I’ve just had a press release from Staffordshire Council on the subject of the Anglo-Saxon hoard announced to considerable media furore last week. The gist of it is that the leader of the council Philip Atkins wants to bring the hoard back to Staffordshire, where it was found. In his words “We will do everything we can to bring the Hoard home”. Now that’s fine, and entirely understandable. Clearly it’s politically expedient for a County Council leader to argue the case for the county he represents. But actually, how important is it that the hoard goes ‘home’.
The debate is really about public access to such a major find. The argument for the hoard going, funds allowing, to a national institution (in London most likely) would focus on whether the discovery is deemed as nationally, rather than regionally or locally, significant. Displaying it in a national museum, so the argument goes, opens it to a much wider audience to view, enjoy and learn from. However at the same time, of course, it removes it from the place where it was found, disconnecting it from the local population and removing a valuable opportunity to promote the past to the residents.
Birmingham Museum, where the hoard is currently being displayed, has had problems with the number of visitors trying to view the magnificent metalwork, so clearly there is a great demand from the public for this particular discovery.
It’s a problem, and not a new one. One answer used previously has been for a national museum to take the bulk of the find and then loan it back in part to a local institution to display on a temporary basis. That’s a fudge, but a workable fudge for some artefacts.
The question is, is there a better answer than a fudge? Should the hoard go ‘home’, should it be displayed in a national museum, or is there another way? Discuss on our forum here