Sunday, January 09, 2011

A Rational Public Discussion

It is, to say the least, very difficult to have a rational public discussion with anyone who is identified with the radical anticollecting or "archaeology" lobby.

That is actually a very misleading description, since my experience indicates that most practising archaeologists do not subscribe to the extremist views of those who blame collectors for all of archaeology's problems. It might almost be said that the more distant an archaeologist is from actual fieldwork, the more likely he or she would be to subscribe to such views. Thus, the "academic" or divorced-from-fieldwork-and-practical-experience fringe of archaeology has become the cutting edge of conflict between archaeology and the antiquarian collecting tradition from which the origins of archaeology can be traced.

Nowhere in the far-out views of that fringe can anything more unrealistic or extreme be found than this:

Any archaeologist who imagines that a solution to archaeology's problems can be unilaterally dictated and enforced without the participation, cooperation and ultimately the consent of the collecting community is significantly detached from reality.

Archaeology's problems can indeed be solved. If archaeologists will engage the collecting community in a good faith discussion of how to do this, they would in my view be pleasantly surprised by the understanding and thoughtfulness of the reception they would receive.

Those who instead insist upon a totally confrontational, one-sided, irrational, and accusatory condemnation of private collecting as the root of all evils are instead likely to be unpleasantly surprised by the strength and effectiveness of the opposition they encounter.