National Museum of Scotland ‘expertise’ key to landing viking hoard

Picture: TSPL
Picture: TSPL
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A museum director has defended the decision to assign a 1,000-year-old Viking hoard unearthed in Dumfries and Galloway to Scotland’s national museum in Edinburgh.

Gordon Rintoul, director of National Museums Scotland (NMS), said only the capital had the expertise to restore and conserve the valuable 10th-century artefacts.

Earlier this month, the Queen’s and Lord Treasurer’s Remembrancer (QLTR) - the body which rules on ownerless goods and property - decided the 100 or so items should be allocated to NMS, provided it raises the funds to pay £1.98 million to metal detectorist Derek McLennan.

READ MORE: Bid launched to keep Viking hoard in Dumfries and Galloway

He discovered the hoard, which includes silver bracelets and brooches, a gold ring, an enamelled Christian cross and a bird-shaped gold pin, in a Dumfries and Galloway field in 2014.
A campaign has backed local council proposals for the treasure to have its permanent home in a specially-designed exhibition space at the new Kirkcudbright Art Gallery rather than in Edinburgh.
Mr Rintoul was pressed on the decision by South Scotland MSP Joan McAlpine during a meeting of Holyrood’s Culture Committee.
He said: “The material is clearly of national and international importance, and that is one of our functions, to collect, preserve and make accessible material of that nature.
“Secondly, this particular hoard is going to require considerable expertise and resources to conserve it. A lot of it needs very skilled work over many years in fact.
“It also needs to have substantial research work undertaken to reveal its full significance.
“All of that is going to require resources, expertise, facilities, and in our view we are actually best-placed to provide that.”

READ MORE: Viking hoard found in Galloway will move to Edinburgh museum

Mr Rintoul said NMS was in dialogue with Dumfries and Galloway Council about proposals to lend a “representative portion” of the hoard to the Kirkcudbright Art Gallery.

“Our plans are not that we somehow acquire and keep it all in Edinburgh, that’s not the case at all,” he said.

He conceded it was “impossible” to say at the moment what items that might involve as significant conservation work was needed and it was unclear what material would be suitable for travel and display.

“Until we have actually gained possession of the hoard, which wouldn’t be until we raise the money, we cannot actually undertake the survey work, the conservation assessment, to determine what can be displayed where, when and for how long.”

Asked why that work could not take place outside Edinburgh, he added: “No-one else has the expertise.

“Dumfries and Galloway Council’s museum service over the past decade has been reduced in size significantly.

“They have no conservation laboratory, no conservators and they have no curators with expertise in Viking age material.”

He added: “In our view, what our proposal means is actually using our resources to benefit other museums and other communities, and that seems to be a right and proper approach for a national museum in a country like Scotland to undertake.”

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