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The Huge History Lesson
Trustees of the British Museum
The Staffordshire Hoard
Birmingham Museums Trust
The Art Fund has announced that –
Although all Treasure Plus funding has now been awarded, we’re running a conference in October 2015 to support curators working with archaeological collections. The aims of this fully funded conference are to share best practice, discuss solutions for common challenges with other curators and sector experts, and to network with colleagues. Specialist and non-specialist curators and other museum professionals working with archaeology collections are all welcome.
Tuesday, 13 October 10am to 4pm (with a drinks reception and extended access to the Staffordshire Hoard Gallery until 6pm. Thinktank, Birmingham. Lunch and refreshments will be provided. Places are fully funded, and will be allocated on a first come, first served basis, with priority given to curators working in UK public collections.
The conference will be held at Thinktank, but Birmingham Museums Trust has kindly offered to extend the opening hours for the Staffordshire Hoard Galleries for conference attendees. In addition, a limited number of participants will be able to take part in a tour of the conservation studio, where items from the Hoard (pictured) are still being conserved. Transport from Thinktank to Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery will be arranged by the Art Fund.
More here.
Unearthed in 1947 at Monkton Farleigh in Wiltshire England, this 4,400 year-old gold sun disc is one of only six ever found, and one of the earliest metal objects ever discovered in Britain
This rare and beautiful gold sun-disc (discovered 20 miles from Stonehenge) has gone on display to mark this year’s summer solstice. The early Bronze Age disc, thought to represent the sun, is on show for the first time at the Wiltshire Museum in Devizes, England.
More here.
On a separate note, The Heritage Trust is relocating from the south to the north of England. We hope to be up and running as normal by the beginning of July. Have a great summer wherever you are!
I Love Museums is a campaign led by the National Museum Directors’ Council to show the public support for museums
The Campaign
Our museums are facing challenging times. Local and national governments are making tough decisions about funding, and we want to show them how much museums matter by celebrating the public support for our wonderful cultural institutions. We need you to stand up and say ‘I Love Museums’!
Whoever is to blame for the financial and banking crisis, and as we all try to recover, it is clearer than ever that our Heritage – monuments, archaeology and museums – also underpins our recovery. Our heritage assets, and the beleaguered professionals who manage them.
More here.

West Midlands History explores a mystery object from the Staffordshire Anglo-Saxon Hoard

After hours of research, this is an object which still baffles the team of Anglo Saxon experts in the project team. As far as they know no comparable piece has ever been found and it has no immediately obvious use.

Transportation of Lebanese cedar. A relief, circa 713–716bce, from the north wall of the main court of King Sargon II’s palace at Dur Sharrukin in Assyria (present-day Khorsabad in Iraq)
Department of Oriental Antiquities, Louvre Museum, Paris
Image credit Marie-Lan Nguyen. Source Wikimedia Commons

European and US museums that preserve and display Assyrian artefacts from the ancient royal cities under attack by Islamic State (IS) are working to help their Iraqi colleagues prepare for a day when the sites are liberated. A coalition of the willing exists but it remains to be seen whether institutions will co-ordinate their efforts.

Jonathan Tubb, the keeper of the Middle East department at the British Museum in London, urges organisations to do more than express outrage. “We need to get over the threshold of despair – we can do something positive and constructive by preparing for the time when effective government control is restored,” he says.

While the sites in northern Iraq are no-go areas, the British Museum plans to work with colleagues from other parts of Iraq to train a “task force” of professionals in rescue archaeology and emergency heritage management in London. They will return, accompanied by British Museum curators, equipped to draw up plans of action for sites including Nimrud and Nineveh.

More from The Art Newspaper here.

A guest feature by Littlestone.
The Dali Museum, Florida, United States
Image credit Matthew Paulson. Source Wikimedia Commons
Not all is doom and gloom… at least not when it comes to the number of museums in the United States. According to Christopher Ingraham, writing for The Washington Post, there are roughly 11,000 Starbucks and about 14,000 McDonald’s in the country – a total of some 25,000 outlets. That’s a lot, but not as many as there are museums, which weigh in at a whopping 35,000!
According to Mr Ingraham –
…the latest data release from the Institute of Museum and Library Services, an independent government agency that tallies the number and type of museums in this country. By their count the 35,000 active museums represent a doubling from the number estimated in the 1990s.
While most of us think of massive institutions like the Smithsonian and the Guggenheim when we think of museums, one lesson of the new data is that the majority of U.S. museums are small, nearly mom-and-pop affairs. Of the roughly 25,000 museums with income data in the file, 15,000 of them  reported an annual income of less than $10,000 on their latest IRS returns.
Well done the United States! (full Washington Post article here). Meanwhile, if you feel you can help support museums in Britain, please consider offering some of your time to them, making a donation or buying books etc directly from a museum shop rather than going through one of the big retailers. The Beck Isle Museum in Pickering, North Yorkshire is a good example of how we can support the smaller museum, and the British Museum shop an example of how direct purchasing will help support larger museums and their varied activities.
Rievaulx Abbey with Chapter House ruins in foreground
Image credit Antony McCallum. Source Wikimedia Commons
English Heritage has set itself a series of ambitious financial targets so that it can become a self-financing organisation in eight years’ time. Its plans were outlined last week ahead of English Heritage splitting into two on 1 April 2015. The English Heritage Trust, a new independent charity, will look after the National Heritage Collection, which comprises more than 400 historic sites across England including Stonehenge, Dover Castle and parts of Hadrian’s Wall. It will retain the English Heritage name. Historic England will be the new name for the public body that champions and protects England’s historic environment.
A number of new museums and exhibitions will be developed as part of the new English Heritage Trust’s plans. The art deco Eltham Palace in Greenwich will be restored. And to mark this year’s bicentenary of the Battle of Waterloo, there will be new exhibitions at those sites associated with the Duke of Wellington: Wellington Arch and Apsley House in London and Walmer Castle in Kent. Next year, a new museum will open to tell the 900-year story of Rievaulx Abbey in north Yorkshire.
More here.
The Whitby Museum, North Yorkshire
The Heritage Trust
Geraldine Kendall, writing for the Museums Journal, reports that –
Museums in England generate £2.64bn of income a year and employ almost 40,000 people, according to a report published last week by Arts Council England (ACE). Drawing on evidence from three financial years, 2008-09, 2010-11 and 2012-13, the Economic Impact of Museums in England report estimated that the nation’s 2,720 museums generate an average of £3 of income for every £1 of public sector funding invested in the sector. The income figures include earned income from activities such as research, learning, retail and venue hire, as well as income from investments and donations.
Meanwhile, the total output – the value of goods and services produced by museums – is £1.45bn, according to the report, meaning that for every £1 of public sector grant received, the museum sector generates an estimated £2.20 of direct economic output. Breaking the figures down by museum type, the report found that museums funded directly by the Department for Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) generate 36% of the total output, independent museums generate 25%, and local authority museums generate 11%.
Read the full article here.
Romano-British tombstone found in Cirencester, England
On the 25 February we reported on a rare Roman-British tombstone that had been discovered in Cirencester, southern England. Today we learn that because the tombstone was found on private land belonging to St James’s Place (a wealth management company) it might not be displayed in Cirencester’s excellent Corinium Museum (situated just a few hundred metres from where the tombstone was unearthed) and may not even stay in the area at all.
The Wilts and Gloucestershire Standard quotes Amanda Hart, Director of the Corinium Museum, as saying, “I really, really hope it comes back to Cirencester…” A spokeswoman for the St James’s Place wealth management company, however, is reported as saying, “Unfortunately we haven’t come to a conclusion yet, we haven’t quite firmed it up.” and declined to comment further.
The Heritage Trust strongly urges those in a position to decide the fate of this rare artefact from Britain’s Roman period to do the honourable thing and donate it to the Corinium Museum where it can be appreciated by all members of the public and not just by a select few.
Related article here.
The Earthouse at the Ancient Technology Centre in Dorset, England
…began over 25 years ago as a school project. Jake Keen, a teacher working at Cranborne Middle School, designed and led the building of an Iron Age roundhouse based on archaeological evidence. Uniquely, Jake’s ethos demanded the construction and material gathering to be undertaken by school children.
The harvesting of materials took place in local woodlands and reed beds and after 6 months, the children began work on building the structure.  A year of hard work saw the completion of the roundhouse and marked the beginning of the Ancient Technology Centre.
On Saturday, 14 March 2015 the Wiltshire Museum in Devizes will be organising an own car Outing to the Ancient Technology Centre and the Dorset Cursus. Details here.
Stonehenge by J M W Turner
Reproduced courtesy of the Salisbury Museum
From Friday, May 22 2015 to Sunday, September 27 2015 the Salisbury Museum in Wiltshire, England will be hosting an exhibition entitled Turner’s Wessex: Architecture and Ambition.
In May 2015 [the Salisbury Museum] will mount the first ever exhibition devoted to J M W Turner’s drawings and paintings of Salisbury Cathedral, the city and its surroundings. Situated in the Cathedral Close, directly opposite its west front, the Museum is ideally placed to explore Turner’s relationship with Salisbury and the Cathedral. This relationship began when Turner was a young man and reveals formidable talent and ambition from a very early age.
Working with the Turner scholar Ian Warrell, we have focused on three aspects of Turner’s many depictions of the Salisbury area: firstly, his responses to the Cathedral and town, particularly in connection with the commission he received from local antiquarian, Sir Richard Colt Hoare who inherited the large Stourhead Estate in 1785; secondly the series of views of the neo-gothic Fonthill Abbey that he painted for ‘England’s wealthiest son’, the fascinating and eccentric William Beckford; and finally his work recording the area of central, southern England, sometimes known as Wessex, extending over a period of thirty years
Alongside Turner’s works from the Museum’s collection, this exhibition will include extensive loans from museums and art galleries across the UK including Birmingham Museum & Art Gallery, British Museum, Fitzwilliam Museum, National Galleries Scotland, V & A and Whitworth Art Gallery. The exhibition will also be supported by a substantial loan from the Tate collection.
Details here.


A husband and wife team detecting in the Deverill Valley, Wiltshire, England
Video Credit: British Forces News/Forces TV

Until the end of this month (February 2015) …a special case in Salisbury Museum’s Wessex Gallery will display some exceptional objects discovered by members of the public in the Salisbury area. A husband and wife team, detecting in the Deverill Valley near Warminster, have discovered many treasured pieces.

The metal-detectorists found these pieces over a period of almost 30 years in the Deverill Valley, and have been working closely with the Portable Antiquities Scheme for 11 years. The objects they have found so far span 2,000 years of Wessex history, stretching right back into the Iron Age. The Scheme was set up by the UK government in 1997 to encourage the voluntary recording of archaeological objects found by members of the public in England and Wales.

Roman bust of a Maenad, a female follower of the god Bacchus
Image credit and © Salisbury Museum

Star pieces include a superbly modelled cast Roman bust of a Maenad (a female follower of the god Bacchus with a stunning plaited vine and ivy wreath head-dress). Another beautiful piece is an early medieval hooked tag showing an eagle stretching its wings and talons, possibly a symbol for John the Baptist, made from copper alloy with silver plate inlaid with niello. There is also a glorious gilded early medieval cloisonné brooch with a trifoliate leaf motif.

The exhibition will also include four finds from across south Wiltshire that have been recorded by the Portable Antiquities Scheme and donated to the Museum. Among these the pointed oval seal matrix from the sub deanery of Salisbury, made from copper-alloy between 1300-1400 AD, was donated by an individual who found it whilst gardening in Laverstock. The seal depicts the Virgin and Child standing before an elaborate altar.

More on the Salisbury Museum website here.


A decorated bronze jug handle from the Whitchurch excavation, near Aylesbury, Buckinghamshire, England
Becca Choules, writing for The Bucks Herald, reports on –
The remains of a 2,000-year-old Roman burial casket discovered near Whitchurch are now on display at Bucks County Museum after a metal detectorist made the chance find.
The excavation revealed a Roman (late 2nd century AD) wooden casket burial, measuring 1.1m long and 0.7m wide, with a rich assemblage of grave goods including two Samian ware cups, two Samian ware dishes, a pottery flagon or dish, two glass vessels, a bronze jug with decorated handle, a bronze patera (dish), an iron lamp, two unidentified lead objects and an urned cremation burial.
The finds have been cleaned and analysed by specialists at Oxford Archaeology, a report has been written about the discovery and the landowners and finder donated the finds to Buckinghamshire Museum. The county museum will be fundraising later in the year to gather the £3,000 needed to get all the finds, especially the fragile bronze flagon, properly conserved to enable further study and display.
Lesley Clarke OBE, Bucks County Council’s cabinet member for planning and environment, said: “This is a fascinating discovery. It’s an excellent example of how our archeological team is carefully looking after the county’s heritage for the benefit of future generations.”
More here.
Anglo-Saxon limestone panel of St Peter
The eleventh century Anglo-Saxon limestone panel (above) of St Peter was discovered in a quarry by stonemason Johnny Beeston, from Dowlish Wake, Somerset, England. Mr Beeston took the panel home and used it as a grave marker for his stray tabby cat, Winkle. After Mr Beeston passed away the panel was fortuitously spotted by a local historian and put up for auction in 2004. It sold for £200,000 – five times its original estimate. Since then, and with the help of a £78,600 grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund, the Museum of Somerset was able to acquire the piece when it again came up for sale.
Measuring some 45cm (18 inches) square, and thought to date from around 1000ce, the panel is now on permanent display at the Museum of Somerset.
More here.


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