England Success Story PAS Threatened by Cuts

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by Björn Schöpe
translated by Annika Backe

August 13, 2015 – In 1997, the British government established the Portable Antiquities Scheme. It was the beginning of an impressive success story. Now, budget cuts threaten the project that was recognized as exemplary on an international level. The head of the co-ordinating department, Roger Bland, has now resigned.

The underlying idea of PAS was simple: it needs incentives to make sure that archaeological finds are not concealed but reported. The 1996 Treasure Act regulated how such finds were to be dealt with and what financial claims the finders could make. A network of Finds Liaison Officers (FLOs) was established, covering England and Wales. The FLO’s job is to provide a point of contact for finders. They report finds found by the public, address the competent authorities and carry out educational work.
Since 2007, PAS is run by the British Museum as Department of Portable Antiquities and Treasure. Head of the scheme was Roger Bland who was instrumental in setting up and leading the PAS since the 1990s. Bland has now resigned from this position, effective July 1, 2015, as British Archaeology Magazine reported. His resignation apparently followed the massive changes PAS will undergo in the very near future.

The organization of the PAS used to be administrated by the “Department of Britain, Prehistory and Europe” where Bland will continue to work as keeper. The funding of the scheme used to be an assigned item in the budget of the British Museum. Both aspects have changed in April, as reported by magazine British Archaeology. The scheme and the treasure team have been relocated to the “Department of Learning, Volunteers and Audience”. By that, the British Museum intends to reach a broader public, while the PAS will be financed from the ordinary museum budget. The loss of 6% of the museum’s funding will also affect the PAS. Roger Bland told the magazine British Archaeology: “I hope the BM continues to ensure the PAS is adequately funded in the difficult times ahead because I know how easily the whole structure could collapse.”

Here you find the website of the Portable Antiquities Scheme.

Find out more about the Department of Portable Antiquities and Treasure on the site of the British Museum.

The article reporting on PAS facing structural changes was published by British Archaeology in the issue 143 July/August.