Sunday, 3 November 2013

Heritage 'Heroes'

The Honourable Edward Henry Butler Vaizey, currently UK Minister for Culture, Communications and Creative Industries and a Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State with responsibilities in the Department for Culture, Media and Sport and the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills, elected Conservative Member of Parliament for the constituency of Wantage in the 2005 General Election (re-elected in 2010) has this week made a bit of an a*** of himself.

A qualified barrister and regular media columnist and commentator (according to Wikipedia), Mr Vaizey has managed to insult pretty much everyone working in the archaeological and heritage profession (quite an achievement even for a standing politician).

What was his crime?

Well, it was this spectacularly ill-judged comment: “I salute all the responsible metal detectorists – true heritage heroes – whose patience and unceasing curiosity do so much to bring treasure to light”.

Now I've got nothing against responsible metal detectorists at all (many important archaeological finds and sites have only come to light following work conducted by just such people) and I have worked with many on a number of projects and always value their input BUT I would like to point out that metal detectoring is a hobby (a sometimes lucrative one if you're lucky) whilst working as an archaeologist or heritage professional is a career (and a poorly paid one at that).

So, Mr Vaizey, for a Member of Parliament whose government is currently forcing through austerity measures which are effectively closing museums, slashing arts and heritage budgets and forcing redundancy upon countless field archaeologists, university academics, local authority advisors, museum curators and other associated professionals (all of whom, I think, any right minded individual would call the true heroes of the heritage world), do you not think that such comments are thoughtless, hurtful, ill-judged and insensitive? Perhaps, in future, you should stick to discussing media and sport rather than attempting to dabble (rather unsuccessfully) in matters of culture. 


  1. Ironic really, the tories preach so much about the importance of history as a subject to be taught in schools, yet they're the biggest destroyers of historic sites, museums and heritage (unless those sites make money!). To paraphrase Oscar Wilde, they know the cost of everything and the value of nothing. Roll on the next election!

  2. Exactly! I have a friend in a county council in southern England who, in the past year, has seen his deputy archaeological officer, his historic environment record officer and all three members of his archaeological field team laid off. Heritage Heroes RIP