Ambitious plans to showcase the Staffordshire Hoard in the UK and overseas are moving ahead. In October, the UK’s largest permanent display of the hoard will open at Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery (BMAG) with the launch of a long-awaited gallery that can accommodate hundreds of pieces.
Meanwhile, Birmingham City Council and Stoke-on-Trent City Council, the joint owners of the treasure, are in discussions about sending a selection of the seventh-century artefacts abroad.
The treasure was discovered in a field near the village of Hammerwich, in Staffordshire, in 2009. The hoard was acquired in 2010 with funding from the Art Fund and the National Heritage Memorial Fund.
A spokeswoman for Birmingham Museums Trust says: “Birmingham Museums and the Potteries Museum and Art Gallery [in Stoke-on-Trent] are considering plans for engaging a wide and diverse audience. The plans include a potential world tour. These plans are still in their early planning discussions.”
Stoke-on-Trent city councillor Adrian Knapper told local press that a tour “could raise funds for our museum service”.
Meanwhile, Stoke-on-Trent City Council is reportedly planning to spend up to £10,000 on market research to “assess the potential market” for a global tour. A council spokesman declined to comment on the cost.
The archaeologist and historian James Balme says: “My feeling about the hoard going on a world tour is that it is a good idea and it will reveal to many thousands of people across the world the sheer immensity of the discovery.”
In 2011, an exhibition of 100 items from the 3,500-piece hoard opened at the National Geographic Museum in Washington, DC.
But Richard Halsey, president of the British Archaeological Association, has called for the hoard to be shown in more UK museums.
He says there should be a “wider exhibition in English museums, especially in related areas of East Anglia and the north-east”.
Halsey hopes that the treasures will be clearly visible in the new BMAG gallery, as “the small scale of the pieces” could be an issue.
“Visitors are forced to pay close attention to display cases, which can be frustrating,” he says. “Ideally, photographs or a continuous slide show of the pieces on a bigger scale should be shown.”
Objects from the hoard have been on temporary display at BMAG since 2010, where they have attracted more than 600,000 visitors.
“The temporary gallery has been a significant visitor motivator to visit BMAG,” the Birmingham Museums Trust spokeswoman says.
“It has contributed to visitor numbers and subsequent shop income.”
Museum chiefs in Birmingham and Stoke-on-Trent hope, no doubt, that the hoard continues to boost visitor figures and revenue.
- The hoard comprises more than 3,500 items totalling 5.1kg of gold and 1.4kg of silver.
- Birmingham City Council and Stoke-on-Trent City Council gave £100,000 to save the hoard, which was valued at £3.3m.
- In 2012, a second survey of the field in which the hoard was discovered revealed 81 more objects. They were acquired for Birmingham Museums and the Potteries Museum and Art Gallery through a donation from royal jewellers Wartski.
- Last year, Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery was awarded £704,500 by the Heritage Lottery Fund to create a gallery for the hoard.