Tuesday, 8 January 2008

Colin Renfrew on the threat to the PAS

"One of the unsung successes of this government is the Portable Antiquities Scheme, which records archaeological objects found by members of the public and makes that information available for all on its online database. The scheme recently recorded its 300,000th find. But all that is now under threat, an unintended consequence of this year's comprehensive spending review by which the government fixes its funding for the next three years.

Although the spending review proved to be much better for museums and the heritage than was feared - a tribute to the negotiating ability of James Purnell, the new secretary of state - the Portable Antiquities Scheme comes under the aegis of the Museums, Libraries and Archives Council, the one organisation that was singled out for cuts in the spending review, as its grant is being reduced by 25% in real terms over the next three years.

Since it was created by Chris Smith seven years ago, MLA has had a chequered history. It has been through three changes of name and is now on its fourth chief executive, hardly a sign of a stable organisation. It has yet to convince the museums, libraries and archives, for which it was supposed to devise overarching policies, that it has a useful role. Its biggest programme is Renaissance in the Regions, which channels government money (£45m this year) into a network of 42 hub museums. The Renaissance programme was protected in this spending review"

Piece continued in Guardian Unlimited

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