More Heritage Journal views on artefact collecting
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