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.]

5 Responses to “free archaeology: austerity Britain – museum workers and entire workforces are replaced with volunteers”

  1. I just wanted to add a few things to your post about Leicestershire County Council museum service. The cuts at the meant loosing the curator of archaeology who was responsible for the huge amount of material in the county’s store at Barrow-upon-Soar, in addition to the loss of the (already reduced to part time) Community Archaeologist. What is most sad is that both staff had spent almost their entire careers excavating in the county and their loss means that the council is now without an ireplaceable body of knowledge. Both staff deserved a much more fitting end to their long careers than to be booted unceremoniously into early retirment. The creation of the lower ranking and less highly renumerated post of Archaeological Officer means that both of these roles are now expected to be performed by one less experienced (although she does a great job!) member of staff.

    The loss of the Curator has also meant that it is no longer possible to support the sizable body of volunteers (myself included) who once worked in the store, meaning this redundancy hides what is actually a very large cut to the work being undertaken. If it were not for the willingness of the community archaeologist to continue much of his outreach work in a voluntary capacity, then it is hard to contemplate the state that Leicestershire’s archaeology would have been left in.

    As if this were not enough a further round of cuts is on its way, but with only a Finds Liasion Officer, Archaeological Officer and a property manager left, it is difficult to see who else could be axed. The Tory chairman of the county council was very happy to open the recent exhibition on Treasure finds from the county at Snibston Discovery Museum, but he certainly doesn’t seem to think the county’s past is worth paying to protect and interpret to the public.

    • Thank you! They have been treated terribly (and their replacement isn’t exactly being treated well either!). I just wish I had more (any) confidence that the next government would undo as much of this damage as possible.

  2. Oh and I forgot to say that the Community Archaeologist had been awarded the MBE for ‘Services to community archaeology” for his work at the council!!

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