29 May to 12 September 2021, National Museum of Scotland, Chambers Street, Edinburgh (and touring thereafter)
One of the most important UK archaeological finds of the century, The Galloway Hoard, will go on display from May at the National Museum of Scotland in Edinburgh.
The new exhibition, Galloway Hoard: Viking-age Treasure, will offer the first chance to see details hidden for over a thousand years, revealed by expert conservation, painstaking cleaning and cutting-edge research.
The Galloway Hoard is the richest collection of rare and unique Viking-age objects ever found in Britain or Ireland. Buried around AD900, the Hoard brings together a stunning variety of objects and materials in one discovery.
Dr Martin Goldberg, Senior Curator, Medieval Archaeology & History at National Museums Scotland, said,
“A unique combination of familiar objects, exotic materials and exceptional preservation makes the Galloway Hoard a fascinating find. Conservation work is allowing us to see these objects clearly for the first time, and our research so far is pointing to a new understanding of Scotland in the international context of the earliest Viking Age. This exhibition offers a rare ‘snapshot’, the chance to see real archaeological work in progress, both what we have learned so far and the work still to be done.”
Dr Chris Breward, Director of National Museums Scotland said,
“The Galloway Hoard rightly drew international attention both on its discovery and its acquisition by National Museums Scotland following a successful major fundraising campaign. I’m sure people will be fascinated to have this opportunity to see it now far more clearly, to understand its importance and to gain an insight into the amazingly detailed work that we have done and are continuing to do with it. We are excited to finally be able to show The Galloway Hoard in the National Museum of Scotland and are also greatly looking forward to bringing it to Kirkcudbright in October.”
The exhibition will show how the Hoard was buried in four distinct parcels. The top layer was a parcel of silver bullion and a rare Anglo-Saxon cross, separated from a lower layer of three parts: firstly another parcel of silver bullion wrapped in leather and twice as big as the one above; secondly a cluster of four elaborately decorated silver ‘ribbon’ arm-rings bound together and concealing in their midst a small wooden box containing three items of gold; and thirdly a lidded, silver gilt vessel wrapped in layers of textile and packed full of carefully wrapped objects that appear to be have been curated like relics or heirlooms. They include beads, pendants, brooches, bracelets, an elaborate belt-set, a rock crystal jar and other curios, often strung or wrapped with silk.
Discovering and decoding the secrets of The Galloway Hoard is a multi-layered process. Conservation of the metal objects has revealed decorations, inscriptions and other details that were not previously visible. Research into many aspects of the Hoard continues and will take many years. Some items are too fragile to be displayed, particularly those with rare textile survivals. The exhibition will use AV and 3D reconstructions to enable visitors to understand these objects and the work that is being done with them.
Comparison with other collections and consultation with specialists around the world has enabled deeper understanding of the Hoard. An Anglo-Saxon runic inscription on an arm-ring fragment has revealed the name ‘Egbert’, perhaps a person associated with the Hoard’s burial. The Old English name, rather than a Scandinavian one, again causes us to question simple stereotypes about the identities of those involved with the Hoard’s accumulation and burial. Scientific analysis is enabling greater precision about the date and composition of the material, which in turn offers clues to where the individual objects may have come from, revealing sources in Ireland, England and Viking-age Scandinavia, as well as objects of some antiquity from ancient Rome, and others travelling thousands of miles from as far away as central Asia.
The Galloway Hoard was discovered in 2014. It was acquired by National Museums Scotland in 2017 with the support of the National Heritage Memorial Fund, Art Fund and the Scottish Government as well as a major public fundraising campaign. Since then, it has been undergoing extensive conservation and research at the National Museums Collection Centre in Edinburgh.
The exhibition, which is supported by Baillie Gifford, will open at the National Museum of Scotland on 29 May 2021, and will tour thereafter to Kirkcudbright Galleries (9 Oct 2021 to 10 July 2022) and Aberdeen Art Gallery (30 July to 23 October 2022) thanks to funding from the Scottish Government.
Following the tour, research into the contents of the Galloway Hoard will continue. It will eventually go on long-term display at the National Museum of Scotland in Edinburgh with a significant and representative portion of it also displayed long-term at Kirkcudbright Galleries.
The exhibition will be accompanied by a new book detailing the most up to date research findings.