I’m Sarah Barnett, and I volunteer as a Staffordshire Hoard Documentation Assistant. This is a really great volunteer role, as I get to see every aspect of the Staffordshire Hoard as we work our way through all the photographs and documents putting them in order and getting them ready for future researchers to study. I’ve also had the chance to work hands-on with the hoard in the conservation lab helping to reunite items which the team have realised fit together, which was an amazing experience – seeing hundreds of stunning gold items laid out together took my breath away, and it was a real privilege to get some object handling experience on such a special collection.
I’ve wanted to volunteer at Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery for a while now, as I grew up in Birmingham and have always loved visiting the museum. My background is actually in forensics and osteology – quite different to Anglo-Saxon treasure! – but being a Documentation Assistant has given me a fantastic opportunity to develop skills in collection management and curatorial standards. Long term I’d love to work with a human remains collection in a museum setting, and I know that the volunteer experience I’m getting with the hoard will be invaluable and is really adding to my CV. It just goes to show the fun of volunteering – you get the opportunity to explore lots of different areas and ideas, and you never know the doors it will open along the way.
The Staffordshire Hoard is such a unique find that it’s hard to pick a favourite item, but I love the zoomorphic motifs that are seen throughout – mostly snakes and horses, crafted in a way that really fills them with life and character. One or two of the horses look more like seahorses, and we’ve had some fun discussions about whether this was deliberate! That’s what’s so exciting about volunteering with the hoard though, as there’s a huge scope for future research into its origins and purpose. I’m very proud to be a part of that.
Staffordshire Hoard Documentation Assistant