Replicas and Recreations of the Staffordshire Hoard

Discovered on farmland near Lichfield in 2009, the Staffordshire Hoard is one of the largest collections of Anglo-Saxon gold and silver objects ever found. It numbers over 3,500 items, which date back to the 6th and 7th centuries A.D.

A team from the School of Jewellery have been working in collaboration with the Birmingham Museum Trust and the Potteries Museum in Stoke-on-Trent, who jointly own the collection to create reproductions of key pieces of the Hoard.

Staff from the School of Jewellery have been scanning key items from the collection in minute detail, this helps us to better understand what the artefacts are and how they were originally manufactured and constructed. The scans are then used to help create exact replicas and recreations for use in museum displays. The laser scanning equipment completes non-invasive, detailed sweeps of the artefacts, building three-dimensional data which reproduce the fine details of the original object. CAD (Computer Aided Design) image files are then used to 3D Print a master sacrificial pattern.

Using a lost wax investment casting process, reproductions can then be made of the artefacts. Different materials are used for different purposes. For example, gold and silver-plated replicas were used in some of the permanent museum displays, whilst nylon artefacts were printed off so that visitors can physically handle the objects. This was particularly significant because the original items were intended to be worn. Frank and his team enabled the research to go beyond the archaeology and conservation and be transformed through the process of crafting several key artefacts and two recreated helmets. This provided a tangible form of accessible knowledge, making a unique contribution to the project, involving novel museum curation, and a reassessment of material understanding.

One particularly important piece from the collection is the ‘folded cross’, one of the earliest Christian artefacts found in Britain. It had been folded up and its jewels removed before the hoard was buried. Through painstaking laser scanning and CAD drawn interpretation it was possible to digitally ‘unfold’ the crumpled metal, enabling recreations to be made of what it would have originally looked like. A silver copy of the cross, plated in gold, was made by BCU researchers and presented to Pope Benedict.

Knowledge has been transferred to the museum sector, particularly to those involved in the conservation and curation of the Staffordshire Hoard. The project has developed research, understanding and knowledge of the craftsmanship, materials, construction and identity of the objects through reconstruction. In addition, knowledge has been transferred to museum visitors, and other groups, such as schools, as part of the museum’s outreach programme, through the replicas. Enabling visitors to see what the historic artefacts would have originally looked like and to handle facsimiles enhances knowledge and understanding, not only of the specific objects, but also of the Anglo-Saxon era more generally. The School of Jewellery staff/team had knowledge transferred to them about the methodology of the conservation and curation of such rare objects and how to work together with academics from widely differing disciplines in order to achieve the desired results.

Replicating artefacts from the Staffordshire Hoard has allowed museum visitors to physically handle replica items from the find, thereby increasing their understanding of the art and craft skills found in these Anglo-Saxon objects. Tens of thousands of members of the public have seen and handled the artefacts, which have been on display in permanent exhibitions at the Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery, and in Stoke-on-Trent at The Potteries Museum and Art Gallery. Replicas and recreations are an integral part of the museums’ interpretation and are fundamental to revealing the story of the hoard. These replica/reconstructions are clearly identified as such in the displays, providing insight on and comparison with the damaged artefact. Both are on display alongside each other in the permanent galleries. The School of Jewellery has developed a reputation for a unique integration of traditional and digital crafts skills for the interpretation of heritage artefacts. The methods developed and success of the outputs have attracted further heritage projects where an interdisciplinary approach is required to enhance the research findings.

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