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  • Finnish Heritage Agency, Finland, Helsinki

Abstract and Figures

Metal-detecting in Finland is growing in popularity, and with responsible metal detectorists wishing to report their finds to the authorities, so also grows the pressure on the heritage sector to respond. But recording finds made by metal-detectorists is not merely a matter of providing a service to a certain group of enthusiasts; research in Finland and elsewhere shows that the archaeological data uncovered by non-professionals can have a big impact on archaeological knowledge production if the right fields of data and metadata are recorded. In this article we present the SuALT project (Suomen arkeologisten löytöjen linkitetty avoin tietokanta - the Finnish Archaeological Finds Linked Open Database), intended as a solution for making the most of the increasing number of artefacts found by metal-detectorists and other members of the public. This is a four-year project carried out in collaboration between the University of Helsinki, Aalto University and the Finnish Heritage Agency, with the common goal of creating an open database, named FindSampo (Fi. Löytösampo, Swe. Fyndsampo), of archaeological finds made by the public - most commonly through the hobby of metal-detecting. We give background to the project in terms of its European context and the framework of ‘citizen science’ in archaeology, and discuss the planned benefits of the project for both heritage management and archaeological research.
Content may be subject to copyright.
anna Wessman, suzie THomas and Ville roHiola
Recreational metal-detecting grew enor-
mously in Finland during the early 2010s
(Table 1). The increasing amounts of metal-
detected finds demanded an update of the
manual recording system at the Finnish
Heritage Agency (FHA).1 It is a requirement
Metal-detecting in Finland is growing in popularity, and with responsible metal-detectorists wishing
to report their finds to the authorities, so also grows the pressure on the heritage sector to respond.
But recording finds made by metal-detectorists is not merely a matter of providing a service to a cer-
tain group of enthusiasts; research in Finland and elsewhere shows that the archaeological data un-
covered by non-professionals can have a big impact on archaeological knowledge production if the
right fields of data and metadata are recorded. In this article we present the SuALT project (Suomen
arkeologisten löytöjen linkitetty avoin tietokanta - the Finnish Archaeological Finds Linked Open Da-
tabase), intended as a solution for making the most of the increasing number of artefacts found by
metal-detectorists and other members of the public. This is a four-year project carried out in collabo-
ration between the University of Helsinki, Aalto University and the Finnish Heritage Agency, with the
common goal of creating an open database, named FindSampo (Fi. Löytösampo, Swe. Fyndsampo),
of archaeological finds made by the public - most commonly through the hobby of metal-detecting.
We give background to the project in terms of its European context and the framework of ‘citizen
science’ in archaeology, and discuss the planned benefits of the project for both heritage manage-
ment and archaeological research.
Keywords: Metal-detecting, Archaeology, Linked Open Data, Digital Archaeology, Citizen Science
Hakusanat: Metallinetsintä, arkeologia, linkitetty avoin data, digitaalinen arkeologia, kansalais tiede
of the Finnish Antiquities Act (295/1963)
that movable objects that are expected to be
at least 100 years old and that do not have a
known owner are immediately to be report-
ed and/or delivered to the FHA.2
In addition to the pragmatic need to
streamline the current process, research
shows that metal-detected finds have the
potential to contribute meaningfully to ar-
chaeological research. There are several ar-
eas in Finland where metal-detected finds
have contributed greatly to the understand-
ing of the settlement pattern concerning the
Iron Age especially. For instance, the Uusi-
maa region and Northern Ostrobothnia
have gained important information about
both new settlement sites and burials that
was not known before metal-detecting be-
gan in these areas.3
Past archaeological collaboration pro-
jects with metal-detectorists have appeared
to be fruitful and a win-win for all parties.
Detectorists can provide much needed as-
sistance and methodological help for ar-
chaeologists in archaeological surveys for
example, but these projects have also given
valuable insight to detectorists concerning
how archaeological research is done.4 Edu-
cating metal-detectorist on such issues as
the importance of context in archaeological
research is especially important at a stage
when we are still building bridges between
the public and the archaeological commu-
nity.5 It is equally important that new ar-
chaeological information also reaches the
detectorist community. For example, Tuija
Kirkinen has recently recommended that
metal-detected finds should be handled
with great care because their surface might
contain scientifically important fibres.6 Nat-
urally detectorists are instructed by FHA to
follow the Antiquities Act (295/1963) that
prohibits the cleaning of the objects, but this
might be difficult because cleaning the sur-
face also helps to identify the object.
There are other challenges, too. The de-
tectorist community still needs educating
about the importance of accurate finds re-
cording. The Archaeological Collections at
the FHA has emphasized the importance
of precise coordinates for each find and
the importance of the irreplaceable find-
spot context information. With diligent
documentation in the field, a finder has the
unique chance to make observations that
are indispensable for professional archae-
ologists to define the context’s composi-
tion. In the beginning of the 2010s, it was
Table 1: The number of finds made by public delivered to the Archaeological Collections of the Finnish Herita-
ge Agency during 2014–2018. The collections of finds describe the entities of individual finds delivered to the
FHA from different find sites by different finders.
common that the finds delivered to the Ar-
chaeological Collections were documented
without precise coordinates or with just one
dot that described the findspots of several
finds from a widespread area. Recently, hab-
its have changed so that it is more common
that each find is reported with precise co-
ordinates. This is a clear improvement, but
there is more educational work needed. The
metal-detecting community is heterogene-
ous with a constant flow of new beginners
to the hobby. To emphasize the importance
of responsible recording behaviour, we need
input from everyone working with metal-
detector archaeology.
It has become clear that a solution is
needed not only from a general curation
and management perspective, but also in
order to capture archaeologically sensi-
tive data that might otherwise be lost, but
that has the potential to reveal important
information about Finland’s archaeologi-
cal past. An easy-to-use web-tool to report
finds in Finland has thus been needed for a
long time. SuALT was devised as a direct re-
sponse to this challenge.
While access to digitized material has ex-
ploded during the past decade, the digitiza-
tion process is still an expensive investment
for cultural heritage organizations. Yet,
digitizing archaeological collections democ-
ratizes cultural heritage by making it more
inclusive7, with people able to browse and
study collections at all times and anywhere
in the world. It also protects objects, in the
sense that they can be studied without han-
dling, which in turn also saves costs on con-
servation. The Finnish Archaeological Finds
Recording Linked Open Database (Suomen
arkeologisten löytöjen linkitetty avoin tieto-
kanta – SuALT) is a four-year consortium
project involving the FHA, Aalto University
and the University of Helsinki. The project
started in September 2017 and is funded by
the Academy of Finland.
Our goal is to produce a digital web ser-
vice, which will be called FindSampo (Fig.
1), where archaeological objects discovered
by the public, including metal-detectorists,
will be recorded. The digital platform will
Figure 1: A mockup prototype image of how part of
the FindSampo mobile application could look. In this
page we see how users might browse information on
recorded artefacts. Design: Pejam Hassanzadeh, Aalto
give students, researchers and others easy
access to search and study objects and find
spots online. Moreover, FindSampo will en-
able its users to retrieve contextualized data
about other related finds through linked
data from other databases in Finland and
By encouraging the public to report all
finds into FindSampo we wish to make also
younger objects, currently not taken into
museum collections, accessible for study.
At the moment it appears that not all finds
are reported to the authorities. Detector-
ists might feel that some of the objects they
find are not scientifically unique enough
(so-called mass-finds), but also they some-
times consider the current recording system
too laborious. In turn, this results in large
private collections, potentially significant,
nonetheless staying outside of the awareness
of authorities and researchers. Within our
project we wish also to include this material,
anticipating that with the help of a fast, easy
and a user-friendly digital tool this could
To achieve this, we have connected the
designers and developers of FindSampo
with the end users. By engaging the us-
ers democratically we are giving them the
chance to influence the end product. Hence,
we are currently doing user experience (UX)
research amongst different stakeholders and
end users of the application. With the help
of UX research we are able to discover and
analyse the user needs in a better way. The
application will be developed in light of this
One of the key ideas of FindSampo is to
provide its users with good intellectual and
computational support for analyzing and
contextualizing finds and to provide expert
support online. Even though much can be
done through machine learning (AI) de-
tectorists have repeatedly asked for more
feedback and expressed that they want to
interact more with professionals. If we can
meet these demands, we hope that detector-
ists will stay motivated in sharing their finds
data.10 Another important goal is to have
close collaboration with international part-
ners, discussed below.
According to the Cambridge Online Dic-
tionary, citizen science is something done
by ‘ordinary people, often for or with the
help of scientists.11 Citizen scientists are, in
other words, amateurs or non-professionals
who assist science by observing, analyzing
or collecting large data quantities,12 volun-
tarily. At best, citizen science is a partner-
ship between ordinary people and the sci-
entists, which generates new knowledge.13
According to the Ten Principles of Citizen
Science, all parties should benefit from tak-
ing part in citizen science projects, the citi-
zens should be acknowledged for their work
and they should also get feedback. In addi-
tion, all data and metadata should be open
Finns have participated in science by ob-
serving or collecting data for a long time,
especially in projects surrounding weather,
nature and recording bird observations.15
Other big citizen science projects have
involved digitizing newspapers (Project
Runeberg) or digitizing through an award-
ing and game-like environment as in the
Digiloikka project by the National Library.16
A large EU-financed Horizon 2020 project
where the National Archives of Finland
is involved, is currently digitizing church
books with the help of citizens (READ
Even though the roots of citizen science
lie in the 18th century and especially in bird
taxonomy, it is the developing technology
that has enabled citizen science to expand
into what it is today.18 New technology, such
as smartphones, have made it possible for
citizens to collect, track, analyze, upload,
share and discuss data on their own terms,
when they have the time for it. GPS locators,
microphones, good quality cameras and a
diversity of applications enables the citizen
scientist to use their phones outdoors in
the field. Moreover, through the phone this
data can easily be registered and sent on-
wards. Constant access to the internet pro-
vides added information in the field and it
can also assist the citizens if they need help.
This means that technology has made citi-
zen science grow enormously, more openly
and with better opportunities for interac-
tion with others.19
Citizens have contributed to archaeo-
logical research for a long time, also in
Finland (Fig. 2). While this has often been
more passive work, where amateurs have
been following the instructions of a profes-
sional archaeologists, there are examples
where citizens have taken a much more ac-
tive role, such as spotting rock art (Suomen
Muinaistaideseura/ Finnish Society for Pre-
historic art) or cup marks, or sport divers
searching for wrecks and/ or documenting
them on-site. This has resulted in a more
nuanced way of looking at public archae-
Public or community archaeology means
that the archaeologists and the public work
in an environment of mutual respect, learn-
ing from each other, and knowing that their
skills and knowledge are valued and taken
seriously.20 Metal-detecting is an impor-
tant aspect of this. The behaviour of several
metal-detectorists and clubs in Finland can
be labeled under the concept of serious lei-
sure21; the hobby has become systematic and
more or less a way of life for many people.
Metal-detecting is especially rewarding be-
cause detectorists gain new knowledge and
they are able to develop their skills through
experience and depending on how much
time they are able to invest in their hobby.
These skills are not only connected with
searching and finding objects but also in
touch with the skills they develop on iden-
tifying and dating objects.22 In this sense,
metal-detectorists have much to offer citi-
zen science. Even though metal-detectorists
do not identify as citizen scientists (yet),
their investments and engagement with the
cultural heritage meets the requirements.
While the romance and excitement of
discovering ancient objects (for example,
see Figs. 3–4) is a high motivation23, it is
important to involve the public in other
stages of the discipline in order for it to be
more open and inclusive. This might be dif-
Figure 2. A Crusade Period bell shaped pendant (KM
41821) from the sand dunes of Hietatievat in Enonte-
kiö. The pendant was found by chance by a botanist
who was visiting the area as part of a University field
trip. Photo: Ville Rohiola, Finnish Heritage Agency.
ficult as scientists use a complex terminol-
ogy and have long training that citizen sci-
entists often lack.24 Not only is the language
barrier a problem, most academic outputs
are published in journals that are hidden
behind expensive paywalls, making science
exclusive. In order to prevent this while
also gaining trust, citizen science needs to
be more open, plural and inclusive in its
nature.25 We must also remember that citi-
zens might have skills and knowledge that
archaeologists lack, meaning that instead
of looking at the public as merely passively
allowed to participate, or as producing data
of variable quality, we should try to interact
more and learn from each other. This would
also increase public awareness in matters
of cultural heritage. There are already sev-
eral large citizen science platforms in the
UK alone26, were the public collaborates
with cultural heritage institutions (e.g. Mi-
croPasts, Zooniverse, Historypin and Herit-
age Helpers) but here in Finland we are only
beginning to develop this approach. A good
non-digital example of this is the Adopt-
a-Monument programme that has spread
from Tampere to several other cities around
the country.27
SuALT is a citizen science project in its
core. Citizens are encouraged to help with
the development and design phases, but
they will also be the end users and produc-
ers of the database, since they will produce
most of its content. Within the UX research
led by Anna Wessman, we investigate the
needs and requirements of future users.
The project is keen to develop a database
designed according to the needs of not only
detectorists but also researchers and others.
Through UX research we will be able to en-
sure that the database is accessible and easy
to use but also offers a fulfilling experience
to its end users. In order for this project to
be truly responsible in its initiatives we must
aim for a genuine partnership between the
different user groups instead of falling into
a more passive consultation-like approach.
So far, we have conducted both qualita-
tive research (interviews, focus group meet-
ings) and quantitative research (online sur-
vey) among the three major user groups of
FindSampo (detectorists, researchers and
cultural heritage managers). At the time of
writing, one of the authors (Wessman) has
interviewed over 45 people around Finland
often in connection to public talks or uni-
versity lectures. Because the interview pro-
cesses are still ongoing we have not yet fully
analyzed the data. Once SuALT reaches the
stage of testing the prototype, we will be
able to study in more detail also user be-
haviours and reactions. This will enable us
to learn from feedback and to make further
developments and improvements.
Resources and time allowing, we hope
also to continue this research after launch-
0 3
Figure 3: A 15th-century pendant icon of Saint Geor-
ge (KM 41820), a metal-detecting find from Kitee Pen-
nala. Photo: Ville Rohiola, Finnish Heritage Agency.
ing the application by asking participants
about their views and experiences of the
projects’ processes and its outcomes.28 This
would indicate that we are indeed caring for
our users also after the product is finished.
Therefore, we hope to seek for further re-
search funding to ensure follow-up and
A key goal for developing FindSampo –
combining technical expertise with needs
of different user stakeholder perspectives,
and involving the FHA as part of the re-
search team – is to make sure that the final
resource is not only fit for purpose, but that
it also becomes an integrated part of the
Finnish digital cultural heritage landscape.
Equally important is the project’s connec-
tions to similar initiatives elsewhere in Eu-
rope. This opens up new possibilities for
transnational study of the archaeological
In addition to the national finds databas-
es outlined below, SuALT also participates
in the huge European project ARIADNE-
plus, which grows the existing ARIADNE
portal (http://portal.ariadne-infrastructure.
eu). ARIADNE is a research infrastructure,
with a portal providing access to archaeo-
logical data from across Europe. Finland
was not involved in the original ARIADNE
project, so it is extremely important to be
represented in ARIADNEplus as the initia-
tive expands.
Projects similar to SuALT are found in
European countries (or in the case of Flan-
ders, federal regions) where metal-detect-
ing is permitted, and where there has been
opportunity to develop open finds databas-
es. Notwithstanding the various, sometimes
very strongly held, views concerning metal-
detecting itself, these databases represent
part of a pragmatic approach to ensuring
that information from hobbyist activities
is preserved for research purposes29, with
much research at doctoral level and be-
yond30 already emerging from the oldest of
the finds databases: the Portable Antiqui-
ties Scheme (PAS). PAS operates alongside
English and Welsh legislation, primarily the
Treasure Act 1996, which requires certain
categories of archaeological find to be re-
ported to the authorities. The main purpose
of PAS is to encourage voluntary recording
of all the material which is not legally re-
quired to be recorded, but nonetheless can
enrich the archaeological record.31 Data re-
corded through PAS is added to their Finds
Database (,
which in August 2019 had some ‘1,430,882
objects within 920,383 records’ in its sys-
Figure 4: A Medieval iconographic ring with central
motif depicting the Seat of Grace (KM 41822), a me-
tal-detecting find from Eura Isotalo. Height of the
bezel is 24,5 mm. Photo: Ville Rohiola, Finnish Heritage
In 2016, a new project began in the
Netherlands, to respond to new legisla-
tive conditions brought about by the Dutch
Heritage Act, permitting metal-detecting in
the Netherlands under certain conditions.32
Portable Antiquities in the Netherlands
(PAN – https://www.portable-antiquities.
nl/pan/#/public), led by the Free University
of Amsterdam, works to principles that are
similar to PAS, also using a regional net-
work of Finds Liaison Officers (FLOs) to
work within the different regions to be an
on-the-ground point of contact for detec-
torists and others. Like PAS, it also has an
online finds database.
In the Flanders region of Belgium, there
is the MEDEA finds database (https://me- MEDEA, like PAN,
is a response to changes in the law, with
metal-detecting becoming legal also in 2016
– although many note the hobby was de
facto tolerated for many years before then.33
MEDEA is managed currently by the Free
University of Brussels, which collaborated
with digital heritage company PACKED to
develop its software and UX research.
DIME (Digitale Metaldetektorfund –, aside
from SuALT, is the youngest to date of
these finds databases. Covering Denmark
and spearheaded by Århus University, the
database launched in September 2018. In
only two months the database had already
almost 800 registered users and over 7000
recorded objects.34 Since detectorists re-
cord their finds into DIME by themselves,
which will also be the case for FindSampo,
DIME will probably be the closest related
in terms of functionality to the Finnish da-
tabase. DIME intersects with Danish legis-
lation and policy, under which it is permit-
ted to metal-detect in most circumstances
except on or within two meters of protected
heritage monuments and sites’35, and metal-
detectorists are compensated for any finds
declared treasure trove (Danefæ).
Not only can all these different projects
share experience and best practices, but
also by keeping in contact and visiting each
other’s projects and teams, we make sure
that the data produced is compatible across
schemes. As well as having all these projects
represented on SuALT’s advisory panel (in
addition to relevant specialists from our
near neighbour countries – Sweden and Es-
tonia), researchers have spent time visiting
the different related projects. At the time of
writing, SuALT researchers have spent time
at the British Museum and the University
of York (Eero Hyvönen and Jouni Tuomi-
nen), the Free University of Amsterdam
(Anna Wessman), and at Århus Univer-
sity and the National Museum of Denmark
(Ville Rohiola). The University of Helsinki
has hosted a researcher from Brussels Free
University (Pieterjan Deckers) in 2018, and
in Spring 2019 hosted University of Reading
researcher Eljas Oksanen, who has experi-
ence of investigating PAS data, to evalu-
ate the research potential of SuALT. Suzie
Thomas spent time in the USA at the Uni-
versity of Oklahoma in 2018, not for finds
database expertise but to learn from the
university’s award-winning state-wide pub-
lic archaeology programme, and to draw
upon their scholars’ experiences of engaging
with collectors and artefact hunters. In Oc-
tober 2019 Wessman will spend a month at
Århus University.
When the project ends, responsibility of the
FindSampo platform will move to the FHA
10 TUTKIMUS SKAS 1 | 2019
who will ensure the sustainability of the da-
tabase. As an outcome, this digitally record-
ed information is opened to the public in a
new way that emphasizes the idea of shared
cultural heritage.
The idea is to provide a sustainable digi-
tal data resource that comprises different
user needs. One of the challenges for SuALT
is to engage the public, especially the heter-
ogeneous crowd of metal- detecto rists to be
active and continuous users of the service.
Over time the platform should develop to
suit the diverse, sometimes even contradic-
tory needs of users. Although the FHA will
have primary responsibility for the database,
it is important that professional archaeolo-
gists also interact with the application.36 Ac-
cording to a questionnaire survey made by
the project there could be an interest among
archaeologists in validating and interpreting
For the FHA, FindSampo will offer an
essential tool to manage information and
processes dealing with archaeological finds
made by public. To manage new informa-
tion, FindSampos interoperability with the
FHA’s existing databases is essential. It is
important that the FHAs register of archae-
ological sites, for example, provides cor-
related and updated information to ensure
the protection of ancient monuments and
archaeological sites. FindSampo will also
be an important source regarding admin-
istrative duties at cultural heritage sites or
land-use planning work, such as zoning ar-
eas with cultural heritage importance. With
the interoperability of the databases the up-
dated information of the new finds and the
evaluations of the protected archaeological
sites will be available for administration, as
well as for researchers and for the public.
From the perspective of the FHAs Ar-
chaeological Collections, it is vital that the
self-recorded finds data is compatible with
the FHA’s collections management. The
FHA is currently initiating work to develop
an ontology of archaeological objects. The
collaborative work with the Finnish Termi-
nology Center will form a concept-based
vocabulary of archaeological object names
that will be a part of the Finnish thesaurus
and ontology service Finto (
Use of the ontology is essential for the data-
base to record find information accurately,
but also to fulfil its purpose as a detailed
search tool. At the same time, it enables the
finds data to be more interoperable with
other databases, including international da-
On 15th of February 2019, the FHA
launched a new web service called Ilppari
for public to report archaeological finds.
At this point, Ilppari is the FHAs ‘proto-
type’ to report finds and it works mainly
as an administrative tool to receive infor-
mation of public-discovered finds. With
FindSampo’s launch, the recording system
will move to another level. It will take into
account the advantages of community-
contribution to accomplish different user
needs, which means that FindSampo will
provide new collaboration opportuni-
ties between the public and professional
archaeologists. It will also function as a
communication forum where expertise is
shared among finders, authorities and re-
searchers. The high-quality open data will
support academic research. It is also im-
portant to notice that the SuALT database
records information for finds that are not
accessioned to Archaeological Collections,
including finds that are not considered an-
tiquities by the Antiquities Act. In this way
FindSampo also conserves knowledge of
‘modern’ finds that can be valuable in the
Recently a change in archaeological ma-
terial curation has shifted emphasis from
material evidence and its curation to the
manner of an approach that enables peo-
ple to explore collections.38 Recording ar-
chaeological information digitally is rapidly
changing customs of curating archaeologi-
cal material. Digital web collection man-
agement supports more fluently practices
to capture archaeological data, store it and
provide large datasets for analyses. Digital
collection management also enables pub-
lic-oriented platforms to collect catalogued
data that is recorded by the public. It en-
hances management practices to store more
information than before and on the long-
term saves time and costs in administrative
The digital interfaces and database need
continuous development to maintain the
sustainability. One of the key challenges in
our project is to sustain the reciprocal col-
laboration between the different user levels.
To maintain its active usability, it is impor-
tant that the database provides benefits to
all user levels. By engaging with all the dif-
ferent user levels in the development pro-
cess it is possible to achieve a coordinated
platform for sharing knowledge of archaeo-
logical experience.
There has traditionally been a high level of
trust in experts and authorities in Finland
but studies have shown that expertise is ex-
panding due, for example, to a rising level of
education. It means that new actors are be-
coming involved in the field of science and
thus also archaeology. Therefore, we need to
start looking at alternative perspectives and
expand our own, perhaps restricted, views
on expertise, and let citizens participate and
evaluate issues that previously were the sole
responsibilities of scientists.39
In natural science the observations from
ordinary people have been seen as trustwor-
thy and reliable for a long time.40 But, will
this also be possible in archaeology, where
the professionals have so far been the au-
thorities leading all public involvement?
During the interviews and stakeholder
meetings, which are part of the user experi-
ence research, several professional archaeol-
ogists have raised concerns towards the reli-
ability of the data that will be uploaded to
the database by detectorists. Can this infor-
mation be trusted? What if they (detector-
ists) begin trolling? Shouldn't professionals
do this work, instead?
Some of these concerns are valid. Citizen
scientists might not fully understand the
archaeological context and they might pro-
duce unreliable data through non-deliber-
ate, but still erroneous, find identifications.
This is especially due to the metal-detect-
ing community being heterogenous, with
a constant flow of newcomers who have
no or limited knowledge of the ethics and
rules of metal-detecting. Citizen scientists
do make mistakes but they also learn fast.
Learning, for example, object typology is a
learnable task even though it is time-con-
suming. In addition, it is a skill that many
detectorists already possess due to pub-
lished object catalogues and handbooks.41
Nonetheless, we will need to provide the
database with enough information and tu-
torials. These could include training videos
on how to take measurements on-site, how
to take proper photographs, areas where not
to metal-detect, how to handle the objects
and so on. We are also discussing within the
project of applying different software solu-
12 TUTKIMUS SKAS 1 | 2019
tions into FindSampo, which could help
identify finds, such as image recognition
through artificial intelligence. Another way
of providing information through the plat-
form could be short but informative info
boxes about finds. These could be ‘object of
the month’ information boxes, which would
provide information about the most com-
mon find categories made by detectorists.
In time, this would grow into a large infor-
mation bank that would function also as an
educational tool for beginners to the hobby.
All these tools would naturally also impact
the quality of the data in a positive way. An-
other way to ensure the quality of the data
in FindSampo is supporting the detectorists
in their recording work through resources
such as thesauruses, which would minimize
the open answer possibilities within the ap-
According to Freitag et al.43 experience
and training are the main tools by which
volunteers can learn how to eliminate prob-
lems of credibility. From a citizen scientist
perspective learning through experience
might actually be the key motivator to take
part in a project.44 In Project Runeberg,
which is a citizen science project digitizing
newspaper materials in Finland, the public
has not only been involved in the digitiza-
tion process, but they have also been trusted
and thus able to correct mistakes directly in
the database. This is an excellent example of
a citizen science project where those who
are voluntarily participating are treated as
equal partners. Moreover, the data has been
tested and proven to be reliable.45
A harsh reality today is that the FHA,
like most heritage authorities across the
world, will probably never have the financial
resources to hire enough trained profession-
als, or even students for that matter, to do all
the finds validation in FindSampo. This is
a challenge also in other sciences.46 Hence,
we should appreciate the high number of
volunteers who are interested and willing to
participate in this work without payment.
Another important question when dis-
cussing citizen participation relates to re-
warding the public for their input. How are
we able to motivate people to use the da-
tabase but also continue using it once the
novelty is gone? Would a game-like citizen
science approach work for FindSampo?
This could for example give the most ac-
tive users credits on the front page of the
database or award the public with stars ac-
cording to how many correct object valida-
tions they have made online. According to
our UX research detectorists often hope for
more feedback about their finds from the
authorities.47 Feedback and interaction also
increases detectorist motivation to collabo-
rate with professionals48, which would work
as a ‘carrot’, but it would also demand input
from owners (the FHA). A justified question
is then that of time and resources. Nonethe-
less, one motivation for metal-detecting is
obtaining status by exhibiting expertise in
validating objects on different metal-detec-
torist forums. Engagement with FindSampo
can be rewarded also by providing the users
with a personalized view to the application,
enriched with data from the national au-
thorities as well as the fellow detectorists for
community building. Therefore, we should
ask ourselves how much the metal-detecting
community will actually gain from joining
FindSampo and taking it into active use. If
they feel that they do not gain anything new
from this, then it might not be a tempting
option and there is a risk that they do not
record their finds data at all.49
The core questions with citizen sci-
ence are those of trust and credibility but
also those about ownership. Can we ex-
pand expertise also to amateurs? Is the past
‘the property of a cultured elite, a property
valorised and defined exclusively by pro-
fessionals’?50 This was the situation before
entered a moment in time when the power
relations between citizens and profession-
als have shifted towards the grassroots level.
Cultural heritage is no longer the domain of
experts only.
Metal-detecting in Finland is in transition.
The number of active metal-detectorists
is growing and so are the number of finds.
Compared to other European countries
with a long-standing history of metal-de-
tecting, Finland is now familiarizing itself
with the new participants in the cultural
heritage field. At the moment metal-detect-
ing is showing its potential in broadening
and enlarging our archaeological knowledge
with new material and information. By un-
derstanding metal-detecting as a form of
citizen science, professional archaeologists
will find a new way to collaborate with the
public in a reciprocal manner.
Since detectorists will record their finds
into FindSampo by themselves, this is a col-
laborative citizen science initiative where
members of the public are producing new
data side by side with professionals. This
means that instead of looking at the public
as simply volunteers we are trying to inter-
act and truly learn from one another. Look-
ing beyond the current project it is to be
hoped that this citizen science-based model
for enriching our knowledge of the past can
continue, and add value to Finland’s archae-
ological record for all.
Hobbyist metal-detecting is here to stay,
regardless of the often polarized debates
surrounding it. Instead of focusing on the
emotive arguments, we should set our focus
on the scientific value of objects found by
the public. However, first these objects need
to become accessible, which is one of the
SuALT projects goals. This can be done by
digitizing archaeological collections in addi-
tion to linking this data to other sources in
Finland and beyond.
This article is an output of SuALT — The
Finnish Archaeological Finds Recording
Linked Open Database (Fi: Suomen arke-
ologisten löytöjen linkitetty avoin tietokanta),
which is funded by the Academy of Fin-
land, decision numbers 310854, 310859,
and 310860. SuALT is a collaborative con-
sortium project between the University of
Helsinki, Aalto University and the Finnish
Heritage Agency.
Anna Wessman
Suzie Thomas
Department of Cultures,
P.O. Box 59, 00014 University of Helsinki
Ville Rohiola
Museovirasto, Library, Archives and Ar-
chaeological Collections,
P.O. Box 913, 00101 Helsinki
14 TUTKIMUS SKAS 1 | 2019
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... Innostu, seuraa, sitoudu!) were to find new ways of engaging interested amateurs and help them become contributors in citizen science (cf. Wessman et al. 2019). There were no criteria for the volunteers other than that they had to be able to participate in the excavation weekly: the volunteers were allowed to attend the excavation three days per week for four hours per day, but they were free to participate less if they wanted. ...
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