Glittering gold from ancient England is set to dazzle audiences in the United States, Birmingham City Council, Stoke-on-Trent City Council and National Geographic announced today.
More than one hundred artefacts from the Staffordshire Hoard – the largest and most valuable collection of Anglo-Saxon treasure ever discovered – will be displayed in Washington D.C. later this year.
The exhibition, called ‘Anglo-Saxon Hoard: Gold from England’s Dark Ages’ will be open at the National Geographic Museum from October 29, 2011 to March 4, 2012.
Birmingham City Council Cabinet Member for Leisure, Sport and Culture Cllr Martin Mullaney, said: “The Washington exhibition represents another exciting chapter in a story that continues to fascinate the world.
“It will build on hugely successful exhibitions in Birmingham and Stoke-on-Trent and a touring display of the treasure in Stafford, Lichfield and Tamworth – landmarks in the ancient kingdom of Mercia.
“We want to give as many people as possible the chance to see these wonderful treasures, and are thrilled that the Washington exhibition will mean even more people can see it.
“There is simply so much about the treasure that we don’t yet know – how it came to be buried in a Staffordshire field, who put it there, and why.
“And questions such as how primitive people were able to make such outstandingly beautiful items without the aid of modern day highly specialised tools. Research into these wonderful treasures will help experts delve into these mysteries and reveal the secrets of the Dark Ages.”
Mark Meredith, Stoke-on-Trent City Council cabinet member for economic development, added: “We are thrilled to announce this exhibition – the Staffordshire Hoard is a world-famous attraction and it is exciting to bring the treasure to a new, international audience.
“The ancient gold and silver artefacts have wowed thousands of people across Britain – the first time we opened the doors to the treasure at The Potteries Museum and Art Gallery, it instantly became the biggest exhibition we have ever had. Visitors queued for over four hours a time to see the display and 55,000 people came to view it in just three weeks. We have had visitors and media enquire about the treasure from all over the global including South Africa, Australia, Germany and California.
“Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery experienced similar large queues when the treasure went on display for the first time, with more than 40,000 visitors in 19 days. It is fantastic to give museum-goers in the United States the chance to marvel at this unparalleled treasure too.
“We are pleased to be joining with National Geographic to stage the exhibition. They have been a keen follower of the hoard and have pledged their support to help with the conservation of the treasure.
“It is also an excellent way to promote Stoke-on-Trent and the region in the United States, and there will be information about where the hoard was found. Tourism teams will be working to maximise the potential of the hoard to encourage U.S. visitors to the city to see more of the hoard and other attractions.”
The exhibition in Washington will also help the treasure owners – Birmingham City Council and Stoke-on-Trent City Council – to facilitate vital research to help understand the unique artefacts and ensure that they are conserved for future generations.
The Staffordshire Hoard comprises more than 3,300 mainly gold and silver artefacts from the seventh and eighth centuries. The haul is made up of intricately designed articles of war, including helmet cheek pieces, sword pommels and religious crosses. Experts believe that some of the items were deliberately folded before being buried and that the treasure could be the booty from a battlefield from the ancient kingdom of Mercia.
Susan Norton, director of the National Geographic Museum, said: “We are thrilled to be the only U.S. venue for this exhibition. National Geographic has been a window on the world since 1888, and bringing ‘Anglo-Saxon Hoard’ to our museum in Washington D.C. offers us the opportunity to showcase this incredible find and emphasise the importance of continued exploration. There are wonders to be found both in remote territories and our own backyards.”
The hoard was found by a metal detector enthusiast in a farmer’s field in Staffordshire in 2009, and was saved for the nation by Birmingham City Council and Stoke-on-Trent City Council who bought the treasure for £3.3million, after a massive public fundraising campaign which even gained support from the then British Prime Minister Gordon Brown.
In addition to the museum exhibition, National Geographic will feature the hoard and its discovery in a new book, ‘Lost Gold: War, Treasure, and the Mystery of the Saxons’, in a November television special for the National Geographic Channel and in the November issue of National Geographic Magazine.
Permanent displays on the Staffordshire Hoard will remain in Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery and The Potteries Museum and Art Gallery, Stoke-on-Trent. For more information about the Staffordshire Hoard visit www.staffordshirehoard.org.uk.
For more information contact Geoff Coleman (Birmingham City Council) on 0121 303 3501 or Andrew Brunt (Stoke-on-Trent City Council) on 01782 232671.