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21 March 2016

Volunteering and the Hoard

Hello everyone! I’m Emily Freeman and I am currently volunteering as a documentation assistant for the Staffordshire Hoard. I have a background in archaeology and ancient history, so being involved with such a beautiful collection of objects has been very exciting! In December I started work on the thousands of photographs that are on file, archiving most and selecting those that best represent the artefacts. Seeing close-up images of the garnets and filigree is amazing, you really see the craftsmanship that that has gone into creating the objects. There are also a lot of photographs of tiny objects like rivets which are a little less interesting to look at but still an important part of the hoard.

Working on the images in the conservation office

It’s hard to narrow down one particular piece that I like because there are so many to choose from! I came across a photograph of a pommel with niello stripes which really reminded me of Tutankhamun’s death mask; it actually looks completely different to the majority of the pieces I’ve seen and looks distinctly Egyptian amongst the collection of gold and garnets. Though it is not Egyptian, I definitely did a double-take when the photograph popped up.

Pommel with niello stripes

Another favourite is the “mystery object” precisely because it’s a mystery. It is so beautiful, with garnets, zoomorphic panels and a glass checkerboard top but the function is completely unknown because nothing like this has been found before. Working with the photographs gave me the opportunity to see each of the individual components which make up the “mystery object” from different angles, something that is not possible when just visiting the gallery. I also enjoy reading the speculations as to what this object could be and how it fits within the hoard: is it part of a shield? A drinking horn stopper? Part of a saddle? Maybe one day we will know what it is, but until then it is great to speculate!

Base of mystery object

Getting a closer look at the mystery object in the Staffordshire Hoard gallery

Once we have sorted all of the photographs we will move on to looking at the condition reports for the objects. I will be interested to see how the conservators assess the artefacts and what more I can learn about the Staffordshire Hoard. I aspire to work as a curator in the future so working at Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery is valuable experience and, more importantly, a great deal of fun!

Reboxing objects as the conservation progresses

Emily Freeman,
Staffordshire Hoard Documentation Assistant