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According to Wikipedia, “More recently the CBA has adopted “archaeology for all” as its focus“. Hardly. Twelve years ago, in 2010, we highlighted their logo, Archaeology for all. Since then they seem to have quietly dropped it. But how much damage has it done? As we said at the time:

“The CBA is currently working with a branding agency to review its branding, marketing and messages and they’re inviting people to submit comments of their own, So here are ours….
The CBA’s current “mission statement” is expressed in its strap line – “archaeology for all”. Similarly its current “role” (as defined by Don Henson in Friend or Enemy – Community archaeology in the United Kingdom) is to ensure that archaeology is “open to all”. That couldn’t be clearer, Archaeology is “for all” and should be “open to all”. Who’d disagree? Well me for one. And their Director, Dr Mike Heyworth for another as he quite properly tweeted that “only responsible detecting is acceptable”. So when CBA refers to “archaeology for all” it actually doesn’t mean “for all” at all. It means “for some“.
Of course, “archaeology for some” sounds vaguely ignoble in a post-PAS world where inclusive is good and exclusive is bad but it’s perfectly OK if the “some” are properly defined – and that’s easy to do as the “some” are specified in two other CBA definitions: one of their “objects” is “to advance public understanding and care of the historic environment” and their “vision” is stated to be “We want everyone to know that they can take part in enjoying, understanding and caring for the historic environment and why it matters“. So it’s “Caring”! The “some” are defined by whether they are “caring”!”

Shouldn’t the CBA put right the damage it may have caused? To better express what it believes (and to better hammer it home) it might do well to produce a new strapline, “archaeology for all who care for it”, which of course, doesn’t mean those thousands who find and keep quiet.

The basic claim is that “If archaeology is for all I’m entitled to take my share of it”. Of course, that’s not what the CBA means and no doubt it is usually a misinterpretation of convenience but it can’t be right that the CBA provided such a convenient message to misinterpret. Why not leave them with NO philosophical basis to justify what they do? There’s a plausible case for saying that a failure to properly define is a failure to properly defend. It needs sorting, does it not?

If the CBA of all institutions can’t be relied upon to clearly and loudly express what’s right and wrong about the moral ownership and treatment of Archaeology in big letters across the front of its website and publications then who on earth can the public rely on? The Government? PAS?


More Heritage Journal views on artefact collecting


February 2022

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