The Portable Antiquities Scheme – An introduction

Museum News

The Portable Antiquities Scheme – An introduction

“What is the Portable Antiquities Scheme and why have I not heard of it before?”, I hear you ask. Well look no further, this short introduction will cover all the basics about the scheme, who Finds Liaison Officer are, why the scheme is important, and how you at home can get involved.

What is the Portable Antiquities Scheme?

The Portable Antiquities Scheme is a voluntary initiative, funded and supported by the British Museum and various local authorities across England and Wales, which aims to record archaeological objects found by members of the public and in doing so record the heritage of local regions and explore stories from the past through small archaeological finds.

Why is the scheme important?

Every year thousands of archaeological objects are discovered by members of the public; people walking, gardening or using a metal-detector. Their discoveries help us build a bigger, better picture of the past.

Through the Portable Antiquities Scheme, local museums, including the Museum of Cornish Life, are presented with a unique opportunity to acquire some of the objects which are recorded. This allows museum collections to be continually enhanced providing the public with the opportunity to enjoy, learn about and be inspired by their local history.

Who are Finds Liaison Officers?

Finds Liaison Officers are responsible for recording finds found by members of the public from all across the county. They support interest groups by offering advice, as well documenting and recording objects that have been handed in. The Finds Liaison Officer measures and photographs the objects in order to record them on the Portable Antiquities Scheme database, which is publicly accessible. Once the finds have been recorded they are usually returned to the finder.

­What is Treasure?

Recording most finds is voluntary. However, some of the objects that are brought to us fall within the Treasure Act 1996, which provides museums with the opportunity to acquire finds made of gold or silver, hoards of coins, or prehistoric tools. All finders of treasure have a legal obligation to report such items under the Treasure Act 1996.

How you can get involved

The Portable Antiquities Scheme database is a great way of getting to know the history of your local area. You can search by type of archaeological find, different periods, or even by postcode. Use us as a way of discovering what has been found near you! As a Finds Liaison Officer, part of our role is to do outreach and engagement to get as many people involved with the scheme as possible. Keep an eye out for events or talks at local museums or pop into the Museum of Cornish Life between the 17th May and 17th June to view our exhibition on local archaeology and the Portable Antiquities Scheme. You’ll be able to get up close with some of the objects recorded with the scheme and gain a greater understanding of the archaeology in Cornwall. What’s not to love?!

Museum of Cornish Life