British Museum 'Partnership Gallery' in Shrewsbury
09 Sep 2021
by Cathy Block

An exiting new partnership with the British Museum will see Shrewsbury Museum & Art Gallery tell the story of Shropshire from the Ice Age to the Romans in a dedicated new gallery, due to open in 2024.

Nesscliffe Spoons

High status Iron Age items such as the intricate Telford Torc, the Nesscliffe Iron Age Spoons and the Claverley Stater Hoard will be included in the new British Museum Partnership Gallery at Shrewsbury Musuem & Art Gallery

Some of these fabulous Shropshire finds will form the basis of a new British Museum partnership gallery at Shrewsbury Museum & Art Gallery.

The new gallery aims to showcase spectacular highlights from the Bronze Age period in Shropshire (4,500-2,600 years ago), immersing visitors in the rich and varied deep history of the wetlands of Shropshire Marches.

It is an extension of the British Museum loan of the Shropshire sun pendant, a beautiful Bronze Age gold bulla, on display at Shrewsbury Museum & Art Gallery this autumn and reflects the museum’s commitment to share its collection with the widest possible audience around the UK.

The new Partnership Gallery, planned to open in 2024, will redevelop Shrewsbury Museum’s Bronze Age displays to present ‘a dedicated and dynamic narrative of local life’ from the Ice Age to the Romans.

It will accommodate long-term loans from the British Museum and more of SM&AG’s collection through a redistribution of gallery space in the museum’s stunning Victorian Music Hall.

Key objects will include three superbly well-preserved woolly mammoth skeletons, which made headlines when discovered in a gravel pit near Condover, Shropshire in 1986. Dating from the end of the last Ice Age, these remains including an adult and three juveniles, are 12,800 years old. They are the most complete mammoth bones known from northwest Europe and changed opinions about when mammoths became extinct in this region.

There will be a chance to see more of Shrewsbury Museum’s nationally significant geology and archaeology collections, much of which is currently in storage. The collection comprises over 1,000 prehistoric objects. It includes important finds such as the 10,000-year-old barbed spear point from Porth-Y-Waen, Oswestry, made from antler by hunters who pre-date the first farmers in the region.

High status Iron Age items such as the intricate Telford Torc and the Claverley Stater Hoard, an assortment of North Eastern and Western gold coins rarely found together and dating to about 2,000 years ago will be displayed, as well as copper, bronze and gold tools, weapons and ornaments from as far back as 4,500 years ago. Mysterious spoons dating from the Iron Age and found in Nesscliffe will all form part of the Gallery. Only 23 other known examples survive from the Iron Age.

Jill Cook, Keeper, Department of Britain, Europe & Prehistory, at the British Museum, said: “It is fantastic to have the opportunity to work with colleagues at Shrewsbury Museum & Art Gallery to create an innovative new gallery dedicated to the pre-Roman past of the Shropshire region. Being able to work with Shrewsbury and British Museum collections, data from the Portable Antiquities Scheme (PAS) and forensic evidence from recent excavations, it will be possible to explore the changing landscape, ecology and inhabitants over a period of some 10,000 years.

“Starting from the end of the last Ice Age when woolly mammoths still roamed, this era encompassed big changes, including the introduction of farming about 8,000 years ago to the magic of metalworking 4,500 years ago. The Partnership Gallery will use Shropshire as the theatre in which the artefacts of human, cultural and ecological dramas will take the stage to show the rich and lively history of a region that flourished through its own natural resources and connections with Ireland, Britain and continental Europe.”

Maria Bojanowska, Head of National Programmes at the British Museum, said Shrewsbury Museum & Art Gallery would also have access to the British Museum’s extensive collection of Bronze Age objects for long-term loans.

Fay Bailey, manager of Shropshire Museums & Archives, said the partnership marked a ‘significant moment’ for Shropshire: “We are delighted to have the opportunity to work with the team at the British Museum and look forward to the development of an inspirational and inclusive display which deepens our collective understanding of this fascinating period of history.”

Cecilia Motley, Shropshire Council’s Cabinet member for communities, place, tourism and transport, said: “We are delighted to be working in partnership and I look forward to what I’m sure will be a very popular attraction.”

· British Museum Spotlight Loan “Gathering light: a Bronze Age golden sun” will be on display at Shrewsbury Museum from 10 September – 12 December 2021. The Partnership Gallery is scheduled for 2024.

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