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18 July 2014

Five years of the Staffordshire Hoard

Last week celebrated 5 years since the Staffordshire Hoard was discovered. Currently we are still making exciting plans for the stage two conservation and research programme, stage one having just come to an end, but I thought I would take this opportunity to reflect on some of what has been happening over the last 5 years and what we are looking forward to in the future.

The Hoard on-site in the ground, 2009

The Hoard on-site in 2009

The Staffordshire Hoard has been on exhibition for public viewing since its discovery, with thousands of people queuing in 2009 when it was first discovered. Shortly after the excavation, a team formed by staff of Birmingham Museum & Art Gallery, The Potteries Museum and Art Gallery in Stoke on Trent – the joint owners – The British Museum and Kevin Leahy from the Portable Antiquity Scheme carried out the preliminary sorting, packaging and recording of the collection.

Thousands of people queued to see the Staffordshire Hoard

In 2009 thousands of people queued to see the newly found Anglo-Saxon treasure

The media was interested in the find from the very beginning. The BBC, National Geographic (with an accompanying tour to Washington) and ITV filmed part of their documentaries in the studio amongst many more shows, you can follow our new videos produced by History West Midlands on 10 amazing hoard objects here:

Tony Robinson filming the Staffordshire Hoard

Tony Robinson filming with the conservation team 

The people, with their sheer number, variety and enthusiastic interest have given so much to the project; they have included Anglo-Saxon specialists, volunteers in the galleries, students and professional interns who offered their time and skills to conservation. Since 2010 there have been 14 professional placements, 25 students and 10 non-conservation placements and, of course, the public, with their support and recognition of the importance of the find.

Anglo-Saxon warriors

Anglo-Saxon warriors

But all of this interest was not accidental. The team worked very hard to ensure that the Hoard was accessible to as wide an audience as possible. This was done through an outreach programme that included monthly and especially designed tours of the conservation studios, visits by interested specialists who were able to gain insight into the manufacture of the objects, open days for all age groups which included fun and educational activities, presentations and lectures in and outside the museum which informed the public on all aspects of the find, from its state of preservation to the mystery surrounding most of its pieces. There have also been national and international exhibitions and permanent displays now feature at Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery, Potteries Museum and Art Gallery (Stoke-on-Trent), Tamworth Castle and Lichfield Cathedral.

Children during a families day event

Children during a families day event 

On-line so far we have had 568,675 visits the website, which is made up of 45.5% from the UK, 33% from USA and 21.5% from the rest of the world; we also have 1735 Facebook followers and 2318 Twitter followers.

Hilt collar being revealed from the soil

Hilt collar being revealed from the soil after 1500 years

Some amazing discoveries have already been made about the Hoard from the conservation and research programme, many of these have been blogged about on the website. At the end of the stage one a grouping exercise took place to enable researcher Chris Fern to test his theories and make further connections within the collection (read the Grouping exercise blog).

Hoard laid out during grouping exercise

Hoard all laid out during grouping exercise 

We are currently planning stage 2 with the help of a selected group of experts. This second stage will help us begin to answer some of the questions around the Hoard, such as how and why it came to be in the field, but also larger questions about resources and manufacture of the Hoard, and how the Anglo-Saxons created these magnificent objects.

In the last month Birmingham Museums Trust has been awarded £84.5K by Esmée Fairbairn Collections Fund for further research into the science of the Staffordshire Hoard. Funding will support two new specialist scientist posts, allowing for greater investigation into the elements of the Anglo-Saxon treasure. The funding will also enable Birmingham Museums to offer visitors more opportunities to meet with those involved in research into the Hoard. Visitors of all ages can enjoy ‘Meet the Expert’ sessions at Birmingham Museum & Art Gallery and Thinktank, and there will be a series of special events for independent adult learners. Watch out for details from January.

In October 2014, a new Staffordshire Hoard gallery opens at Birmingham Museum & Art Gallery, allowing visitors to learn more about this incredible treasure, from its Anglo-Saxon warrior history, to the on-going conservation techniques used to unlock its secrets today.

Artists impression of the new Staffordshire Hoard gallery

Visual on the upcoming Staffordshire Hoard gallery at Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery

Pieta Greaves,
Staffordshire Hoard Conservation Co-ordinator

The Staffordshire Hoard is jointly owned by Birmingham City Council and Stoke-on-Trent City Council. It was acquired in 2010 with the generous support of the Art Fund and the National Heritage Memorial Fund, as well as the UK’s largest ever, public donation. The research program is supported by English Heritage. Development of the new gallery has been made possible thanks to funding by Heritage Lottery Fund, Garfield Weston and Arts Council England. Birmingham Museums Trust is continuously fundraising for the conservation of and research into this unique find.