Frances McIntosh

In Focus

Francis' Gallery 

Frances on her last day in the office   Silver halfgroat of Edward III  
Cast copper alloy scabbard chape   Silver sixpence of Elizabeth I  


Frances McIntosh

The role of a Finds Liaison Officer

Until recently, Frances McIntosh has been one of two Finds Liaison Officers (FLOs) covering the North-East Region; the other being Rob Collins. There are 60 FLOs across the country, operating as part of the Portable Antiquities Scheme (PAS). This is a voluntary scheme, overseen by the Department for Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS), and set up to record archaeological objects found by members of the public in England and Wales. Each year thousands of objects are discovered and brought to FLOs across the country to be recorded and identified. Many of these are found by metal-detector users, but also by people whilst out walking, gardening or going about their daily work.

Frances has recently resigned her post so she can focus on her PhD at Newcastle University but on her last day she took a few moments to tell us something about her average working day.

A usual day for me as an FLO would be to start with checking emails and any phone messages. These might be regarding visits to local metal detecting clubs, new finds, outreach events or articles I am writing. It is very rare I have a whole day in the office without at least one visit by a metal detectorist or other member of the public who has found something they would like identifying and/or recording.

Finds recording entails a long process including; weighing, measuring, photographing and then identifying the item. Finally I put it onto the PAS database where ach find has an image, a description, identification and findspot. All our records are available on-line to be viewed and so a high quality of data is very important; our information has to be useable or else there is no point in the scheme.

Once I have a batch of finds ready to be input onto the database, I sit down and try to do them all in one go. The new database built by Dan Pett has made the job of an FLO much easier as it is more suitable to the data we are generating. For every find that I record, I also print off the information to give to the finder- this will include the finds unique PAS number so the finder can look it up online if they wish.

As well as dealing with the everyday finds which are recorded voluntarily by people, FLO's also play a significant role dealing with finds under the Treasure Act. Finds over 300 years old, containing at least 10% gold or silver are classed as Treasure and so legally must be reported. FLO's help finders deal with the paperwork, liaising with the Treasure Team in London, the local coroner and the museums. This can mean a lot of time is spent on one find (or group of finds in the case of a hoard) in comparison to the time devoted to a non-treasure find.

If I have any spare time after the mountain of finds I get to see each month, like other FLO's, I try to do some outreach work. This may involve talks to local societies, working with school-children, or doing a handling session at a museum. Although our main aim is to record finds, anything which publicises the work of the PAS, and helps inform more people of what we do, is always a bonus.

Being an FLO is a difficult, busy job. You have to juggle many different things, and manage your own workload, which is often huge. However we get to see a real range of interesting and important archaeological material which is really changing our view of Britain's past

Frances was formerly a finds officer at NAA and I know she will be sorely missed as a FLO across the region, although I am sure she will keep in touch. Rob still remains the full time FLO post and will be happy to answer any queries and deal with any finds to report. He can be contacted on 0191 222 5076 or emailed For further information on the scheme or the Treasure Act then go to the PAS website