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Gallery Day

Told you the Anglo-Saxon stuff would be coming…

I love Mondays (yes you read that right) and I shall tell you why. Every Monday I work at the Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery, specifically on the Staffordshire Hoard. This isn’t just any Anglo-Saxon Hoard- its the only Anglo-Saxon Hoard, which is why I get hundreds of visitors to see it (even on a Monday!). I love my job as I get to spend the day wandering around chatting to lots of visitors, answering questions on history, talking to people about their interests. As you can probably tell, I’m a bit sociable.

I also get to do lots of research surrounding the Hoard and all the general theories about what it is and why it ended up in a field just outside of Lichfield. Here are some of the items from the whole collection:

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This is the Sword Pyramid, a really rare Anglo-Saxon item and my favourite item in the collection. The pyramid is gold, decorated with cloisonné garnets and blue glass.The website details its use:

“Pyramids like this have been found in a number of Anglo-Saxon graves, lying beside sword scabbards. The pyramids would have adorned a leather strap that would have been attached to a scabbard (which is a cover for a sword).  Straps like this are mentioned in the Viking sagas, where they are called ‘peace bands’. They could be tied around the handle of the sword, securing it in place in the scabbard so warriors were not able to draw their swords suddenly in anger.”

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This is the Pectoral Cross. What a beauty! The central garnet is set in the gold, which has decorative twisted wire work. The garnet has a flat top which is showing general wear and worn smooth tiny chips.The website states:

“A pectoral cross or pectorale (from the Latin pectoralis: ‘of the chest’) is a cross, usually relatively large, suspended from the neck by a cord or chain that reaches well down the chest. It would have been worn by senior clergy (bishops and abbots) as a sign of their office, or by wealthy Christian lay people.”

Originally, Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery had these pieces, then other museums started to nick off with them, including one in America. The British Museum in London has been doing lots of conservation work so a lot of the collection has been there. However, there is some more recent news…

Recent news

A research project is now underway to unlock the secrets of the Hoard after a £276,000 grant. A small project team, based at the Stoke-on-Trent City Council-run Potteries Museum and Art Gallery, has started an 18-month programme to catalogue the treasure. The work follows a grant from conservation body English Heritage.

But what this also means is the Potteries Museum and Art Gallery is opening a new exhibition on the treasure. ‘Staffordshire Hoard: Dark Age Discovery’ runs from 21 July 2012 to 1 September 2013. Where my exhibition features in this I’m not sure, but I have a feeling the Potteries Museum will have all the good pieces for a while.

Seeing as the Potteries is my home town, I won’t get too upset 🙂 but I hope the pieces make their way back to Birmingham at some point as I continually get asked by my visitors where all the big items are. At the moment Birmingham only has very small delicate pieces.

I might make my way to the Potteries Museum when the exhibition opens- if anyone else visits it, please let me know and leave some comments on what you think :).

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