Archive for May, 2013


We won: Herefordshire’s campaign against the severing of museum funding

Herefordshire County Council had originally proposed ‘a 75% cut to the county’s library service and a 100% cut to the museum service‘. Then the services and the community organised.

[Now cross-posted on (un)free archaeology.]


free archaeology: austerity Britain – museum workers and entire workforces are replaced with volunteers

The reduction of the City of York Council’s archaeology officer to a part-time worker and the threat of redundancies for its conservation officers prompted shovel-bum to (rightly) complain that ‘members of the field are pointlessly arguing about where Richard 3 should be buried, far more important archaeological concerns are being overshadowed.’

They may not be overshadowed much longer. The Shadow Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport, Harriet Harman, has highlighted taxpayers’ essential yet ‘invisible’ support for production of and access to culture; and it is becomingly increasingly visible increasingly quickly, as austerity drives professionals and entire institutions to the wall.

[Now cross-posted on (un)free archaeology.]


Lebanon: police sting on Syrian antiquities smuggler-dealers

Following up on their investigation into the Syrian-Lebanese antiquities-for-arms trade, an undercover Sunday Times reporter and a special security unit within the Lebanese immigration police conducted a sting on a Syrian antiquities smuggler; subsequent police raids captured four other suspects. Brilliantly, having posed as buyers to elicit information from dealers, they went back and posed as dealers to elicit offers of illicit antiquities from the dealers’ source smugglers.


free archaeology in Turkey: the archaeology graduate without a future

Freakishly coincidentally, the day after Emily Johnson (@ejarchaeology) began the discussion on free archaeology (unpaid labour in cultural heritage management) in Britain, Radikal‘s Ömer Erbil (@omererbil) published an article on free archaeology in Turkey, and his commenters highlighted the persistent precarity of the (least un)lucky few employed cultural heritage workers. Young archaeologists have rebelled [genç arkeologlar ayaklandı] or, at least, protested against their exploitation…

[Now cross-posted on (un)free archaeology.]


Have you done free archaeology (or irrelevant labour) on workfare? Do you know someone who has? Out the ’employers’!

As I explained before, there is a long-running, cross-party effort to consolidate and normalise unpaid labour, in which the cultural heritage sector is both victimised and (more or less naively or cynically) complicit. The coincidences of and clashes between “unpaid voluntary work” and “workfare” (work-for-welfare) highlight the realities of both cultural heritage work and workfare.

[Now cross-posted on (un)free archaeology.]


Syria: antiquities-for-arms trade – Sky News interview

Yesterday, Sky News invited me to give a live television interview (at lunchtime today) on the illicit trade in Syrian antiquities, which was nice but a bit daunting, as I’m inarticulate at the best of times and even worse around strangers or in public. In the end, they got someone from the World Monuments Fund (WMF) to take part in a piece on the trade in (and market for) conflict antiquities from Syria – how they’re traded, who they’re bought by, etc. (so it should be good and you might catch it now or in a repeat later today).

Still, to refresh my dangerously poor memory, I’d gone back over my posts on the funding of regime and rebels through looting and smuggling, the Syrian-Lebanese antiquities-for-arms trade, and the “men with gunsin the antiquities-for-arms trade, and summarised what (I think) we know so far; and this is it.

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free archaeology: institutionalised exploitation in the museum sector

Following on from my post on the precarisation of cultural heritage work, I want to look in detail at what seems like institutionalised exploitation of unpaid interns at the Victoria and Albert Museum (and another unnamed museum); and to highlight resources, movements and opportunities for positive social change.

[Now cross-posted on (un)free archaeology.]


free archaeology: precarisation, privatisation, austerity and workfare in the Big Society

Thought and practice regarding the voluntary worker wage exemption appear to be closely connected with much larger efforts at privatisation, workfare and the breaking of the British social contract. Much like its subject, this has been cut in half; but it’s still tldr.

[Now cross-posted on (un)free archaeology.]


Syria: ‘Men With Guns’ in the antiquities-for-arms trade

This is just a note on the “Free Syrian Army” (or Free Syrian Armies, or Men With Guns) and the discussion of which armed groups were involved in the Syrian-Lebanese antiquities-for-arms trade.

read more »


free archaeology: drawing the line between work experience and work; identifying structural disadvantage and exclusion

Before I begin, I want to make clear that I am not using these case studies as examples of worst practice (though they are not all examples of best practice), or even as examples of consciously exploitative practice. I know people who have worked at all three of these museums (and indeed at the cultural heritage organisations that will appear in a far less flattering light tomorrow), so this is not an attempt to condemn these institutions’ staff.

This is an attempt to draw out the differences between volunteering, voluntary work, work experience and internship in practice; and to highlight the ways that museums’ policies on and programmes of volunteering and voluntary work can reinforce or create disadvantage and exclusion. Hopefully, then, it will be easier to identify widespread and/or persistent exploitation, and structural threats to the cultural heritage profession and its work.

[Now cross-posted on (un)free archaeology.]

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