Museums chiefs have launched an international fundraising drive to secure a Viking treasure trove for the nation - as most of the haul goes on public display for the first time in Edinburgh.
The National Museum of Scotland has put around 70 objects from the “Galloway Hoard” on show to help kick-start its £1.98 million campaign.
An exhibition has opened in its grand gallery ahead of a two-year conservation project aimed at solving the mystery of where the treasures came from and how they up buried beneath Church of Scotland land in Galloway.
The museum has been given six months by the Crown to match the value of the gold, silver and jewelled treasures which were found by metal detectorist Derek McLennan in a field near Kirkcudbright.
Experts at the museum say the hoard is the “richest collection of rare and unique Viking-age objects ever found in Britain or Ireland.”
If its fundraising campaign is successful, it has pledged to share the treasures with a new gallery in Kirkcudbright, including a temporary display of the entire hoard, as well as send highlights out on a nationwide tour.
The exhibition at the National Museum, the country’s busiest visitor attraction, will run until 1 October. It is expected to be a forerunner to a permanent display, which will feature the chance to see the most fragile items which are not part of the current displays, once detailed research into the hoard is complete.
Dr Gordon Rintoul, director of the museum, said: “We’re not funded on a year-to-year basis to acquire things of this significance, so we’ll be seeking support from a wife range of individuals and organisations to secure the hoard for the nation. We felt that if people could see some of the hoard at first hand they’ll perhaps be more likely to help us reach our target.
“The hoard is of huge international importance because it contains so many rare items and includes such a huge range of material, from brooches, a gold bird pin and gold ingots to other items that we’re not quite sure what their purpose and function was.
“When the hoard was first discovered, its importance was not fully appreciated. There was partly because most of it was buried in a pot. There was quite a process to work out how to get the lid off.
“But it was full to the brim with brooches, jewels and all sorts of other material. It was only then that people began to realise how important it was.
“Like a lot of hoards from the Viking age, we can’t be certain how it ended up there. One of the real mysteries is the geographic origins of the hoard. Some material is relatively material from others finds, particularly in Ireland, but others looks as if they have come from far-flung parts of Europe or beyond.”
Dr Martin Goldberg, senior curator of early medieval and Viking collections at the museum, said: “Seeing the hoard all laid out for the first time is quite amazing. There’s so much material, so many different types of material and so many avenues of research we’re going to be heading into.
“We have many questions about how these things arrived here. We have to figure out all the different stories that each individual object has to tell, but there’s also the conclusion of the story and how they all ended up in the ground together. That’s the detective story we’re really interested in.”