We can’t afford to ignore Hoard’s potential

DO YOU remember this time last year when we were raising money to keep the Staffordshire Hoard local?
Can you picture the queues of people snaking around the Potteries Museum and Art Gallery?
Do you recall Prince Charles and Camilla’s visit to the Cultural Quarter when they became the 13,340th and 13,341st people to view these remarkable artifacts?
Can you remember the reaction when news filtered through that the joint bid to acquire this unique Anglo-Saxon treasure trove had been successful?
It was as if our prayers had been answered and we had been gifted a tourist attraction – a fortune to help to transform our fortunes, if you like.
Well, 12 months on and I’m sorry to say it’s all gone rather quiet on the Hoard front.
I understand full well that behind the scenes experts have started the painstaking process of cleaning and the conserving the thousands of artifacts.
Yes, we still have a small-scale exhibition at the Potteries Museum and Art Gallery.
I also appreciate that the junior partners in the Hoard bid – Tamworth, Lichfield and Stafford – all want a piece of the action.
But let’s be clear: the Potteries Museum and Art Gallery is the recognised repository for all archaeological finds made in Staffordshire.
Hanley is where the largest chunk of the Staffordshire Hoard should and will ultimately be located.
Surely we can all see the potential of having this world-class collection based in our Cultural Quarter.
The Potteries Museum needs to be significantly restructured to make the Staffordshire Hoard THE showpiece exhibition.
In order to do that not only does the building itself need to be re-organised but we also need to present the artifacts in a way that visitors of all ages can best appreciate them.
The exhibition needs to be interactive, it needs videos and staff in period costume to bring this ancient treasure to life.
All this is going to take money and given that the city council at present doesn’t have two ha’pennies to rub together I suspect we are talking about a major public fund-raising campaign.
So where is it? When will it be launched? What’s the target figure? What exactly will it be spent on?
The silence is deafening.
I, therefore, make no apologies for returning to one of my favourite hobby horses.
My fear here is that amid the cost-cutting in the public sector and the slimming down of the local authority in terms of elected members our vision for the Staffordshire Hoard is being lost.
By now we should have a Staffordshire Hoard forum up and running comprising not only council and museum staff but also the best and brightest brains locally from the private sector.
The Hoard isn’t just a council thing – or a museum thing – it’s something that belongs to all of us and, if properly managed, could be a catalyst for real change.
We should be marketing ourselves as the home of the Hoard.
We should be investigating ways of rebranding our city through the Hoard.
By now every school in the city should be weaving the Hoard into its curriculum.
But I don’t see any of this happening and I can’t help but feel that the enthusiasm of a few individuals for the Hoard is being diluted by pervading apathy.
Who exactly is driving our vision for the Staffordshire Hoard and making sure it becomes more than just a small exhibition in a museum stuffed with pottery?
Unfortunately, it’s no-one’s responsibility – no-one’s job – to make the most of the Staffordshire Hoard because making the most of it involves blazing a trail.
This has to change and change quickly. We simply can’t afford to make a pig’s ear of this, to sit on our hands or allow ourselves to be outmanoeuvred by our Hoard partner Birmingham City Council.
Otherwise we may as well dig another hole in a farmer’s field and re-bury the hoard for discovery by a future generation capable of harnessing its potential.

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