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21 March 2014

Staffordshire Hoard Grouping Exercise

Recently the team has undergone a major grouping exercise as part of the on-going research to understand the Hoard.

This was the first time that the entire Hoard was together in one place; the 2009 finds have been in separate display locations since 2010 and they had never been grouped with the 2012 find before.

This exercise has been a part of the phase one research program which focuses on the initial conservation, cataloguing and specialist analysis of the objects. Over the next few weeks we will be releasing blogs from all members of the team (images 1, 2 and 3) who have been involved in the exercise, to give you a behind the scenes look of what has happened over the past month.

Image 1: Some of the Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery team.
Left to Right: David Symons (Curator), Deborah Cane (Conservation Manger), Simon Cane (Birmingham Museums Deputy Director and Hoard Management Group Member), Pieta Greaves (Hoard Conservation Coordinator), Deborah Magnoler (Hoard Conservator).

Image 2: Part of the Potteries Museum and Art Galley team.
Left to right: Sam Richardson (Collection Register) and Deb Klemperer (Principal Collections Officer).

Image 3: Chris Fern working in the lab.

The aim of the grouping exercise was to get all the objects in one place to give Chris Fern (the Anglo-Saxon specialist and Hoard researcher) an opportunity to see all the objects at once, this is really important as he can find and make joins so he can begin to see which objects fit together both physically and stylistically.

One of Chris’s issues over the past couple of years is that the objects have been spread across many different locations for display and analysis needs, this opportunity has allowed him the test his ‘grouping’ hypotheses.

Logically getting the hoard together is not easy, it relies on the whole team working together across all of the sites, objects from Stoke, Birmingham, Lichfield Cathedral and Tamworth Castle were packed up and brought to the conservation lab, as well at objects that were at the British Museum and Lincoln.

Once back in the lab the first thing that needed to be done is to lay out all the objects on a very large table, we were not sure how long this was going to take, in the end it took four of the team 9 hours to get everything out of its boxes and onto the table (image 4). Some objects were left in their boxes were it was felt it was too fragile or too small, not wanting to risk and damage or loss.

Image 4: David Symons during the laying out of the hoard in February.

The most obvious plan for the table was to put all the same type of objects together, so all of the pommel caps (image 5), hilt plates, hilt collars, hilt rings, mounts, garnet strips, crosses and many still unknown objects were grouped together. This made for an amazing looking table (image 6). After a full audit and accounting for all of the 1775 original K numbers, as well as the 81 new finds from 2012. The next 4 weeks were both exciting and exhausting in equal measure.

Image 5: Some of the amazing pommel caps.

Image 6: the hoard all laid out in the Birmingham Museums and Art Gallery conservation lab.

We will be giving you updates on all the activities that have been undertaken including the research, guests, photography and videos, highlighting all the achievements that have been made in this short period of work.

This great quote from Chris sums up the exercise and what possibilities are ahead for us in stage two.

“The great Anglo-Saxon poem Beowulf, once believed to be artistic exaggeration, now has a true mirror in archaeology.”

Don’t forget that we also have monthly behind the scenes tours of the Birmingham Hoard gallery and the conservation lab where you have the chance to see a selection of objects up-close under the microscope. Bookings can be made through the Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery Box Office on 0121 303 1966. For more information see: 


Pieta Greaves
Staffordshire Hoard Conservation Coordinator 


In case you missed the recent media coverage, catch up below:

The Guardian

Daily Mail

Express and Star

Birmingham Post
Selection of video broadcasts can be seen here: