The Curious Incident of the Local Authority Archaeology Website in the Night-Time

As some of you may remember in late September 2011 news broke that Sandwell Metropolitan Borough Council was planning on sacking it’s Borough archaeologist after it declared that archaeology and heritage were “not core services to the planning service and could almost be considered to be a luxury“. 

I last wrote about Sandwell’s decision in December 2011 after the council, in an astonishing move, deemed Twitlonger an appropriate service to announce that they had cut their archaeologists.

A few months later I had a further discussion on Twitter with the leader of Sandwell MBC Councillor Darren Cooper about the nature of the consultation that occurred prior to the Council’s decision. During this I noticed that there had been some changes on the Sandwell website (read the tweets that led to this part of the conversation: 1, 2 and 3):

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The Pitt Rivers Museum, Oxfordshire and…a conclusion (part 4)

AT THE END…

This is the final in a series of posts on my chapter (co-authored with Dr Dan Hicks) on Oxfordshire in the book World Archaeology at the Pitt Rivers Museum: a characterization. Conceived by Dr Dan Hicks (Curator of Archaeology) and managed by both Dan and Dr Alice Stevenson (Researcher in World Archaeology) the project involved a host of specialists examining over 30,000 objects from 134 countries in a process not too dissimilar from a  MoRPHE post-excavation assessment.

This post presents my personal thoughts on the significance and potential of the Oxfordshire archaeology collections of the Pitt Rivers Museum. It is based on notes I wrote in 2010, so some aspects are likely out of date now (particularly references to ‘big society’ and a ‘new government’). You can read my introductory thoughts here, the chapter itself here and an extended discussion on Pitt-Rivers (the man) and his work at Dorchester Dykes here. Continue reading

The Pitt Rivers Museum, Oxfordshire and…The General (part 3)

THE GENERAL

The General in the title is Lieutenant-General Augustus Henry Lane-Fox Pitt-Rivers, the extraordinary archaeologist whose vast accumulation of objects formed the founding collection of the Pitt Rivers Museum. This post deals with his work in Oxfordshire. If at any point you would like to know more about the objects you can search the Museum’s online object collections database using the accession numbers provided in the text.

This is an earlier version of the text on pages 281-5 of World Archaeology at the Pitt Rivers Museum: a characterization that expands slightly on the partial destruction of Dorchester Dykes and their role in the genesis of the 1882 Ancient Monuments Act.  I’ve decided to post this because – with the heritage sector under increasing pressure –  it can be beneficial to remember what a world without professionalization, guidance and legislative protection looked like. If you would like to cite anything here then please find what you require in the finished chapter.

You can read my introduction here, the chapter itself here and my concluding thoughts here.

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The Pitt Rivers Museum, Oxfordshire and…Chapter 13 (part 2)

Below can be seen an embedded copy of the chapter on the Oxfordshire archaeological collections of the Pitt Rivers Museum by myself and Dr Dan Hicks. The chapter is from the book World Archaeology at the Pitt Rivers Museum: a characterization. Conceived by Dr Dan Hicks (Curator of Archaeology) and managed by both Dan and Dr Alice Stevenson (Researcher in World Archaeology), the project involved a host of specialists examining artefacts from 134 countries in a process not too dissimilar from a  MoRPHE post-excavation assessment (you can read Dan’s introduction to the book here). The book is published on the 8th March and is available to purchase now. Continue reading

The Pitt Rivers Museum, Oxfordshire and…me (part 1)

IN THE BEGINNING…

In 2008 a cool looking job was advertised at the Pitt Rivers Museum funded by the lovely people at the Institute for Archaeologists. I was (somehow) lucky enough to get it and subsequently spent the next two years working on all sorts of extraordinary objects in extraordinary surroundings (you know a job is special when the H&S talk consists of the instruction ‘don’t stab yourself with a poison arrow…’). For the latter part of my time there I worked on the project World Archaeology at the Pitt Rivers Museum: a characterization. Conceived by Dr Dan Hicks (Curator of Archaeology) and managed by both Dan and Dr Alice Stevenson (Researcher in World Archaeology), the project involved a host of specialists examining over 30,000 objects from 134 countries [1] in a process not too dissimilar from a  MoRPHE post-excavation assessment. The project was to result in a book (published on the 8th March, available to purchase now), and very kindly I was encouraged to throw my hat in the ring with a chapter on Oxfordshire (co-authored with Dan Hicks). The sheer size of the book (500+ pages) meant there was simply not space for everything, so I’ve cobbled together a few of my leftover notes into a series of blogs. Continue reading

Cuts and Consultation: Sandwell Sacks Archaeologists

In late September news broke that Sandwell Metropolitan Borough Council was planning on sacking it’s Borough archaeologist after it declared that archaeology and heritage were “not core services to the planning service and could almost be considered to be a luxury“.

This was met with dismay by the archaeological community; Rescue (the British Archaeological Trust) described the proposal as “wholly and conclusively both misguided and incorrect” and the Institute for Archaeologists pointed out that Sandwell risked a “Judicial Review or investigation by the Local Authority Ombudsmanfor “ill-informed decision-making about the historic environment”.

Sandwell Council seemed to operating a policy of radio silence on the matter. Then, one day Council Leader Darren Cooper retweeted a message about a heritage trail in the area. Pleased to see that the MBC leader appeared to view local heritage as important I tweeted a question at him, to which I received the following response: Continue reading

Sandwell: an ill-informed decision

Further news on the decision of Sandwell MBC to sack all their archaeologists. The Institute for Archaeologists has released a statement contradicting the council view that archaeology is “not core…to the planning service”:

Sandwell Metropolitan Borough Council appears to consider that it does not require specialist archaeological advice. IfA has written to explain a planning authority’s responsibilities under PPS5 (and the draft National Planning Policy Framework) and to point out the risks of Judicial Review or investigation by the Local Authority Ombudsman of ill-informed decision-making about the historic environment.  This is another example where an authority appears unaware of its responsibilities…

With significant developments in Sandwell planned (such as the £30 million Junction and a £15 million casino) one can only hope the council reconsiders, rather than risk tying itself up in judicial reviews and risking a significant loss of it’s peoples heritage.

Written by +Matt Nicholas