Tullie House Museum and Art Gallery has launched an urgent public appeal to help buy an exceptionally rare Roman Cavalry Parade Helmet, discovered by a metal detectorist in Crosby, North Cumbria in May 2010.
© Christies London
If acquired, the helmet, which dates between the end of the 1st to mid 3rd century AD, will form the centrepiece of the new £1.5m Roman Frontier: Stories Beyond Hadrian's Wall Gallery, due to open at the Museum during summer 2011.
The exquisite helmet is a rare full-face version of the type used for hippika gymnasia (cavalry sports events) and comes up for auction at Christies South Kensington on October 7 2010. Tullie House needs to raise between £300,000 and 400,000 to be in with a chance of securing it.
"I cannot emphasise how important this artefact is to the story of the Romans in Cumbria and indeed Britain," said Tullie House Manager Hilary Wade. "It would represent the most important object in our archaeology collections and arguably the finest artefact held in public ownership in Cumbria."
If successful, the museum will place the helmet at the core of a collection of Roman objects found across the North of England, which is regarded as one of the most significant collections of its kind outside London.
In Roman times, Carlisle – then called Luguvalium – was one of the most important cities in Roman Britain and the administrative centre for Hadrian's Wall.
"My concern is that it could be lost to the county and nation forever unless we act now," added Wade. "There is likely to be international interest in this exhibit and we face the very real prospect that this extraordinary showpiece will never be seen by the public, particularly if it is taken out of circulation by a private collector and ends up overseas."
The British Museum have described the helmet as "unparalleled" and "exceptional". It is one of only three of its kind discovered in Britain. The only other two complete with face-masks are the Ribchester Helmet, found in 1796 and now in the British Museum, and the Newstead Helmet, found in 1905 and now at the Museum of Antiquities in Edinburgh.
Individuals and businesses can pledge their support now to keep the Roman Helmet in Cumbria by visiting www.tulliehouse.co.uk/romanhelmetappeal , phoning the Museum on 01228 618743 or by joining the Tullie House Museum Facebook group.