The Portable Antiquities Scheme, which improves the chances of archaeological objects found by members of the public being recorded properly, has secured ongoing funding from the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF).
The news comes not a moment too soon as the pilot scheme, set up in 1997, was about to come to an end with no promise of future funding.
Now, however, the Heritage Lottery Fund has stepped in with almost £2.5m, to be topped up by another £1.5m from museums across the country, which is expected to keep the scheme going until 2006.
The importance of the scheme, which has successfully recorded more than 100,000 objects since its inception, is that it increases the chances of archaeological finds being assessed accurately by experts without being tainted by those who find them.
A code of practice has been published and a network of Finds Liaison Officers set up around the country to assist members of the public who search land with metal detectors to report finds in the proper manner. Before the scheme was set up, valuable information connected with finds was often lost because objects were removed from their place of discovery without the location being recorded or investigated.
With the scheme’s promotion, archaeologists stand a much better chance of assessing objects in context and finds have a much better chance of being reported. One of the key areas that is likely to have helped is the clear explanation that those who report finds under the code of practice, meeting the terms of the Treasure Act 1996, stand a better chance of receiving the full market value for objects, even if forced to pass them on to museums.
Arts Minister Baroness Blackstone has added to confidence in the future of the scheme by pledging: “As I have stated in the past, the Government will look sympathetically at the need to ensure long-term support for the scheme at an appropriate level in the light of the outcome of the current Spending Review.”
Anthea Case, Director of the Heritage Lottery Fund, commented: “Many fascinating and precious finds have been unearthed by members of the public, from Bronze Age gold cups to Anglo-Saxon glass bowls. It is vital that we all have the opportunity to learn about the secrets that these wonderful objects can reveal so that we can broaden our understanding of our heritage.”
Currently working in the scheme are 14 people: a Co-ordinator, an Outreach Officer and 12 Finds Liaison Officers, who between them cover about half of England and all of Wales. The intention now is to create a further 31 posts with a nationwide remit. Besides 24 new Finds Liaison Officer posts, the scheme will also have provision for Education and other facilities.
Data recorded by the scheme is passed on to the Sites and Monuments Records, for academic and public benefit, and is also published on the scheme’s Website at www.finds.org.uk.
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