As the clock ticks on Tullie House Museum's campaign to raise funds to buy a locally found Roman helmet, a benefactor has come forward to pledge £50,000 towards the appeal – on condition the public matches his donation pound for pound.
© Christie's Images Ltd
The gesture by the anonymous businessman has been described by fundraisers as a "once in a lifetime opportunity" to save the Crosby Garret helmet and put it on display in the House's new Roman Gallery, which is due for completion in summer 2011.
They are now urging people to come forward and "Give A Quid to The Bid", triggering the double-your-money offer from the benefactor.
The Roman artefact is due to be auctioned at Christie's in London on October 7. At a guide price of between £200,000 and £300,000, it is expected to attract worldwide interest and may sell for even more.
"This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity and the message is simple - we need people to come forward to help us raise £50,000. If we do it creates £100,000 for the appeal fund," said the Museum's Hilary Wade.
"The clock is against us but I believe we can do it. If everyone can give even a pound, the benefactor will match it. This will significantly increase the chances of Tullie House having the financial clout to be able to compete at the auction in London, and bring this helmet back to its rightful home."
Discovered in a Cumbrian field near the village of Crosby Garrett, Appleby, in May 2010, curators are worried it may be lost to a private collection overseas.
Dr Ralph Jackson, Senior Curator of Romano-British Collections, said it was "vital" that Tullie House secures the helmet.
"The Cumbria Helmet is a find of the greatest importance, both for its intrinsic interest and for the additional light it can shed on the manufacture and supply of prestige military equipment," he said. "It is both chilling and striking."
Dating from the end of the 1st to the mid 3rd century AD, the survival of the ceremonial helmet is said to be "exceptional". The public and corporate appeal will support match fundraising activity with trusts and foundations.
Visit www.tulliehouse.co.uk/romanhelmet, call 01228 618743 or donate online through a special appeal at http://www.justgiving.com/Tullie-House-Crosby-Garrett-Roman-Helmet-Appeal