Ever since it opened its doors in 1981 I’ve always thought we have been very fortunate to have the Potteries Museum and Art Gallery on our doorstep.
As museums go, I think it’s a bit special.
No, I don’t mean the decorative brick façade celebrating our industrial heritage… I’m talking about what’s inside.
For starters, the museum boasts the world’s best collection of Staffordshire ceramics.
But, at the risk of blaspheming, I’m not that interested in looking at cups, saucers, plates and vases – no matter how old they are.
However, Hanley’s museum does have a Spitfire. Now you’re talking. This is the fighter plane that turned the tide of the Battle of Britain and was designed by our very own Reginald Mitchell, from Butt Lane.
Find me a lad who isn’t impressed by the sight of this beautiful, deadly machine with its Browning machine guns and Merlin engine.
If that doesn’t float your boat then how about the local history section or the exhibits relating to ongoing archeological work taking place at Hulton Abbey?
Still not convinced?
How about some gold? To be more precise, artifacts from the largest ever find of Anglo-Saxon gold treasure – The Staffordshire Hoard.
From February 13 that’s what will be on show at the Potteries Museum and Art Gallery.
To put the find in context, I will quote Leslie Webster, formerly of the Department of Prehistory and Europe at the British Museum.
He said: “This is going to alter our perceptions of Anglo-Saxon England… as radically, if not more so, as the Sutton Hoo discoveries. Absolutely the equivalent of finding a new Lindisfarne Gospel or Book of Kells.”
As someone fascinated by the Anglo-Saxon period, I can’t tell you how excited I am.
Thus I was delighted to hear that Stoke-on-Trent City Council was putting in a joint bid along with Birmingham to buy the hoard and ‘keep it local’.
The authority is spearheading a major campaign to raise the £3,285,000 needed to buy the 1,800 gold and silver artifacts so that they can be kept and displayed in the region.
The council is asking for public donations and for local businesses to support the bid.
The catch is, we only have a couple of months to raise the necessary funds. At a time of great financial hardship, this request may come way down many people’s list of priorities but this really does represent a once in a lifetime opportunity.
It is a chance to bequeath upon future generations a wonderful archaeological legacy of worldwide significance.
The Staffordshire Hoard would undoubtedly also have a huge economic impact on the Potteries – attracting tens of thousands of tourists to a Cultural Quarter definitely worth the name.
To give you an indication of its pulling power, when 80 artifacts from the hoard went on display in Birmingham in September more than 40,000 visitors viewed the exhibits in under three weeks.
This is why I’d like to think that each and every one of us will get behind this fund-raising campaign.
Back in May I was banging on about the Wedgwood Museum, which had been short-listed for the £100,000 Arts Fund prize.
A month later the Barlaston attraction scooped the prize and I’m pretty sure Sentinel readers played their part in its success by voting in the nationwide poll.
We have all, at times, criticised the city council for its largesse and questioned the expenditure of public money on such things as art works.
However, if ever a local authority arts venture deserved our wholehearted support as we aim to celebrate the centenary of the Six Towns in style, then the bid for The Staffordshire Hoard is it.