The Decline and Fall of the PAS
It seems to this observer that Dr. Bland did as much as could reasonably be considered to be humanly possible, to reconcile the conflicting interests of archaeologists on the one hand, and amateur investigators and metal detectorists on the other hand, and steer them toward a beneficial collaboration.
It cannot be questioned that there were very significant, indeed historic, successes resulting from that collaboration when it functioned at its best.
On the other hand there were also irregularities (perhaps even culpable negligence) in the manner in which certain excavations were conducted, which aroused the understandable ire of doctrinaire archaeologists, when the collaboration functioned at its worst.
It seems to this observer that the triumphs far outweigh the irregularities/negligence, which however must not be neglected, but instead addressed in a manner inspiring confidence that they will not continue.
The most vocal critic of the PAS regime to date is unquestionably Paul Barford.
In his blog reaction to this development,
Mr. Barford conveys commendably serious second thoughts regarding this incontinent discarding of an arrangement which had genuine merit in spite of the flaws he reported, and the consequent resignation of the universally respected leader of the PAS.
Dr. Roger Bland is not only a very distinguished archaeologist but also a very distinguished numismatist. This observer does not perceive anyone in the remaining administration of the BM and the remnants of the PAS as being professionally worthy of carrying Dr. Bland's boots. No doubt they do have organizational harmony merits and political connections sufficient to make them more comfortable colleagues for the beleaguered politicians who have now sacrificed the PAS upon the reeking altar of budget reductions. Dr. Bland always impressed this observer as being very moderate and thoughtful in his tone, and cautious but firm in his principled approach to the conflict between the interests of archaeology and collecting. Such circumspection was in every respect appropriate, considering his manifold and serious responsibilities.
One might think that it would not be possible to unite Mr. Barford and this observer in expressing serious doubts and grave reservations regarding the wisdom of any UK government policy development. It seems however that this particular "restructuring," involving as it does the exit of a very distinguished and trusted public servant, imposes an almost impossibly high expected standard of achievement and performance upon his successors.
To Dr. Bland: Kudos in excelsis. You have very ably (and indeed nobly) discharged your weighty and complex responsibilities for the preservation and dissemination of mankind's heritage.