Articles about the Scheme in the Guardian

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Lost or found?

One of the unsung successes of this government is the Portable Antiquities Scheme, which records archaeological objects found by members of the public and makes that information available for all on its online database. The scheme recently recorded its 300,000th find. But all that is now under threat, an unintended consequence of this year's comprehensive spending review by which the government fixes its funding for the next three years.Although the spending review proved to be much better for museums and the heritage than was feared - a tribute to the negotiating ability of James Purnell, the new secretary of state - the Portable Antiquities Scheme comes under the aegis of the Museums, Libraries and Archives Council, the one organisation that was singled out for cuts in the spending review, as its grant is being reduced by 25…

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Tags: Comment is free Comment Museums Culture Art and design Spending review 2007 Article

Scheme to log treasures faces cuts

Russell Peach's plastic ice cream tub contained many items that made his metal detector bleep excitedly, but only one that made an archaeologist's heart skip a beat - a unique find that will rewrite one small corner of British history."I didn't know what it was, I just had a feeling it was really old," Peach, a landscape contractor, said of the small muddy piece of metal. Peach's treasure has turned out to be a copper-alloy comb, almost 2,000 years old, with a swirly decoration known from contemporary mirrors. Similar decoration is known on bone combs, but only one similar metal comb is known in Europe, from a site in France - and Peach's is better."He brought us in six ice cream tubs in total and the contents included buttons, modern coins, and several bits of broken tractor springs," said Angie Bolton, the finds officer who records amateur archaeology discoveries, in Warwickshire and Worcestershire. "Then I saw what just had to be an Iron Age comb, but of a k…

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Tags: Art Art and design Heritage News Maev Kennedy Culture Article

'He has not only transformed the public's view of what the British Museum is for, but also the view of the politicians'

In 1952 Glasgow council did something extraordinary: it bought an enormous crucifixion by Salvador Dali, and changed a small boy's life. The city flocked to see it, including the schoolboy Neil MacGregor. He was transfixed; he bought a postcard and kept it by his bed for years. It turned him from a career in law, or medicine like his parents, towards art history and museums.From last night and for 10 weeks, BBC viewers will follow the dramas and intrigues of The Museum, an institution the size of a substantial village, and the mayor who paces its streets first thing each morning, British Museum director Neil MacGregor. They will see a man regarded by his peers as high-minded to a fault, passionate about cultural history - and the most politically savvy museum director in the game.Charles Saumarez Smith, his successor at the National Gallery, called him "one of the most able, intelligent and intellectually supportive people I have ever known, with an extraordinary ability …

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Tags: UK news Media Television industry Art Culture Comment BBC Maev Kennedy UK news and analysis Main section Article The Guardian

Metal gurus

Eyes down and bulbous headphones attached to their ears, 17 figures march like purposeful ants across bleak rows of winter wheat. It is the coldest day of winter so far. A blast that forecasters like to call arctic whips in from the north. The Isle of Wight is as exposed as a rowing boat on an icy ocean. "On days like this you begin to wonder about your sanity," says one of these amateur sleuths and treasure seekers known as metal detectorists. Another swears he is sweating inside his fisherman's floatation suit. I am wearing a shirt, jumper, fleece, padded jacket and raincoat with jeans, walking boots and leather gloves and I have never been so cold in my life.Trying not to question anyone's sanity, I trudge up the hill with members of the Isle of Wight Metal Detecting Club, spades over our shoulders, sleet spitting venomously on our cheeks. Swinging my borrowed Laser Rapier metal detector across the sodden earth is a bit like vacuuming. Except that I am not indoors.…

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Tags: Art Patrick Barkham G2 Comment & features G2 Comment & features Culture Art and design Article The Guardian

Purveyors of dodgy Constables set for brush with art squad


Special Constable... Dedham, Lock and Mill (1810-1815) was one of a pair of oil sketches stolen from the Victoria & Albert museum in November 1998. Two car dealers were eventually jailed after trying to sell it. Painting: PA/Victoria & Albert Museum.The Art and Antiques Unit of the Metropolitan Police has come up with an intriguing new idea - to recruit curators and art historians as special constables.The Met is aiming high and hopes to appoint these specialist volunteers from august institutions such as the Victoria & Albert and the British Museum, universities and other cultural organisations.New recruits would be sponsored by their employers to work 200 hours a year or one day a fortnight. The scheme, quaintly dubb…

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Tags: Art & design blog Art Art and design Culture Article Gareth Harris Blogposts

Not for sale yet - the 'cursed' 14 pieces of silver worth £100m

One of the most beautiful and infamous treasure hoards of the 20th century, 14 pieces of Roman-era silver of staggering quality, will resurface today on display in London, to the consternation of leading archaeologists who regard it as archaeological loot.Although Bonhams auction house, which will display the Sevso Hoard, insists no sale is planned, the Marquess of Northampton who bought the silver for an undisclosed sum in the 1980s recently said he "hopes" the silver will be sold, and that it has "cursed" his family. It now belongs to a trust he founded.But the Hungarian government has written to Bonhams to protest at the exhibition and reiterate its claim that the silver was found on Hungarian soil and illegally exported from the country.Lord Renfrew, retired professor of archaeology at Cambridge, an expert on illicit antiquities, said: "It looks very much as if it is being touted about again. Whether anyone can actually prove it, it is pretty sure that it was loote…

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Tags: UK news Culture Maev Kennedy Main section National news Art and design Article The Guardian

Netted: agreement to control sale of antiquities on eBay

After months of negotiation, agreement was reached yesterday between the online auction site eBay, the British Museum, and the government's Museums, Libraries and Archives council, to control the booming trade in British antiquities on the site.Shoals of archaeological objects, an average of 600 a day when volunteers monitored the site, appear on the site: yesterday's offers included an elegant Roman bronze dress pin reportedly found in Bedfordshire, a small gold medieval ring, and a silver cap badge, once worn by a member of the household of the unfortunate Richard Duke of York, who would go on to become one of the princes in the Tower and a victim one of the most famous unsolved murder mysteries in British history.Most are small base-metal objects of low monetary value, found by hobbyists wielding metal detectors - but priceless archaeological information is being lost with them, including previously unrecorded Roman and prehistoric sites. All finders are enc…

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Tags: Culture News Maev Kennedy Article

Archaeologists and amateurs agree pact

The acquisition by the British Museum of a thumbnail-sized chunk of battered inscribed gold - a very rare runic inscription, probably hacked up by Vikings centuries after it was made - marks a historic truce between archaeologists and metal detectors after decades of skirmishing.While amateur users of metal detectors have made some of the most spectacular archaeological finds of recent years, many archaeologists have regarded them as little better than hobby looters.Now, after months of negotiation, the two sides are set to announce a code of conduct. The code, which will be launched at the British Museum today, has been agreed by all the main metal detector clubs, landowners, archaeologists, museums, archaeological societies and English Heritage. "This is the end of the war between the archaeologists and the detectorists," said Roger Bland, an archaeologist seconded by the British Museum to head the Portable Antiquities scheme, which encourages voluntary reporting of fin…

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Tags: UK news Culture Maev Kennedy Main section National news Art and design Article The Guardian

Tomb raiders

The following correction was printed in the Guardian's Corrections and clarifications column, Friday January 27 2006In the article below, we said that Switzerland continued "to refuse to ratify the 1970 Unesco Convention on Illegal Exports of Works of Art". That is completely incorrect. Switzerland in fact ratified the convention on October 3 2003. Earlier, on May 28 2003, Switzerland became the first country to introduce UN security council resolution 1483, dated May 22 2003, to facilitate the return of cultural assets to Iraq. This meant that the import, transit and export of Iraqi cultural property stolen in Iraq, or illicitly exported from Iraq since August 2 1990 was strictly prohibited.
'Pillagers strip Iraq museum of its treasure," the New York Times reported on April 13 2003 as Baghdad fell to coalition forces. The next day the Independent reported that "scores of Iraqi civilians broke into the museum ... and made off …

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Tags: Heritage Iraq World news Features Middle East and North Africa G2 Culture Culture Art and design Article The Guardian

Object lessons

Gold & Gilt, Pots & Pins: Possessions and People in Medieval Britainby David A Hinton439pp, Oxford, £30In 1985, the historic Wiltshire village of Wanborough was under assault - not from tourists but from treasure hunters. A few weeks earlier, amateur archaeologists wielding metal detectors found some valuable Roman coins at the site of what later turned out to be a Romano-British temple. Correctly, they reported the find to their local museum. When the story got out, a gold rush began.Enthusiastic digging for ancient treasure is not a recent phenomenon. In renaissance Rome it was almost a national obsession. The Farnese family removed most of the fabulous sculptures from the 3rd-century AD Baths of Caracalla, then largely intact, to decorate their palaces. In the 1700s, the king and queen of Naples picked out the choicest finds from the new excavations at Pompeii. What no one cared about was the stuff of every day: th…

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Tags: Books Features & reviews Guardian review History Higher education Education Features Observer Review Culture Reviews Article The Observer

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