Earlier this year the Staffordshire Hoard Conservation Programme: Stage 1 was short-listed for the ICON’s (Institute of Conservation for the UK) prestigious Pilgrim Trust Award. The award recognises excellence in the conservation of a collection of cultural heritage objects from the UK and overall delivers a mark of respect from the professional community to all of those that have been involved. I previously undertook a professional placement during stage 1 of the project, and therefore was given the opportunity to represent the hoard during a short-listing interview at ICON headquarters in June. This involved answering various questions as to why I felt the project really deserves the award and therefore I’d like to share a little of this with you…
I first became involved with the Staffordshire Hoard during my two week Mercers Trust sponsored placement in 2013. After my Masters course, it was the first opportunity and chance I got to work practically again, conserving objects from my favoured specialism and gaining further experience and knowledge from them. To me the experience was invaluable and I remember returning home after with elevated confidence in myself and the specialised conservation skills I had. I believe that the experience gave me the boost I needed to keep pursuing the CPD activities I needed to gain employment involving practical conservation work. I suspect that the many other students, volunteers and staff that have been involved in the project, have had similar benefit and experiences.
One of the most incredible things about the Staffordshire Hoard is that it is publically accessible by everyone from the wider community; both local and internationally. The high standard of conservation work that has been carried out has been vital in providing a clear narrative for the Hoard in the context of Anglo-Saxon life. The conservation team has taken a core lead in the public programme, engaging diverse groups in a range of activities including social media, tours and open days such as ‘Meet the Experts’, where they have had the chance to meet the team behind the research carried out. These opportunities have created a dynamic two-way exchange of learning between the public and those working directly with the objects. This has inspired the next generation of young conservators, as well as informed exhibition and interpretation. These opportunities have created diverse partnerships which drive innovation such as working with the Jewellery Industry Innovation Centre to use specialist 3D scanning and printing techniques and make replicas of the objects for handling and display.
Most importantly the conservation team has worked hard to deliver both exceptional observational work and highlight significant discoveries directly to the research team. This multidisciplinary working dynamic has involved a lot of hard work by the project managers to continually encourage a steady flow of work. Through this, a clear understanding of the future research phase was gained and a second stage plan for the final project work drawn up. It is only now that I am working on stage two of the project that I realise the scale of the work that has been carried out, and how the new discoveries have led to a longer work timescale than would have been originally envisioned.
The award winners are announced on the 22nd October 2015 and I believe the conservation work carried out has enriched the lives of the people and organisations which have continually supported the project’s aims and research. The prize money will of course go towards the completion of the final research stage of the project and therefore I sincerely hope the Pilgrim Trust believes the project is worthy.
Staffordshire Hoard Conservator