South Scotland

Galloway Viking hoard: Museum boss defends housing treasure in Edinburgh

Viking treasure discovered in Dumfries and Galloway Image copyright Dumfries and Galloway Council
Image caption The hoard is considered Scotland's most significant treasure trove find in over a century

Scotland's national museum director has defended the decision to house in Edinburgh a 1,000-year-old Viking hoard discovered in Dumfries and Galloway.

It was announced earlier this month the treasure trove would be allocated to National Museums Scotland (NMS).

Dumfries and Galloway Council wanted the 100 or so items to be housed in a new art gallery in Kirkcudbright.

But NMS director Gordon Rintoul said the capital was "best-placed" to restore and conserve the artefacts.

"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," he told a meeting of Holyrood's Culture Committee when pressed on the decision by South Scotland MSP Joan McAlpine.

"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."

The Queen's and Lord Treasurer's Remembrancer (QLTR) - the body which rules on ownerless goods and property - decided the 10th Century artefacts should be allocated to NMS, provided it raises the funds to pay £1.98m to metal detectorist Derek McLennan.

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 August 2014.

Image copyright National Museums Scotland
Image caption NMS has six months to raise the funds needed to acquire the "unique treasure"

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.

But he conceded it was "impossible" to say which items might be involved as significant conservation work was needed and it was unclear what material would be suitable for travel and display.

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

"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."

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