BAJR Federation Archaeology

Full Version: Open Letter on Cuts and working together.
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Dear Colleagues, (this letter is on behalf of Andy Brockman)

WHO CARES IF THEY ARE CUT- WHAT HAVE ARCHAEOLOGISTS EVER DONE FOR US?


We are members of the civil society first and archaeologists second and in the current climate everyone, including archaeologists, will make their own political choices as to what to do in response to the current Government's legislation, the philosophy which underlies it and, above all, to its programme of cuts. Therefore, because of the wide spectrum of political thought our sector represents, and as we saw at the CA conference some colleagues support the Cameron Government's programme or at least some of the economic reasoning behind it, I am not going to engage in a partisan political argument here. However, as far as our lives as archaeologists go I believe we must all recognise that we face huge questions regarding the future nature and even the viability, of at least parts of our sector. That means if we believe what we do is an important "good" in our national life, and if we do not believe that why do we do archaeology in the first place, we must stop appearing to be so defensive, self justifying and inward looking and promote a vision of why archaeology deserves a place in our national life and consciousness.

In other words we owe it to ourselves and the communities we work within, to put some fire in our collective belly, become engaged with what is happening out there in that landscape which we set out to study and value and become much louder and pro-active in fighting our corner.


If we continue to campaign on individual issues and cuts our voice will be lost in the public and media storm which is approaching as the government's cuts programme bites.
Above all we must start to speak and be recognised as a united sector of "Archaeologists."
In other words our campaigning must not be just about the detail of individual cuts to English Heritage, the threat to the CBA's funding or the loss of County, Unit, Museum or University posts, serious though these are. We must also campaign on the literal and metaphorical devaluation of and threat to, the whole, interlinked archaeological/"heritage" sector, top to bottom; those who get paid and those who do archaeology for the love of it who will also be affected.

We need to show why the government's approach and the approach it is forcing on, not always unwilling, local authority funders is short sighted and will, in the long term, cost far more than it saves and that some of those costs are actually beyond easy accounting and monetary value and would damage our environment and devalue us as communities and as a nation.


However, to be effective in this campaign we must first take an archaeological reality check...

  • Education from Key Stage 1 to Higher and Continuing Education and public money, in the form of direct grant and lottery support, are the seed corn and water growing public engagement in archaeology and ensuring the supply of future archaeologists at all levels of involvement. That is under immediate threat from the rise in tuition fees, the devaluation of humanities degrees and study and the removal of subsidy from humanities teaching, as well as from the increased competition for lottery funding as other funding streams dry up and cuts in the museum sector which risk both access to archives and decimating the base of local knowledge and subject expertise among curators.
  • The Planning System and Developer Funding are the seed corn and water growing the professional system and that is under threat from a weakening economy and any watering down or local variation of the provisions and principles of PPS5 and other planning guidance. We need to be visible and active in the planning system and forming local partnership networks to champion local heritage and the proper range of curatorial possibilities on the ground, thus showing that this is not "Red Tape" or a "Tax on Growth," but is an environmental responsibility and a contribution to community identity, knowledge and education.
  • There is a place for philanthropy, private funding, a flourishing base of local societies and projects and volunteering, [there always has been]; but none of these can fully support, let alone replace, a properly founded system which is funded where it needs to be funded, has access to professional expertise and resources where it needs them and which values equally all its component parts from the Universities to local societies and projects. That means we all need to be appropriate and flexible in the delivery of archaeology.
  • Yes, we are an underpaid, undervalued, largely graduate profession and that needs addressing; but it is no solution to what is incoming to all of us to try to prioritise trying to improve pay and conditions and make Archaeology a Chartered Profession. That would be like Captain Smith of RMS Titanic ordering a new Uniform with added gold rings just as Fred Fleet in the lookout phones the bridge and shouts "Iceberg dead ahead!"
  • Instead we must accept, as was commented at the CA conference, we are not Doctors in that we don't save lives and our mistakes don't kill people. Why try to be like other professions when we are a unique combination of humanities and sciences? What we do is uniquely different, diverse, potentially valuable and [if we let ourselves admit it] exciting and rewarding to take part in and to share. Ask the Doctors who have a chosen to take up a role in archaeology or use data derived from archaeology in research.
  • We must all accept that, fundamentally, a child or a pensioner working in a trench for the first time on a community project is just as much an archaeologist as a graduate member of a Unit or a senior academic. If anything and certainly in terms of this campaign to properly value archaeology, they are more important. Of course experience counts, it is the bedrock of good practice, but experience simply puts you higher on the learning curve which is archaeology enabling you to offer a greater range of practical contributions. That new voice might still offer an insight you have never thought of and a commitment and enthusiasm you might have left behind along the way and need to rediscover.
  • Professional and vocational archaeologists have been doing "localism" and "Big Society" for years- we just haven't shouted the fact loudly enough so no-one noticed.
  • We must make stuff happen and show it is happening. Facts on the ground speak far louder than any number of articles, seminars, conferences or press releases. In fact we should learn to draw lessons from outside the sector. For example the Olivier Award for achievement in Opera this year went to a professional production of "La Boheme," which began in a 35 seat pub theatre and beat the massed, highly subsidised, ranks of ENO and the Royal Opera. It was equally professional, but was delivered differently and its success was about a sense of "can do" inspiration, the imagination to do things differently in a language people understood and a willingness to access to new audiences.

The Titanic disaster, I alluded to above, is useful reference point as it is often taken as one of the moments the Victorian sense of social order vanished presaging the political and social revolutions brought about by the First World War. As a Conflict Archaeologist that offers me another obvious analogy.

If we charge the Government Lines in our various big [and little] Battalions; the Regulars of 1st IFA , the CBA Pals, HQ FLO PAS Special Forces, The County Territorials, the Boffins in the University Departments, and the trowel fodder in the community who find their officers disappear when the ammunition of project funding runs out; we will get mown down en masse by the machine guns in the Treasury and Department of Communities and Local Government; or picked off piecemeal by the snipers holding local authority budgets because we offer an easy target, not having the armoured plate of statutory provision or the camouflage of being inextricably tied in to the local political landscape.

Conversely, If we keep our heads down, seeking to make it through the barrage by staying out of the firing line, we then risk being patted on the head when it is all over, having been treated as an irrelevance; the token Armoured Brigade in someone else’s Invasion plan who, once the "shock and awe" is over, are then deployed to follow that someone else’s agenda which was not the one we signed up and trained for.

There is another subtler danger we face. On the night of 14/15 April 1912, as the passengers and crew of Titanic fought to save themselves, the SS Californian was close enough to see Titanic's lights and distress rockets. Californian's officers, fellow professionals, argued about how to respond, made excuses that the distress rockets were not actually distress rockets and, in the end, decided not to bother to wake up the ship's Captain, Stanley Lord. To make things worse Californian's only wireless operator had gone to bed, partly out of professional pique because he had been told to "Shut Up," by Titanic, the smart liner with its professional and social elite deeming it had first call on the air waves. Meanwhile on board Titanic very few of the professional crew were even bothered that the Third Class Passengers, including many women and children, were still below decks as the lifeboats were being lowered away, leaderless in unfamiliar surroundings and in immediate danger. From some of the responses to the “Cuts” debate I am concerned that this same potentially toxic combination of sectional self-interest and demotivated, inward looking leadership could happen to us.

How then can we, the broad community of “Archaeologists,” avoid the opprobrium that was heaped on the crew of Californian who could have done something and didn't because they were annoyed their professionalism had been insulted, or couldn't make up their mind what to do and it was easier to do nothing and wait until morning. How too can we avoid the judgement History placed on the crew of Titanic, that priority in the lifeboats was given to the strong, the rich and powerful in spite of the "We are all in it together" myth of "Women and Children first."

In developing a positive campaigning strategy to I think there are two basic do's and don'ts...

  • We don't argue that archaeologists are under paid, under valued and under threat. That is an argument for another day and, to be frank, no-one cares at the moment. Worse, it looks self serving and selfish when, for example, NHS workers and the Emergency Services face job cuts and wage freezes.

  • We do argue that what archaeologists do, our "added value," is what is under threat and that is important because archaeologists of all stripes, working with the public make a better environment for all of us at many different levels. Yes, in practical terms, for not much investment, heritage makes money for the economy from tourism. As has been recognised in the recent ARCH [Alliance to Reduce Heritage Crime] initiative from English Heritage, the Police and the Crown Prosecution Service, archaeologists can also help community cohesion and safety because shared knowledge of place and space helps bind communities together in ownership of and respect for their environment. Equally, public archaeology gets people out in the open air and working as a team across backgrounds and generations and thinking as a creative individuals.
[Oh and by the way, we should probably also mention archaeology employs a lot of people who contribute taxes to the exchequer probably in a far higher percentage proportion of income than your average multinational- sorry, as Ben Elton once said, got a bit political there].

Above all...

? We must not be afraid to be popular- At a feel good level Archaeology tells some fantastic stories!
And isn't one of our longest running and most popular TV Police Procedurals "Time Team" ?
I could go on but the data and reports are all out there and we know the arguments; 80% of visitors to the UK cite "Heritage" as a reason etc. We just need to put them better so...
I believe we must learn from and use the example of the broad based coalitions of opposition across political boundaries which have forced rethinks on the privatisation of the Forests and appear to be having some effect on the NHS Bill.

We cannot do this through the existing voices such as CBA, RESCUE, IfA, alone, effective though these voices can be and essential partners that they are. We need a single campaigning voice.


We need a mechanism which is new, nimble, high viz and above can endeavour to represent all archaeologists in the constituent nations of the UK.


Essentially, we must stop being cool, considered and academic and show the passion for knowledge and our subject which caused most of us to end up in Archaeology in the first place.




A MODEST PROPOSAL: The "What have archaeologists ever done for us?" Group

  • We set up a new One Stop centre for positive, jargon free, information about archaeology interacting with the real world and real people in real time.

This is not about the archaeology itself, but the "good" archaeology and archaeologists do for and in, the broader community.

  • This information is not affiliated to any one interest group, contracting unit, company, society or political party. Instead it represents and celebrates our multiple voices as an Archaeological Community.
[A Facebook Group and TWITTER is the obvious quickest, cheapest and most likely most effective, way to do this unless we want to set up a new Website/Blog such as the very successful 38 Degrees who organised the "Forests" petition].
  • The site would be open to post to all archaeologists to join whatever their background, experience, professional status or political affiliation. By that I mean everyone from the Director of a Unit or a senior Academic to a member of a local archaeological society or a child involved in a community project.
  • Any archaeologist could then report and submit images whenever they interact with the public, teach in a school, respond to a planning application, save a building, help solve a crime, make money for the economy and generally make the world a better place. For example, last Thursday I was in a local Primary School and fifty children were able to put their right thumb where a Roman Potter had placed their right thumb and smeared the wet clay of a mortarium to make the spout 1700 years ago- the kind of vivid experience you cannot replicate on the Internet or in a book.
  • Unaffiliated members of the public could also post where they encounter our work.

We have a duty to report academically for the record, we must extend that duty to reporting to the public and such a record, properly promoted, while self selecting, would provide a real time sample at next to no cost.

The initiative envisaged here would be launched simultaneously across the various Archaeology Web Sites, Bulletin boards, Discussion Groups and goes public with an Open Letter letter of the kind we saw the Film and Theatre world use to good effect this weekend in the “Observer.” We would need to get some TV/Media names to be first among equals on this and to be available for interview or comment.

In short we must show people what they are going to miss, even if they might not know it yet.
It is said that during the Revolution in Cairo the people formed a cordon around the National Museum to prevent it being looted and that is inspiring. That has happened in the UK too at threatened sites such as the Rose Theatre and would happen again given a cause, but the cordon does not always have to be a physical one. A cordon of public opinion can be strong enough, if enough people think, speak and vote the same way and love and value something enough, the NHS is a case in point which is why it is a dangerous area for governments; but to change opinions or persuade people to make a stand, we have to put the work in. People must see and feel the value. Our place is not ours as of right.


So...What do you think? And if you think it is a good idea how are we going to make it work and quickly?

Web site owners and organisations could you support and promote something like this?

Ducking back beneath the parapet...


"Incoming!"


As ever


Andy Brockman
And a reply from someone who cares passionately but would like to remain anon (which I respect)

Let me preface it by saying that I don't mean to disregard or undervalue the great work done by so many friends around the world in so many ways, to keep archaeology alive. I am responding to a very specific set of current circumstances, and a great need for basically instant regrouping and paradigm-shifting in this country.


The problem with archaeology in this country is that there is no one in charge. No one is driving the bus. We have no real voice and don't matter in the national agenda because we are powerless - there is no point on our pyramid, no one to lead and pull everything in one direction. We CLEARLY cannot organise ourselves; despite the meetings upon meetings upon meetings with those that are well meaning and desperately want change, no one leaves meetings able to actually DO anything - because no organisation exists that empowers them to do so. This is basic organisational psychology.


Rhetoric from voluntary organisations constantly taking a touchy-feely party line are no good. What is the point of that? Promoting all the public good that they do is not helpful. In the end, who cares? This emphasis on doing public good and having public value at the heart of what we do is sop to the powers that be, to apologise for ourselves and try to display some benefit so that we will continue to be allowed to play with our 'contaminant'. If archaeology was profitable, if we were making real money in the same way as other professions, who would actually stop to build community projects, reach out to youth, care about local museums, etc? I know this is massively cynical, but it's the truth. Because the world at large of people who are in business, in self-regulated professions that don't worry about sustainability, do not understand the value or practical need for archaeology - we have take the softest, most apologetic road imaginable and in doing so have made ourselves look disposable, along with everything else in that vein like libraries and leisure centres. The list goes on.


Until there is a chartered organisation, until there are enforceable standards, until there is one set of rules that we must all sign up to, uphold, adhere to, believe in, that sets us on the same path together - and in direct relation to other, similarly skilled but more prestigious professions (engineering, architecture, etc) - it's all just pissing in the wind. But a chartered organisation isn't the full answer: it has to be run by people with drive, with backbone, who live in the real world and understand that in order to join it, we have to kick up our game about a million notches. Archaeology is not in step with the way the world works; this might have been OK for Mortimer Wheeler and the people of that ilk who started archaeology in this country, because they were the kind of people who MADE the rules, had their own money and came from the upper classes, and had pull where it counted. I can think of a few people among my acquaintances, people who are doers, who understand the word DELIVERY, who would be perfect to take on a task like this, and I only hope that they make their way to positions of influence in the very near future.
My initial reply

It is good to see a constructive aspect to this debate (though to be fair, it was not so much a debate - more a look of desperation and a good deal of ranting - myself included). So many thanks Andy for moving it forward.

The clear voice of archaeology has always been a sticking point, indeed I refer the honourable members to the APPAG recommendations and findings from back in the mid 2000s to refresh our memory about what we already knew.

For example

Archaeology as a profession
  • no system for providing integrated training, accreditation or career structure
  • dwindling number of specialists - need database of existing specialists
  • interest in artefacts has declined - out of date or lack of corpora
  • lack of synthesis of finds material with lack of common terminology
  • lack sharing of skills and regional cooperation
  • inadequate training provided for professionals with some dubious quality training schools being set up
  • training needs to include health and safety on site; report writing, surveying, use of information for desk-top evaluation, staff management
  • currently no meaningful code of practice or terms of reference to ensure consistency of standards
  • need regulatory independent body
  • need flexible local system with minimum standards, training and disciplinary action
  • job insecurity with short term casual contracts
  • units cannot charge ‘normal’ overheads of eg training and development and accommodation etc because threat of undercutting
  • poor pay
  • need minimum terms and conditions
  • many professionals overworked and demotivated



Since then, what has happened? Feel free to tick anything off that has been achieved. BAJR did its small part by creating a database of specialists and enforcing a minimum employment terms and conditions in relation to responsibilities and pay. But the point is, we knew about all the issues with archaeology, and have done very little to deal with it. Oh, don't get me wrong, there has been a lot of discussion about what to do, but when it comes down to it, that's as far as it normally goes. So, why is it a surprise when we find it hard to work together? Andy's Titanic scenario is a perfect example of archaeology in action today.
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To pick up on Mike Heyworth's comments, it seems like he is suggesting that the CBA is the voice of British (I use the term as a UK wide concept) Archaeology - though admitting bias - however the CBA is already dealing with its own cuts. The IfA have down-sized, and various other organisations including universities have their own issues to deal with, and who can blame them from trying to find a justification for survival. As Mike says there is already the ATF which "coordinates advocacy activities " So is that the vehicle for concerted interaction with others... or is it just another committee with different titles shared between the same names?
I went to the ATF website http://www.britarch.ac.uk/training/atf.html and was unable to find out what activities had been undertaken on our behalf, by whom and what the measurable outcomes were. Not a criticism but an observation.

Utilising Andy’s battlefield analogy further, it seems that like the clans at Culloden, each group acts independently to protect itself or enhance itself. Perhaps unfair? But perhaps true. The result, the well-disciplined government troops defeat the various clans. Game over.

I wholeheartedly agree with Andy’s suggestion that


  • We do argue that what archaeologists do, our "added value," is what is under threat and that is important because archaeologists of all stripes, working with the public make a better environment for all of us at many different levels. Yes, in practical terms, for not much investment, heritage makes money for the economy from tourism. As has been recognised in the recent ARCH [Alliance to Reduce Heritage Crime] initiative from English Heritage, the Police and the Crown Prosecution Service, archaeologists can also help community cohesion and safety because shared knowledge of place and space helps bind communities together in ownership of and respect for their environment. Equally, public archaeology gets people out in the open air and working as a team across backgrounds and generations and thinking as a creative individuals.
With Martin suggesting a letter to the Guardian, he hits the nail on the head.. a single voice, that represents the views of the majority. I am happy to add this to BAJR where other UK archaeologists can add their voice too.

We cannot win this alone, but can ally ourselves with other groups – Environment, Ecology, Arts etc who add to the wellbeing of our culture while not per ce creating a tangible ‘product’. United we stand – currently divided we will fall. Change is happening; it is how, as a sector we deal with it. Saving our own skins in the short term will result in real marginalisation, inclusivity will help us all in the long term. I recently wrote a reply to Martin Carvers Antiquity Editorial stating that we have a currency of knowledge that should be open to all – currently this currency is loose change rattling around in our pockets.

Rather than deciding who should lead the charge – we should ask publicly for those who wish to be part of it and have real stance that is consistent across all the groups. It is all very well us acting independently, but that will not work. The public has to feel that our loss is their loss, that our cuts affect their lives.

Who leads this charge is currently not the point, the need is for us all to agree how to act as one mind in the first place and understand ourselves as ‘Archaeology’ as a whole. To quote Sun Tse
[SIZE=3]So it is said that if you know your enemies and know yourself, you can win a hundred battles without a single loss.
If you only know yourself, but not your opponent, you may win or may lose.
If you know neither yourself nor your enemy, you will always endanger yourself.
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So my challenge is to ask… Do we really know ourselves and what we offer? Using the Tourism argument can be a red herring – what do we really offer and why is it a strength that is important. Who can we ally ourselves with to make our position even more relevant?
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David Connolly
British Archaeological Jobs Resource
BAJR - www.bajr.org
Traprain House
Luggate Burn
Whittingehame
East Lothian
EH41 4QA
To me, archaeology (in its broadest sense) has been begging for a long time for an umbrella organisation that acts simply to offer a focus and reference point for all of the groups in the discipline, formulate a united agenda which covers the requirements at the time and represents the entire archaeology community. Is this what Andy Brockman is suggesting?

Andy and David's battlefield analogies seem to be exactly what has happened for so long - petty and depressing as that is. Would all of those various groups devolve a small amount of what they believe to be their responsibility (and act with a little humility) to enable an umbrella group to be formed, with its only bias and focus being the health of the discipline?

Us 'pros' can hide in the commercial world and keep our heads down under the guise of professionalism and chartership as the anonymous email would suggest but this seems to me to weaken the cause and isolate ourselves from our true value to society and can only end in developers and anyone else who's own agenda we may conflict with successfully targetting us - and it isn't just commercial archaeology that suffers as a result of that.

The answer to one of David's initial questions, 'who can we ally ourselves to?', surely begins with OURSELVES. From that we can establish who we are and where our value lies. Different organisations represent different areas and this shouldn't change (CBA = community and amateur arch; IfA = professional/commercial arch; Unions = workers in the commercial field etc - they all work best when they concentrate on their core aims and areas, whatever the argument is over what those may be). However, there is nothing to stop these organisations working together on a united agenda - their agendas don't necessarily conflict - it just requires the diplomacy and the support of their 'constituents' to move that forward.

I'll participate and offer whatever I can.
I think we have all been navel gazing for years... or should that be burying head in sand. The profession is full of moans and groans (from top to bottom), counterbalanced by apathy and inactivity (particularly the heads and hi honcho's of the powers that be... EH, IfA, CBA... whatever). The 'poor state of archaeology' has been going on for years without much being changed.. well, apart from BAJR's efforts that is. But it shouldn't be down to the efforts of one man to try to change things.

I'll also participate and support what I can (it ain't much at the moment though)
I have been following the corrospondence on Britarch on the past day or two. Whilst I applaud the fact that FINALLY the great and the good that subscribe to Britarch have woken up to realisation of the problems that archaeology is struggling with at the moment, I find myself struggling to accept Andy's analysis and proposals for action.

There is no doubt in my mind that we are in the middle of a battle, but it is classic 'class-war' and not a set piece involving tin soldiers and toy drums. We need to 'save' archaeology sure, but we can only do whilst applying ourselves to saving all those other aspects of society that we hold dear. If we separate archaeology from the wider struggle, we will be falling into the trap often laid by the Tories (lets stop calling these shysters Lib-Cons) - and defeated by our own divisions.

I agree with one thing in Andy's letter - we need to create a united front and at least that part of the anaylsis is perceptive - however it has to be a front united across a society wide campaign and not just for archaeology. I suspect therefore that trying to organise a united front through either the CBA or Current Archaeology - where as Andy points out there are many who openly 'support the Cameron Government's programme or at least some of the economic reasoning behind it' - then the campaign is doomed to failure before it even starts.
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[SIZE=4]Until there is a chartered organisation, until there are enforceable standards, until there is one set of rules that we must all sign up to, uphold, adhere to, believe in, that sets us on the same path together - and in direct relation to other, similarly skilled but more prestigious professions (engineering, architecture, etc) - it's all just pissing in the wind.
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[SIZE=4]We must all accept that, fundamentally, a child or a pensioner working in a trench for the first time on a community project is just as much an archaeologist as a graduate member of a Unit or a senior academic.
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Sorry but it?s a bit of a mess which I think allows me to make no difference. Should someone pay the same rates of insurance if they are an amateur, pensioner, graduate or chartered professional? Seems to me that there is a fundamental difference between insured archaeology and uninsured archaeology and those that are insured and not. Insured archaeologists is the path to set. CBA/IFA once appeared to control archaeological insurance, we know that to be not so and now the only point of them has disappeared.
condem local authorities are not more likely to cut heritage than Labour - the reverse probably - so this isn't a class war - which incidentally didn't save the miners either. we are only valued if we tell people interesting things about themselves or if we enable other people to make money. we clearly need to do more

GPStone has the voice of reason so i will vote for GPStone
good work everybody...need to digest
Quote:GPStone has the voice of reason so i will vote for GPStone
and mine.... it is exactly the point.

To continue, this is not a class war (given our support from the white middle class)

What I would add, and after discussion with Andy, is what I also advocate... we are not going to win this without allies... and we need a broad front, but archaeology needs a wartime prime minister... a voice.

We will not accept these cuts, we will not be unimportant luxuries - we have a worth, and we need the public to understand what that is. and be able to articulate it so that it means something to everyone who gives a damn about their community, their past their future.

Get me started ! I am angry but focussed... the time for working parties is over.. the time for right now action is exactly that... right now!
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