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Corporate archaeology: Is it the future or is it the past?
#31
I don't think that Wax was suggesting that local societies should replace Council archaeologists or undertake their role on a voluntary basis. I think his/her suggestion was more along the lines that they could act as an informed group that could raise the issue with their local Council, point out the value of heritage and that there are people in the community that consider it important, and stress that, as voters, they would want their elected Council to deal with archaeology in a responsible manner.
You know Marcus. He once got lost in his own museum
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#32
But in the area where I am that is exactly what is being proposed - that in the absence of a County Arch the local society should do the work on a voluntary basis. Resistance by the local groups has meant that a formal, professional solution is going to be found.

And as for lobbying. Come on Marcus. Exactly what do you think the local groups have been doing for the last 50 years (at least). Professionals often demean the role of local societies and their members without truly acknowledging the weight they have had in maintaining, in many areas, a status quo or even making improvements - until, that is, the last 18 months when all bets have been off. Decision making at every level has not been made in the interests of a balance sheet (no sensible person denies that this is important) that includes public well-being but simply for this great deity, The Economy! Now every sacrifice must be made in the name of the saintly coalition, sent to earth to repair the sins of the previous lot. We are being told we are all in this together, that we should be optimistic and stop whingeing and that we should all step up and volunteer at community level to do the things we care about for free (the subtext being that if we care so much about them then bloody well get on and do it yourself, then, because the elected members and MPs are not going to use tax payers money to help).

The local societies ARE and have been actively lobbying and campaigning for the retention of professional posts, be it Council Archaeologists, local museums or local archives and history libraries. I will only quote for my own area where the more vocal members of the societies spend many hours attending area meetings, lobbying councilors, run petitions, raise money (for the VCH in one instance here - budget slashed by the council) and encourage the local press to take notice of these impact of these current draconian cuts.

And consider their frustration! For years they have supported the profession, have been largely disenfranchised from front line activities as commercialism came to the fore, are actively lobbying for the retention of professional posts - and yet are now being expected to pick up for free and willingly the tab. As I said in my previous post, they resent this. They resent their discretionary voluntary effort being politicised in this manner. But they are torn! They too have a passion for all this stuff like many of us who get paid )or try to get paid) to do it. For many of us one reality of life is, for how long can we afford to stay in the profession. But if we left, would our passion for the subject go away too? No! We would be just a passionate and likely maintain our interests in the voluntary sector also - and then we would be trapped in the same paradox, perhaps ending up doing the job of other former professionals for free. But we wouldn't, would we. The end of my tether is being reached and I am afraid that I know that, if ever my voluntary input (which amounts to a few weeks a year) was politicised in my area I fear I would have to walk, however much I might regret turning my back on matters Heritage and its dissemination in education and activities among the general public.
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#33
Madweasels Wrote:But in the area where I am that is exactly what is being proposed - that in the absence of a County Arch the local society should do the work on a voluntary basis. Resistance by the local groups has meant that a formal, professional solution is going to be found.

Apologies, Mad, I wasn't aware that there were any areas of the country where this had actually reached the stage of being implemented. I knew that it had been suggested by a number of Councils, but always in a hypothetical sort of way - basically floating the idea, to see what the public response would be, to see whether they could get away with it. If the Council in your area actually reached the stage of asking the local society whether they'd be interested in taking on the role of the County Archaeologist, that represents a worrying development

Madweasels Wrote:And as for lobbying. Come on Marcus. Exactly what do you think the local groups have been doing for the last 50 years (at least). Professionals often demean the role of local societies and their members without truly acknowledging the weight they have had in maintaining, in many areas, a status quo or even making improvements - until, that is, the last 18 months when all bets have been off.

I wasn't saying that I necessarily believed that lobbying by local societies would change Council policies, I was just saying that this is what I thought Wax meant in his/her post. I'm well aware of the sterling work done by local societies, going all the way back to the rescue excavation of sites in the pre-PPG days, and I think that their vocal presence can still act as a brake on the wholesale dismantling of Council archaeology services.

Madweasels Wrote:The local societies ARE and have been actively lobbying and campaigning for the retention of professional posts, be it Council Archaeologists, local museums or local archives and history libraries. I will only quote for my own area where the more vocal members of the societies spend many hours attending area meetings, lobbying councilors, run petitions, raise money (for the VCH in one instance here - budget slashed by the council) and encourage the local press to take notice of these impact of these current draconian cuts.

This is exactly the sort of thing I mean - this sort of vocal campaigning makes it difficult for the Council to sneak decisions through without public scrutiny of their actions (something that applies to all potential cuts, not just archaeology / heritage). Even if it's not successful, it at least forces the Council to think about the decision a bit more, if only because of the need to justify it to the public.

Madweasels Wrote:And consider their frustration! For years they have supported the profession, have been largely disenfranchised from front line activities as commercialism came to the fore, are actively lobbying for the retention of professional posts - and yet are now being expected to pick up for free and willingly the tab. As I said in my previous post, they resent this. They resent their discretionary voluntary effort being politicised in this manner.

As regards disenfranchisement (if that's the correct word - possibly disenfranchism?), presumably this would be at least partially addressed should the Southport recommendations ever be implemented, but I'd also say that I've never understood why so many local societies consider that the rise of commercial archaeology has prevented them from being at the front line of activities. Sure, they may not be able to work on construction sites in advance of development, but they're basically free to pick a nice site and dig it (provided that they get the permission of the landowner), something that's not available to the commercial contractor, who may spend most of his / her life stuck on building sites watching foundations going in and not finding much at all. In my area, there are a number of active local field societies who undertake excavation of this type, and who have made nationally-important discoveries as a result - if this isn't being at the front line of activities, I don't know what is.

I'd also say that there are some local societies who probably would like a greater role in the planning process. Maybe not acting as unpaid County Archaeologists, but possibly as consultees on developments in their area. I know that this was something suggested by the Council of Independent Archaeologists (the other CIA) a few years ago, and I don't necessarily think it's a bad idea, as it would give them an input into decisions affecting developments in their area (for example, a local group may have a different assessment of the significance of a particular site than someone looking at it in a county- or country-wide context). I've tried this sort of thing in relation to EIAs for large-scale developments like windfarms and opencast schemes, and have often encountered problems getting a response, which is perhaps not surprising when dealing with voluntary groups who may need to run any reply past a committee. However, it does suggest a potential issue for any Council looking to outsource heritage advice to the voluntary sector - if you're working in the planning system, there are usually tight deadlines for responses and for determining applications, but people fulfilling this function in their own time may not feel a particular obligation to work to these.

Madweasels Wrote:For many of us one reality of life is, for how long can we afford to stay in the profession....The end of my tether is being reached and I am afraid that I know that, if ever my voluntary input (which amounts to a few weeks a year) was politicised in my area I fear I would have to walk, however much I might regret turning my back on matters Heritage and its dissemination in education and activities among the general public.

Sorry you're having a tough time at the moment, hope things pick up soon (and before anyone asks how I've had time to write such a long response while still holding down a job, I'm not at work today. I'm waiting in for someone to come to fix the effing boiler, which packed up on Wednesday, so it's not all beer and skittles in the Brody household either!)
You know Marcus. He once got lost in his own museum
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#34
Marcus Brody Wrote:Apologies, Mad, I wasn't aware that there were any areas of the country where this had actually reached the stage of being implemented. I knew that it had been suggested by a number of Councils, but always in a hypothetical sort of way - basically floating the idea, to see what the public response would be, to see whether they could get away with it. If the Council in your area actually reached the stage of asking the local society whether they'd be interested in taking on the role of the County Archaeologist, that represents a worrying development



I wasn't saying that I necessarily believed that lobbying by local societies would change Council policies, I was just saying that this is what I thought Wax meant in his/her post. I'm well aware of the sterling work done by local societies, going all the way back to the rescue excavation of sites in the pre-PPG days, and I think that their vocal presence can still act as a brake on the wholesale dismantling of Council archaeology services.



This is exactly the sort of thing I mean - this sort of vocal campaigning makes it difficult for the Council to sneak decisions through without public scrutiny of their actions (something that applies to all potential cuts, not just archaeology / heritage). Even if it's not successful, it at least forces the Council to think about the decision a bit more, if only because of the need to justify it to the public.



As regards disenfranchisement (if that's the correct word - possibly disenfranchism?), presumably this would be at least partially addressed should the Southport recommendations ever be implemented, but I'd also say that I've never understood why so many local societies consider that the rise of commercial archaeology has prevented them from being at the front line of activities. Sure, they may not be able to work on construction sites in advance of development, but they're basically free to pick a nice site and dig it (provided that they get the permission of the landowner), something that's not available to the commercial contractor, who may spend most of his / her life stuck on building sites watching foundations going in and not finding much at all. In my area, there are a number of active local field societies who undertake excavation of this type, and who have made nationally-important discoveries as a result - if this isn't being at the front line of activities, I don't know what is.

I'd also say that there are some local societies who probably would like a greater role in the planning process. Maybe not acting as unpaid County Archaeologists, but possibly as consultees on developments in their area. I know that this was something suggested by the Council of Independent Archaeologists (the other CIA) a few years ago, and I don't necessarily think it's a bad idea, as it would give them an input into decisions affecting developments in their area (for example, a local group may have a different assessment of the significance of a particular site than someone looking at it in a county- or country-wide context). I've tried this sort of thing in relation to EIAs for large-scale developments like windfarms and opencast schemes, and have often encountered problems getting a response, which is perhaps not surprising when dealing with voluntary groups who may need to run any reply past a committee. However, it does suggest a potential issue for any Council looking to outsource heritage advice to the voluntary sector - if you're working in the planning system, there are usually tight deadlines for responses and for determining applications, but people fulfilling this function in their own time may not feel a particular obligation to work to these.



Sorry you're having a tough time at the moment, hope things pick up soon (and before anyone asks how I've had time to write such a long response while still holding down a job, I'm not at work today. I'm waiting in for someone to come to fix the effing boiler, which packed up on Wednesday, so it's not all beer and skittles in the Brody household either!)

you know marcus. he is petulently reasonable!
If they can get you asking the wrong questions, they don't have to worry about answers
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#35
P Prentice Wrote:you know marcus. he is petulently reasonable!

I get the feeling I'm being insulted, but I'm not quite sure how!

(Boiler fixed, peace and order restored, but ?120 for call-out and 5 minutes work - am off to train as a gas fitter!)
You know Marcus. He once got lost in his own museum
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#36
shmm....what would Mr Selkirk add to this i wonder?....

- RE: roles for local societies:
I think they do need to be more included (with others) - but in a new way of monitoring the work of commercial companies
- we are all still waiting for outrageous breaches of "IFA Cod(e)" to be properly dealt with...xx(..some involve high placed members of the IFA...FFS! Sad!
And New breaches of 'professional' conduct by commercial archaeologists pile up as quick as an unsorted spoil-heap full of finds...!

Lets get 'Big society' about this (perhaps not) - we need new ways for Peer, Community and Specialist monitoring of commercial work......far too much slips through at present
Maybe Selkirk has a point after all (but for all the wrong reasons)
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#37
Things are currently so bad in some areas of the country that there is not the infra structure within local council areas to make sure that due consideration is given to archaeology ( and other heritage and environmental issues) in the planning process. This is where concerned members of the public and local societies may have a very positive role by monitoring planning applications in their local areas and directly questioning and campaigning against the absence of archaeological conditions. Any concerned member of the public can do this. Local societies should not be a replacement for the curatorial services and should question their local councils where curatorial services are being cut. Any one who values their historic environment needs to be made aware of the disaster that we are currently walking into, but of course there are other far more damaging cuts heading our way than those to our heritage and with so many battles to fight on so many fronts archaeology may not be a priority for the concerned public. Viva la revolution}Smile
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