The new Ancient Worlds galleries opened on Thursday 25th. It was quite a night and I was talking to people from the VIP preview at 5pm until the Museum closed about 8pm.
I couldn’t resist a wry smile beforehand when one of the guests asked me if there was going to be more prehistory in the galleries. Even more so when he raised an eyebrow in response to my statement that we were showing a 17th century gold signet ring. ‘What, in Ancient Worlds?’ he asked.
I explained that we weren’t trying to tell the story of a particular region or a period of time in our new displays but exploring aspects of archaeology through the work of a number of different guides or characters. Each of them illustrates an aspect of the archaeological collections or work in various sub-disciplines of the subject.
In this way a newly acquired gold signet ring relating to the Prestwich family of Manchester found by a metal-detectorist in North Yorkshire is relevant in the context of the work of a Finds Liaison Officer for the Portable Antiquities Scheme. Many of the exhibits in that section are of great antiquity but a 17th century ring still illustrates the principles and the rules and regulations surrounding treasure.
Amazing to think that I only collected the ring a week ago from the British Museum and there it is on display in the table case in Ancient Worlds. We are extremely grateful to the V&A Purchase Grant Fund and the Headley Museums Archaeological Acquisitions Trust for their financial support, without which we could not have acquired the ring.