Taking the Galloway Hoard home is a welcome re-balance of power - Alison Campsie

If I lived in Kirkcudbright – population around 3,400 – I’d feel like a queen right now.

Now on show at the Kirkcudbright Galleries are items from the Galloway Hoard, one of the most important archaeological discoveries of recent times that was made on church land not too far from the town.

Today this corner of Scotland deep in the south west feels a long way from most places.

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But the arrival of the hoard, a collection of Viking-age treasures, repositions the story of the area as a place of power and wealth – and a melting pot of cultures – around 1,000 years ago.

What could be more empowering for the people of Galloway today?

Galloway – once part of the Anglo Saxon kingdom of Northumbria – was once buzzing with activity and well-connected to England, Ireland, the Isle of Man and the wider world when the seas and the the rivers were the highways.

As Dr Adrian Maldonado, of National Museums of Scotland, recently described, Galloway was at the centre rather than the edge.

Whithorn, around 40 miles west of Kirkcudbright, was one of four major Bishop’s seats of Northumbria, with exotic wine and glass brought there for hundreds of years and the story that St Ninian worked there long before St Columba arrived on Iona further sealing its fame.

After the discovery of the Galloway Hoard in 2014, there was a hard-fought campaign locally to have the collection displayed permanently in the area, with the view “it was buried here and found here, so it should stay here”, not least to try and share out some of wealth driven by cultural and heritage tourism in Scotland.

National Museum of Scotland, which won the right to acquire the hoard given its national significance and its ability to research and conserve the collection, was always open to items going on show in Dumfries and Galloway.

The exhibition in Kirkcudbright was made possible by the Weston Loan Programme, which funds smaller and local authority museums to borrow works of art and artefacts from national collections.

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Taking the artefacts home and connecting them to local people helps illuminate the area’s past, and a different lay of the land, for us all.

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