Changes To Treasure Process Made To Help Both Museums And Finders

By Graham Spicer | 20 March 2007
photo of a decorative gold ring

This rare posy ring (1500-1650), found in Shropshire, was acquired by Shrewsbury Museum through the Treasure Act. © Portable Antiquities Scheme and British Museum

Changes to the way treasure finds are dealt with have been made, which will help museums acquire rare finds more easily.

The British Museum took on administrative responsibilities for the Treasure Act from the Department of Culture Media and Sport (DCMS) on Monday March 19 2007.

These service include the valuation of treasure finds, the invoicing of museums who wish to buy treasure, the payment of awards to treasure finders and supporting the Treasure Valuation Committee.

The changes mean that the treasure process should be more efficient and that finders of treasure, landowners and acquiring museums will only have to deal with a single set of administrative staff.

shows the great court of the British Museum with people walking around inside

The British Museum is home to the Portable Antiquities Scheme, which has helped increase reported treasure finds

Roger Bland, Head of the museum’s Department of Portable Antiquities and Treasure, which is taking on the new responsibilities, explained:

“It is something we have been talking about since July 2005. There had to be an amendment to the Treasure Act Code of Practice, which was a Parliamentary process.”

“It is about how we work in this department and within the DCMS. Finders and museums should see the benefit, however. We have hitherto dealt with the first part of the process then handed over to the DCMS, so now it has got to be easier for the interested parties,” he said. “There will be definite benefits to having it all in one place.”

Treasure finders will still report their finds in the same way, through local Finds Liaisons Officers working for the British Museum’s Portable Antiquities Scheme (PAS).

Metal detectorist Cliff Bradshaw came upon a gold cup from the Bronze Age in 2001 and reported it through the Portable Antiquities Scheme. Courtesy English Heritage

Under the 1996 Treasure Act anyone who finds potential treasure – archaeological artefacts like Roman coins or other important artefacts – must report it. If the find is declared treasure then it is made Crown property and is available for museums to acquire, although the finder or landowner can receive payment for it.

Most treasure is defined as objects containing at least 10% precious metal that is at least 300 years old when found.

To prevent a conflict of interests, treasure finds that the British Museum expresses an interest in acquiring will still be dealt with by the DCMS.

Since the PAS was launched reported treasure finds has risen each year. In 2004 there were 509 cases of treasure and in 2005 this figure rose to 597 cases. This rose further in 2006 to 673 reported finds.

If you think you have made a treasure find and want to find your local Finds Liaison Officer or want more information about the Treasure Act or Portable Antiquities Scheme, go to the PAS website or call them on 0207 323 8618.

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