Discussion of Portable Antiquities and Treasure Issues

Paul Barford made this Freedom of Information request to The British Museum

This request has been closed to new correspondence from the public body. Contact us if you think it ought be re-opened.

The request was partially successful.

Dear The British Museum,

I would like to make a request under the Freedom of Information Act for a copy of all internal communication of the Portable Antiquities Scheme (PAS) and Treasure Department(s) from 21st May 2012 to the present day inclusive which:
(1) make reference to myself or my discussion of heritage matters (whether or not directly by name), or
(2) refer, whether by name or not, to something on my Portable Antiquities Collecting and Heritage Issues blog (http://paul-barford.blogspot.com/), or
(3) refer to correspondence or enquiries from me requesting information from the PAS and Treasure Department or its members of staff whether or not a reply was issued to me.

This is not a request for personal data, but a request for information on reactions to issues I have raised on heritage matters in the period concerned.

I request therefore a review of documents of the PAS and Treasure Department for the requested information, including but not limited to documents and emails by and between the staff of the PAS and Treasure Department (both internal staff and PAS staff based in the regional offices) as well as all PAS and Treasure Department staff and members of the public (in particular metal detectorists). In particular, I would like copies of any exchanges of the above-mentioned character on the forum of the Portable Antiquities Scheme (the one mentioned here https://www.academia.edu/10055694/Portab... p. 7).

If one part of this request can be answered sooner than others, please send that information first, followed by any subsequent data.

If you need any clarification then please email me. Under your section 16 duty to provide advice and assistance I would expect you to contact me if you find this request unmanageable in any way so we can determine how best to proceed.

I look forward to hearing from you in the near future. Thank you.

Yours faithfully,
Paul Barford

Christopher Denvir, The British Museum

1 Attachment

Dear Paul Barford,

Please see attached.
- - - - - - -
##

show quoted sections

Christopher Denvir, The British Museum

1 Attachment

Dear Mr Barford, Please see attached response to your request for information from the British Museum.

show quoted sections

Dear Christopher Denvir,
Re Discussion of Portable Antiquities and Treasure Issues

Thank you for your timely reply to my FOI request, it was most revealing about the commitment of the Portable Antiquities Scheme and Treasure Unit to transparency. I am dissatisfied however with this response in the present form and wish to ask for a review of the procedure employed to deal with my request. This is for a number of reasons:

1) The unassociated and undated document (pdf page 18) from Michael Lewis [ML] addressed to the head of the British Museum Legal Department in Jan 2009 (well beyond my lower cut-off date) may have been included through carelessness. In the circumstances (http://paul-barford.blogspot.com/2009/01...) its inclusion here equally can be taken as a thinly-veiled threat. Please explain why it was included.

2) Carelessness in compilation seems to be suggested in other instances, on p 20 of the pdf there is an email header in a forum thread where reference is made to my blog, but the content of the mail below is cut off (not redacted). Likewise in the thread on the affair with „the millionth find” (pdf p. 8) on 24th September, a new person [name redacted] cuts in, but the earlier mails where they were copied into the thread is not included, yet the content of his or her reply copied to others indicates that this earlier mail must have referred to me. Carelessness or design? How many other mails falling into the scope of my request were not included for one reason or another?

3) My request specifically referred to „whether or not directly by name”. The unwelcome discovery that your staff refer to me, among themselves at least, by a variety of pejorative terms instead of by name prompt the question concerning the search terms were used to find texts referring to me or my heritage blog. In particular, were your archives searched for „Warsaw” , „Poland”, „Moaner” and a number of other pejorative terms – including those in which it has been reported by metal detectorists that PAS staff have used to refer to me in their communications with the public? I must say until this week, I was disinclined to believe reports of such behaviour from PAS professionals, but now I have seen the material you supply, I am prompted to reconsider that view and would ask you search again so the extent of this practice can be determined.

4) A noticeable fact is that although the Scheme and Treasure unit employs, according to the website (https://finds.org.uk/contacts), 56 people, the same three names account for the salient texts in all of the topics you disclosed to me, David Williams, Michael Lewis and Sam Moohead. Yet, in the period selected, I had written contact with more than a dozen FLOs referring to queries arising in the course of my research on artefact hunting and collecting in the UK, but there is no trace of that here, even though one would expect at least some of the issues raised to be consulted elsewhere in the organization. For some reason almost all of the material arising falling into the scope of my request was missed by your searches.

I have in mind in particular the matter of the controversy – still unresolved – of the coin of Proculus (November 2012, Rebecca Griffiths) which in the circumstances, it is very odd to not see reflected in any documentation in your response. There also would obviously be more documentation on the Hollingbourne Anglo-Saxon grave/hoard site (J. Jackson) falling within the scope of the request. Is there really no documentation referring to what an employee (Dan Pett) said at a public session (on film) on 21st May 2012 and which was later edited out? You have disclosed a single forum thread on the Lenborough hoard, but there is, we know, email correspondence to and from PAS staff (Dec 2014 and January2015 Ros Tyrrell et al.) which although it falls into the scope of my FOI request, is simply omitted en bloc from the material you released. Then there is the analogous case of the Holt hoard excavated by a metal detectorist with a JCB (C. Trevarthen Jan 2015), this is also omitted despite being very recent. There are several other cases I know of which do not figure in the material you supplied, even though they quite clearly fall within the scope of my request.

[Please redact out the entire content of the replies of David Williams to me and my responses to him between 13/11/2013 to 11/9/14 inclusive – I have this all on my files and I see no need to disclose any of this material].

5) Can you confirm that in the forum of the Portable Antiquities Scheme there is no other material referring to me or issues raised on my Portable Antiquities Collecting Issues blog?

Thank you,
Yours sincerely,
Paul Barford

Christopher Denvir, The British Museum

1 Attachment

Please see attached

show quoted sections

Dear Christopher Denvir,
With regard to the notification of commencement of review of my FOI request (dated 4th March) may I just clarify? You write (4th March):
"<i>You consider that some material provided in the response was inappropriately disclosed as it was outside the scope of your request and some of which you suggest should be now redacted</i>"

No,with regard to the first item, I specifically asked for clarification of WHY it was there, as I feel it can be taken as a veiled threat. It does not have to be redacted as far as I am concerned, the blog post to which it refers raised a purely substantive point which never received an answer.

The comment on redaction which I made on 2nd March referred only to one set of documents from one PAS employee (defined in my text of 2nd March) and my responses to them for the reasons I gave.

Thank You

Yours sincerely,

Paul Barford

Christopher Denvir, The British Museum

1 Attachment

Please see attached.

show quoted sections