Roger Bland

Roger Bland quits BM over cuts to PAS

Rebecca Atkinson, 28.07.2015
Resignation follows scheme's move to British Museum’s learning department
Roger Bland, the former head of the Portable Antiquities Scheme (PAS), will step down from the British Museum this week following a 6% cut to the scheme and its relocation to the museum’s learning department.
 
The PAS, which encourages the voluntary recording of archaeological objects found by members of the public in England and Wales, is funded by the Department for Culture, Media and Sport but has been run by the British Museum since 2006.
 
Bland was instrumental in setting up and leading the PAS since its foundation in 1997. In 2012, he became keeper of the museum’s department of Britain, Europe and prehistory, which ran the scheme, and Michael Lewis was appointed as head of portable antiquities and Treasure.
 
Following an internal review of the PAS, the management of the scheme was transferred from Bland’s department to the department of learning, volunteers and audiences on 1 May. Administration of the Treasure Act, which the British Museum has managed on behalf of the UK government since 2007, also transferred departments.
 
Bland handed in his three months’ notice on 30 April, and will work his last day this week. He said his resignation was a direct result of the museum passing on a 6% cut to the PAS' £1m grant in April
 
Funding for the PAS is no longer ringfenced, and Bland said that he fears without adequate funding it could collapse: “It came very close to that at the beginning of the year and will be under great pressure after the November spending review.”
 
The British Museum said in a statement that moving the PAS to a new department “will allow the museum to support the aims of the scheme more effectively in the future”.  
 
“Funding for PAS was reduced in line with the overall reduction to grant-in-aid to the British Museum for this financial year,” the museum said. “In recent years, the museum’s grant-in-aid has declined by 30%.

"However, the British Museum has managed to achieve savings through efficiencies across departments and increased income generation, thereby minimising the impact on the public programme, including the PAS.”  
 
Dan Pett and Mary Chester-Kadwell, who look after the PAS database, have transferred to the museum’s digital and publishing department. Lewis retains responsibility for the PAS in the learning department.

The scheme recorded its one millionth find last September.

Comments

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Tim Schadla-Hall
MA Member
Reader in Public Archaeology, University College London
30.07.2015, 21:19
seems surprising and strange that PAS - with all its responsibilities for Treasure and its concentration on British and to a more limited extent near european material should be moved from the most appropriate department to learning and volunteers! Its focus has always been archaeological expertise- and it seems to make no sense managerially. In addition in world terms- PAS should not be cut-it i s probably the most cost effective operation for recording the past anywhere!
Philippa wood
MA Member
Development Officer, Baysgarth House Museum
29.07.2015, 16:53
I'm very sad to hear this. I corresponded with both Michael Lewis and Roger Bland in 2013 when working on a Master's Thesis on the impact of the Treasure Act. It was quite clear they were both doing a tremendous job under great pressure, with soaring find numbers and constant threats to future funding. The PAS is an invaluable tool in understanding the country's history, and I very much hope these changes will not have too great a negative effect.