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Major exhibition of Early Scottish Silver to tour Scotland

Wednesday 7 February, 2018

A major exhibition supported by The Glenmorangie Company and produced by National Museums Scotland will tour Scotland this year – as the two organisations celebrate the renewal of their award-winning archaeological research partnership.

Major exhibition of Early Scottish Silver to tour Scotland as part of groundbreaking research partnership

#Glenmorangie #EarlySilver

A major exhibition supported by The Glenmorangie Company and produced by National Museums Scotland will tour Scotland this year – as the two organisations celebrate the renewal of their award-winning archaeological research partnership.

The Glenmorangie Research Partnership was launched in 2008 and over three successive phases has revealed many new insights into the Early People of Scotland. The next phase of research will focus on the formation of the medieval kingdom of Scotland.

The Scotland’s Early Silver exhibition, currently on display at the National Museum of Scotland in Edinburgh, includes fascinating objects and shows for the first time how silver, not gold, became the most important precious metal in Scotland over the course of the first millennium AD. Thanks to the support of The Glenmorangie Company, the exhibition will now tour to Stornoway on the Isle of Lewis, Banff in Aberdeenshire and Kirkcudbright in Dumfries and Galloway.

The new phase of the partnership, which is now entering its tenth year, will see the research focus move on from the first millennium AD to examine the archaeological evidence from the 9th to 12th centuries which underpins the formation of the nation state of Scotland. This will enable researchers to explore objects and evidence of the period, bringing new knowledge and research techniques to bear on a critical period in Scottish history.

The work will address important questions about how the kingdom of Scotland was created and its connections with the Anglo-Saxon world, Ireland and Scandinavia. The results of the research will be published in a new book and widely disseminated elsewhere. The announcement coincides with the appointment of a new holder of the post of Glenmorangie Research Fellow, working within the Museum’s Department of Scottish History and Archaeology. Dr Adrián Maldonado is a graduate in medieval history from Harvard University, with a PhD in medieval archaeology from the University of Glasgow.

Dr Gordon Rintoul, Director of National Museums Scotland, said:

We are very pleased to continue our innovative, successful and productive partnership with Glenmorangie. We look forward to another significant phase of archaeological research, discovery and public engagement, starting with the tour of Scotland’s Early Silver. The current exhibition and accompanying book are products of the scholarship already supported by The Glenmorangie Research Project.”

Hamish Torrie, Corporate Social Responsibility Director at The Glenmorangie Company, said:

“We are very happy to continue our long-standing partnership with National Museums Scotland. The Glenmorangie Research Project, which began in 2008 will now run until 2020, making it one of the most enduring business and cultural partnerships. The success of the project in revealing new insights into the formation of Scotland as a nation will be further strengthened by this next stage. The tour of the very successful Scotland’s Early Silver exhibition will also bring a beautiful and compelling story to a much wider audience and as proud partners we are delighted to support the team at National Museums Scotland in this outreach.”

Alongside the exhibition tour and the new research, the partnership will see the introduction of the Glenmorangie Commission, in which contemporary craftspeople working in silver will be invited to submit designs taking inspiration from the collections from the period 9th to 12th century AD. The winning design will be commissioned for Scotland’s national collections and the final piece will go on display in the National Museum of Scotland’s Art and Design galleries.

Since 2008, the partnership between The Glenmorangie Company and National Museums Scotland has supported National Museums’ academic research and public engagement activities and funded an archaeological research post. The basis for this association is the eighth-century Hilton of Cadboll Stone, on display in the National Museum of Scotland’s Early People gallery. The Hilton of Cadboll stone was discovered on land once owned by The Glenmorangie Company near their Distillery in Ross-shire, and a design on the stone is the inspiration for the brand icon that adorns Glenmorangie's range of single malt whiskies.

The exhibition, Scotland’s Early Silver, includes the recently unveiled Dairsie Hoard, which dates to the late 3rd century AD and is the earliest known example of hacksilver from anywhere beyond the Roman frontier.

Also on its first full public display is the Gaulcross hoard, discovered in Aberdeenshire in 2013. Since its excavation, research has revealed striking similarities with another find, from Norrie’s Law, in Fife. Both hoards have been re-dated to the 5th–6th centuries AD, several centuries earlier than previously thought, and show for the first time how earlier Roman silver was recycled and repurposed over the centuries.

By the early medieval period, silver was being made into new power symbols, including massive silver neck chains. These striking objects are unique to Scotland and show both the importance of silver and the amount that was available in parts of Scotland – the heaviest is made from almost 3kg of silver.

Scotland’s Early Silver tour dates:

National Museum of Scotland, Chambers Street, Edinburgh, until 25 February 2018

Museum nan Eilean, Lews Castle (Stornoway), 3 May – 23 June 2018

Kirkcudbright Galleries, 7 July - 30 September 2018

Duff House, Banff, 12 October 2018 – 17 March 2019

Further information and images from:

Bruce Blacklaw, National Museums Scotland Press Office, 0131 247 4165;

Nick Hanlon, Weber Shandwick, 0141 333 0557;

Notes to Editors

  1. National Museums Scotland is one of the leading museum groups in the UK and Europe and it looks after collections of national and international importance. The organisation provides loans, partnerships, research and training in Scotland and internationally. Our individual museums are the National Museum of Scotland, the National Museum of Flight, the National Museum of Rural Life and the National War Museum. The National Museums Collection Centre in Edinburgh houses conservation and research facilities as well as collections not currently on display.
  2.  Bheireadh Oifis nam Meadhanan eadar-theangachadh Gàidhlig den bhrath-naidheachd seachad do bhuidhinn mheadhanan bharantaichte. Cuiribh fios do dh'Oifis nam Meadhanan airson bruidhinn air cinn-latha freagarrach.
  3. About Glenmorangie: Glenmorangie Single Malt Scotch Whisky originates in the Scottish Highlands where, at the Glenmorangie Distillery, it is distilled in the tallest malt whisky stills in Scotland for a purer spirit, expertly matured in the finest oak casks for great depth, and perfected by the Men of Tain. The Distillery was founded in 1843 and is renowned as a pioneer in its field, uniting tradition with innovation.  #Glenmorangie 
  4. Responsible Drinking: Ardbeg and The Glenmorangie Company advocate responsible drinking and suggest that drinkers savour Glenmorangie whiskies in moderation and in line with recommended daily guidelines for alcohol consumption.

Background to Scotland’s Early Silver

Scotland’s first silver came as coins and small dress accessories from the Roman world. Roman frontier diplomacy used payments of silver coins to buy peace and allies beyond its frontiers. This early silver coinage could not be spent beyond the frontier, but it was not just melted down – it was used by local elites to impress rivals and make gifts to the gods, hoarded and buried in the ground.

Local attitudes changed with a shift in Roman policy – the empire began to use ‘hacksilver’ for these transactions. Hacksilver refers to objects literally hacked into pieces, converted from beautiful treasures into raw silver bullion. Roman silver began to be melted down and made into new, local power symbols. This was the start of generations of recycling this most valued of materials.

After hundreds of years of recycling the same silver, supplies became scarce and diluted, debased by bronze added to make limited supplies stretch further. The first new sources of silver in almost a thousand years arrived with the Vikings, and the exhibition ends with objects illustrating the new ideas that came with these new metal supplies.

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