3. Manx Archaeological Objects Legislation: The Future

Wonderful archaeological objects notwithstanding, there are improvements that could be made to the system for dealing with archaeological objects. The provisions made in the MMNTA 1959 are more than adequate for dealing with such finds and although the Act has recently been revised to allow for a change in the make-up of the Trustee body, there are no plans for an imminent change in the way portable antiquities are dealt with. What could be improved upon is the availability of advice to finders and other interested parties and the dissemination of information on what has been found. MNH has recently opened a new digital facility offering access to Manx newspapers, archives and collections, and it is hoped this will be available online late 2012. This would be the ideal portal for a section devoted to advice on archaeological finds, and research work is being undertaken on the possibilities.

Currently, those wishing to find out about the legislation involved with portable antiquities on the Island have to make direct contact with MNH as there is no outlet where requirements and guidelines can be easily accessed. There are a few historical reasons for this, both legal and technical, but communication of the information does need to be improved. A group of metal-detector users from England planning a trip to the Island a few years ago were unaware of the differences in legal requirements and it was only by chance that their planned visit was noticed. A telephone call prior to, and chat upon, their arrival, meant that MNH staff were able to explain what was different and why, to a very co-operative group of enthusiasts who had an enjoyable weekend detecting on the Isle of Man. A brief run-down of the requirements available, for example, from the MNH website would have been helpful to the group while they were in the planning stage of their trip.

The requirement to report finds leads to the information being stored with MNH and potentially being available to researchers. However, the information is not currently available in a form as accessible and as widely available as the Portable Antiquities Scheme database (website: PAS ) or UK Detector Finds Database (UKDFD, website: UKDFD). A small number of finds from the Isle of Man have been recorded on the UKDFD and PAS database (although I would point out that despite its description as such in the latter, the Isle of Man is not 'a County'!), but otherwise the information can only be obtained by contacting MNH. Discussions have taken place recently between MNH and the local detector users about the feasibility of creating a Manx archaeological objects database, along similar lines to the above examples. It is early days, but there has been a very positive reaction to the idea, so more structured planning is now underway.

The legislation applied to archaeological objects in the Isle of Man applies equally to any artefact that has been declared Treasure Trove, but it is this latter process that is about to undergo a major change.


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