Shwmae! I’m Rhianydd Biebrach, the Project Officer for the Saving Treasures; Telling Stories Project, which is an HLF (Heritage Lottery Fund) funded 5-year project based at Amgueddfa Cymru-National Museum Wales, in partnership with the Portable Antiquities Scheme in Wales (PAS Cymru) and the Welsh Federation of Museums and Art Galleries.
The project is based around treasure and non-treasure objects found by members of the public, most of whom are metal detectorists. Our overarching aims are to enable Welsh museums to acquire metal-detected objects for their collections, and work with detector groups and local communities to engage with and enjoy the material heritage on their doorstep. It’s all about connecting people, objects and places.
The number of treasure finds reported in Wales is increasing year on year, with forty cases in 2016. While we don’t like to think of heritage in terms of its financial value, the stark fact remains that cash-strapped local museums, most of which have faced savage cuts to their budgets in the last few years, are relying on Saving Treasures funding to acquire these objects for the nation.
We are also supporting local museums with training and advice on their archaeology collections, enabling them to get the most out of the objects in their care, whether they be Bronze Age axes, Roman coins, or medieval jewellery.
A large chunk of our funding is dedicated to the support of six Community Archaeology Projects, each of which will focus on a selection of objects acquired with Saving Treasures funds, drawing in the local community to take part in activities and generating a range of creative responses to the new collection.
Our first community project has been run by Swansea Museum. It’s based on a small collection of non-treasure finds, dating from the Bronze Age to the post-medieval period, found by a local detectorist on Swansea Bay. Using the objects as inspiration, Swansea Museum has spent the last year working with a diverse range of community groups, to produce artworks, creative writing and Roman costume, and to recreate a medieval pilgrimage, to name but a few. This output will be displayed alongside the objects themselves in a co-curated permanent exhibition.
As I write, another community project is about to get underway at Wrexham Museum and Art Gallery, responding to a hoard of Wars of the Roses era gold and silver coins and a 15th century gold and sapphire ring. Hopefully, in next year’s Day of Archaeology blog I’ll be able to report on its successful activities and outcomes.
It’s great being the Saving Treasures Project Officer. Not having come from an archaeological background I’ve had to do some quick learning over the last year, but I love the direct connection with the past that the objects give me, and playing a tiny part in bringing it to life for new audiences.