Historian and broadcaster Michael Wood will today unveil the largest exhibition of the most valuable collection of Anglo-Saxon treasure ever found on UK soil. The Art Fund
announced that the campaign has now reached £750,000, with over £200,000 coming in from members of the public.
Michael, who has made more than 80 documentary films and presented a programme on Beowulf on BBC4 last year, will launch a display of 118 intricately crafted artefacts of the Staffordshire Hoard.
The exhibition will take place at The Potteries Museum and Art Gallery in Stoke-on-Trent and will be open to the public from Saturday 13 February to Sunday 7 March. This marks the first time so much of the Hoard will be displayed at once and the display includes 40 treasures that have never been shown before.
Michael said: "Having studied Anglo-Saxon history since my youth, it is such a thrill to look at this treasure their world has suddenly come to light in such a vivid way. The glittering, barbaric world of warrior kings who fought battles and rewarded their fighters with treasure."
Michael, who is a pro-vice chancellor of Staffordshire University, will launch the exhibition in front of more than 300 civic dignitaries, business leaders and invited guests at the museum tonight. The treasures will then go on public display for three weeks, and museum opening times have been extended to cope with anticipated bumper crowds. The museum will be open from 10am to 5pm seven days a week throughout the exhibition.
Michael added: "The treasures provide a window into Mercia, fragments of what was a great European kingdom. It is so tantalisingly fascinating for anyone who lives in the Midlands and Staffordshire.
Stephen Deuchar, The Art Fund director, said: "At this vital stage of the campaign, it's so important that the people of and visitors to Stoke-on-Trent can now experience the beauty of the treasure first hand. We hope that those who want the Hoard to stay in the West Midlands will feel compelled to donate to the campaign and make sure we bring the treasure home, once and for all."
Gems to be displayed for the first time include a delicate filigree gold horses head and gold snakes that have left experts baffled as to what they could have been used for; garneted sword pommels; sword mounts with animalistic designs; and possibly an eyebrow adornment to a helmet. The exhibition will also feature crumpled gold crosses, a helmet cheek piece and a gold strip with a biblical inscription.
The exhibition opens just one week before the Hoard receives a Royal visit. Next Friday, 19 February, Their Royal Highnesses the Prince of Wales and Duchess of Cornwall will pay a visit to Stoke-on-Trent to mark the citys centenary, celebrating one hundred years since the federation of the citys six towns.
Councillor Hazel Lyth, cabinet member for economic development and culture, said: "We are thrilled that Their Royal Highnesses the Prince of Wales and Duchess of Cornwall will have the chance to view and hold items from the Hoard the first time royalty will have held the treasures in 1,400 years."
Stoke-on-Trent City Council is working with Birmingham City Council to jointly acquire the Staffordshire Hoard. The Hoard comprises over 1,500 artefacts and has been valued at £3.3m. The Art Fund