A golden autumn at the Royal Cornwall Museum

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At the beginning of July, the Royal Cornwall Museum in Truro got some bad news. Directors at the museum heard that their application to Cornwall Council’s culture and creative investment programme 2022-26 had been unsuccessful. That meant that the famous museum, which is a charity that relies on donations and funding to remain open and operating, faced an uncertain future without the council funding (which had stood at just under £80,000 a year). It was a gloomy start to the summer indeed.

But in early October, there was at least some good news when the museum learned that it had been given a stay of execution of sorts by Cornwall Council. The authority revealed it was providing some initial transitional support while the museum reviewed its business plan and applied for funding from local and national strategic partners in a bid to craft a ‘museum for the 21st century’. It wasn’t a golden ticket to a secure future but it was a good start in the hunt for one.

The museum’s team is not a pessimistic one, preferring to look to the future. And it has had a bumper summer. So now we’re into autumn, that same forward-thinking team is looking to the support of the people of Cornwall and to all the visitors who grace the Duchy throughout the autumn and beyond. It’s this golden love for the historic attraction, which is more than 200 years old, that has led the museum team to tell our writers at Proper Cornwall that it needs the support of the public for its autumn activities more than ever.

A spokesperson says: “Lots of people have been asking how best to support us and one of the ways is by visiting us this autumn. We have a plethora of treasure-themed activities for families and a range of temporary and permanent exhibitions that feature exciting ’treasured’ parts of the museum’s collections.”

Cornwall is home to a wealth of treasure, from its gold to its tin and from its industrial treasures to its historical artefacts, so the Royal Cornwall Museum is paying tribute to all that glitters this autumn. There’s the homecoming of a gold hoard that hasn’t been back to Cornwall for more than 90 years since it was originally found here. There’s a gold exhibition called ‘A British Museum Spotlight Loan Gathering light: A Bronze Age golden sun‘ that’s travelled down from the British Museum in August and is on display until November. There’s another stunning exhibition simply entitled ‘Treasure’.

Plus, there’s a fascinating Cornishness campaign that’s looking to find out what locals (and visitors too!) treasure most about their homeland. And if all that wasn’t glittering enough, there are all those other treasures that always await you at this historical museum in the heart of Cornwall. Let’s take a golden glimpse at the valuable trinkets and wealth of activities that, despite the recent funding news, should make the autumn of 2022 at the Royal Cornwall Museum shine bright like a diamond…

‘A British Museum Spotlight Loan Gathering light: A Bronze Age golden sun‘ exhibition

Image courtesy of The Trustees of the British Museum

A unique historical golden exhibit

All that glitters is not gold. But frankly, after more than 2,800 years, this magnificent treasure from Britain’s Bronze Age past is gold and still glitters like it was fashioned just last week. The ornate pendant, one of the greatest gold metalwork finds over the past century in the UK, arrived at the Royal Cornwall Museum on 5 August and is staying for three months until 5 November, thanks to the team at The British Museum. Found in the Shropshire Marches in May 2018, the historic treasure, lent to the Royal Cornwall Museum under a British Museum Spotlight Loan, dates back to between 1000 and 800 BC, and it includes a rare depiction of the sun (which you can see on the main image to this whole piece!) that had not previously been seen on objects found in Britain. It celebrates the sun’s life-giving power and was intentionally deposited in a boggy, pond-strewn wetland almost 3,000 years ago. See this exhibit in all of its glory.

Golden lunula image courtesy of the Royal Cornwall Museum

Shimmering lunula on display

The gold pendant from Shropshire not shiny enough for you? Well, how about this far more local piece? This golden lunula is also on display at the Royal Cornwall Museum over the autumn. The crescent-shaped neck ornament made of extremely thinly beaten gold is actually part of the museum’s collection and shows a great deal of skill and artistry. It was one of two dug up at Harlyn Bay, near Padstow, in 1854 by a workman digging a pond and was given to some kids to play with before, much later, its true historical significance was understood. Locals will be pleased to know that there are traces of Cornish tin in this lunula, which could date back more than 4,000 years. You have to see it!

A flange-twisted bar torc, not dissimilar to the golden torcs found at Towednack

Cornish gold treasure haul returns after 90 years!

One of the most incredible golden finds in the Duchy’s history returned to home soil this summer after more than 90 years away. Welcome to the famous Towednack Hoard that consists of nine pieces of Bronze Age gold found in Cornwall in December 1931, including four penannular bracelets (circular with a small break in each) and two torcs (neck ornaments). Each dates back to between 1400 and 1000 BC and each was found at Amalveor Farm in the parish of Towednack, on the outskirts of St Ives. The items, all made with fine gold that possibly came from Ireland, had been concealed in an ancient stone hedge. They were declared as treasure trove and the British Museum has been displaying them ever since but they returned home this summer so that you can see these dazzling pieces of history and imagine the Cornish folk who would have worn them so many hundreds of years ago.

An exhibition that lights up the museum!

That sun pendant (this time pictured from the side, above) is the cover star for the exhibition that should bring treasure hunters from far and wide to the Royal Cornwall Museum until 5 November. The Towednack Hoard and that fabulous lunula are also part of the ‘A British Museum Spotlight Loan Gathering light: A Bronze Age golden sun‘ exhibition but there are many other items to be discovered on the shelves in this golden highlight of the year. The British Museum, of course, is behind the exhibition as it has loaned many treasure items to the museum in Truro, however it has also been curated by the local team just for the thousands of visitors who tour the historical facility every autumn. Expect a whole host of ornate, golden, valuable, fascinating treasure items on display in a unique exhibition. Click the ‘Read More‘ button below to read about this exciting exhibition!

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Royal Cornwall Museum’s ‘Treasure’ exhibition

Another exhibition to be treasured

Seriously, there’s more. If all of the above in that British Museum exhibition really are not enough for you then you’ll be pleased to know that there’s another exciting treasure display running alongside it in the autumn. And it’s called, well, ‘Treasure’. This is what a museum spokesman tells us: “All museum objects can be viewed as treasure and the objects in the Royal Cornwall Museum are precious because they tell the story of Cornwall over thousands of years. In this ‘Treasure’ exhibition, we explore what treasure is, from the fantastical world of pirates, buried hoards and shipwrecks to those ordinary things that we could not live without.” Kids, like the ones browsing through the museum’s shop above, will learn plenty about historical treasures in the exhibition. As will, of course, adults!

Summer activities for kids at the Royal Cornwall Museum

Image by Yamen

Treasure Tuesdays — NOW FINISHED

It’s not all about the historical artefacts over the summer holidays, though. Your little treasures are in for a treat as the museum holds weekly sessions geared towards both learning about all that glitters and creating their own trove of shiny arts and crafts. Treasure Tuesdays take place from 10am every Tuesday between 26 July and 30 August, with each workshop boasting an exciting main theme such as creating a mini museum of tiny treasures out of clay, making treasure maps and fashioning coil pot coin jars. They also get to take part in a main gallery maze (with prizes for those who get out of it!) and guess what’s in a handful of mystery treasure boxes through handling a bunch of hidden items. These sessions are for six-year-olds and above with all kids needing to be accompanied by an adult. Price is £2 per child (gold coins not necessary), it’s free for adults and booking is essential. For details or to book a place, read here.

Image by N. ellladee

X marks the spot! — NOW FINISHED

A treasure hunt for the kids (and, of course, big kids) is being organised around the museum over July and August. It takes the form of a buccaneer’s map and leads intrepid little explorers and gold hunters to an array of treasure-related activities across the building. But is there any actual treasure at the end of this search? Of course there is! Find every sport on the map and then collect your prize, which is sure to be a valuable treat handpicked by the museum staff for all those brave treasure hunters!

Image by GTurnbull925

Lego Treasure Club — NOW FINISHED

Between 22 July and 31 August, fortune favours Cornwall’s little Lego fanatics. The Lego Treasure Club is on, well, all the time over the school summer holidays as long as the Royal Cornwall Museum is open. But the club only operates in a small area of the building so you may need to queue and wait for a space (booking is not an option) but it’s worth it because you get to create a little Lego trinket. It could be the golden sun pendant or another priceless exhibit that’s on display, or, well, any little gem you want to craft. All the creations that are left at the museum have the chance to go on display or visitors can take their masterpiece home with them for a £5 donation. Kids must be accompanied by an adult, though. For details or to book a place, read here.

‘Cornishness’ and the rest of the treasures at this famous museum

Being Cornish: a treasure in itself

Here’s another related ‘event’ that’s being run by the team this year: a campaign to find out what ‘Cornishness’ really means and what locals treasure most about their homeland, history and culture. Organisers of the #Cornishness campaign say that ‘Cornishness encompasses a vast history, rich archaeology, mythology, a famous art scene, a once-thriving mining community, a tourism destination, an enviable place to live and at times a difficult place to live. Resilience, creativity and a sense of community have been key to the development of the Cornish identity’. With an eye on creating future content and exhibitions, the team wants locals to message them on Facebook and tell them what Cornishness means to them and what they treasure most about this corner of the world. Visitors to the Duchy are also invited to comment so head here and add your thoughts.

Much more treasure to discover…

Phew! You’re going to need some golden slumbers after all of that. But we’re not done yet! Of course, there are all of those other incredible local, national and international historical treasures to discover at the Royal Cornwall Museum over the autumn and beyond but we’ll let you go on your own hunt to find them. We will, however, recommend that you don’t miss the museum’s mineral gallery, which is home to hundreds of minerals, from copper to quartz and tin to iron. The vast amount hail from all over Cornwall (such as the liroconite example from Wheal Gorland in St Day, pictured above, which comes from oxidised zones of copper mines) and demonstrate the treasure that’s right under our feet in this magical land. They are all historical treasures at this gem of a museum. Cornwall’s jewel in the crown when it comes to learning about history and the precious moments that make up our past. To find out more about the museum click ‘Read More’…

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