This evening I was very proud and very pleased to attend the opening of the new Sharing the Treasures exhibit at Llangollen Museum funded by the Welsh Government and the Heritage Lottery Fund.
David Crane of Llangollen Museum, responsible for compiling the exhibit, gave a speech thanking everyone who had made this possible, and in doing so he was obviously thanking all the students who did the excavation work for Project Eliseg, as well as all the volunteers and supporters of the museum.
The exhibition was then officially opened by local Labour AM, Ken Skates. The local Rotary Club donated a cheque on this occasion to the museum.
Well done to David for all his work on the exhibition. Sue Evans was also there and so many of the other volunteers at the museum who have done so much to make our work at the Pillar of Eliseg a success.
Of course, Professor Nancy Edwards who leads our project was in attendance, as were the great and good of Welsh archaeology, including representatives from many heritage organisations and the National Museum.
This exciting new display includes the finds from excavations at the Pillar of Eliseg near Valle Crucis Abbey between 2010 and 2012 by Nancy Edwards and Gary Robinson Bangor University in collaboration with Dai Morgan Evans and myself from the University of Chester: Project Eliseg.
From the beginning we have liaised closely with Cadw and Llangollen Museum and it is a real honour to see the replica of the Pillar of Eliseg augmented by new display boards and a display case showing the cremated human remains, flints, bone pin and ceramic finds uncovered by our excavations of the mound beneath the ninth-century cross-shaft. Most interesting is a mock-up display of the Bronze Age cremation burial in a cist that we excavated in 2012, situated in front of the replica pillar.
Augmenting the Pillar of Eliseg finds, there were display cases of medieval finds and fabric found since the 19th century from Valle Crucis, many on loan from the National Museum. These were combined with recent metal-detector finds from around the abbey. Also within the exhibit was the relocated display of an animatronic Cistercian monk – John Porthiok- who was originally within the summer house in the grounds of the abbey ruins. Less disconcerting, but equally tremendous, surrounding this display is a fabulous replica of gothic vaulting to invoke the sense of the abbey’s architecture.
I cannot express how proud I am to see the results of our archaeological work so rapidly take centre-stage within a new exhibit in the heart of the community of Llangollen for all to see. From now on, everyone visiting the museum will see our discoveries immediately ahead of them and at the centre of this distinctive polygonal structure.
Equally, I am excited to see the reaction of the public to the display of cremated human material with a cist: will they react to it as human remains, since it is not diagnostically human on first glance? This is itself an interesting aspect of my ongoing research concerning the ontological and social significance of displaying cremated human remains in museum contexts. I have a forthcoming paper exploring the display strategies for cremains in museum contexts and Llangollen Museum have created the newest in a long tradition of distinctive and varied display strategies for putting the cremated dead on display.