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As all that is solid melts to air and everything holy is profaned...

Friday, May 26, 2017

Galloway Hoard: Demanding the Impossible

A Viking stronghold beside a river.

Was there ever any possibility that the Viking Hoard found in Galloway in 2014 would be allocated to the region?

To answer that question I have been looking at the way in which archaeological finds are allocated. I found that in early 2003, a review of allocations policy was published. The then Scottish Executive produced a response to the review. This stated very clearly that:

The National Museum of Scotland was established and is funded to fulfil a national function. Finds of international or national importance should be kept intact and offered to the NMS in the first instance. In other cases, the presumption will be that the find will be offered to the local museum. 

However, in 2004 the Scottish Executive produced a second  response. Regarding allocations policy this stated that ‘Finds of national or international importance should not simply be offered to NMS in the first instance.’

In 2008 a Code of Practice was produced by the Treasure Trove Unit which is based in the National Museum. The section on allocations states that the ‘overarching priority’ will be for finds to be offered to local museums.

But for finds of national importance, a footnote says that:

The role of National Museums Scotland  will be taken into account in considering allocations of nationally important material for which NMS has made an application. NMS will be required to demonstrate fully that there are clear advantages, in serving the national interest, in allocating a find to the NMS rather than to another institution.

Local museums are not ‘established and funded to fulfil a national function’. That is the role of the National Museum. In competition with the National Museum for a find of national importance, a local museum would have to demonstrate even more fully and clearly why local allocation would serve the national interest better than an allocation to the National Museum.

Within the framework of the Code of Practice, this is impossible. In which case, as soon as the National Museum made an application for the Galloway Hoard, the application by Dumfries and Galloway Council should have been ruled out.

If it had though, this would mean an effective return to the 2003 proposal that ‘Finds of international or national importance should be kept intact and offered to the NMS in the first instance.’ Which was then rejected, even by the NMS itself, in 2004.

As it stands then, the allocations section of the Treasure Trove Unit Code of Practice is misleading. It appears to give local applications for finds priority, but, in the small print of a footnote, finds of national importance which the National Museum is interested in are treated as a special case.

Two recent letters on the Galloway Hoard, based on above.

Letter published in Stranraer and Wigtown Free Press 24 May 2017

Letter published in Galloway Gazette 25 May 2017 


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