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Archaeologists’ Finds Commonly Hidden From the Public

Archaeology is too exclusive and too commercial, benefiting a limited circle of academics rather than the public, the director of the Museum of London said yesterday.In his last public speech as director of the Museum of London, before he moves to English Heritage, Simon Thurley said that property developers in London had spent £200 million on archaeological excavation over the past ten years, yet the vast majority of finds made in Britain remained unseen and unheard of by ordinary people.Ninety per cent of the tens of thousands of finds made each year were never shown beyond a few scholars, he said. “If that’s the case, why are we digging them up? It’s not a question of money, but of imagination and determination.”At the same time, he said, archaeology had never been more popular with the public. “A single programme of Time Team can attract 3.6million viewers,” Dr Thurley said, referring to the Channel 4 series.”The Young Archaeologists, Club is the fastest growing youth organisation in Britain. At the Museum of London, the display of a single archaeological find, the Roman Lady discovered at Spitalfields,attracted over 38,000 visitors from around the globe in a single month.”Dr Thurley questioned whether the cost of excavations had been justified when so few people saw the finds. He called on archaeologists, museums, local authorities and the Department for Culture, Media and Sport to ensure that excavated objects were displayed, rather than being hidden away in boxes and old carrier bags
in chaotic storerooms.http://www.thetimes.co.uk/article/0,,2-2002064745,00.html

By Dalya Alberge Arts Correspondent The Times – London 2-8-2

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