The Museum of Somerset’s campaign to raise the £320,250 needed to keep a valuable Roman hoard in the county and display it to the public has received a boost from funding charity The Art Fund.
© Somerset County Council
The Frome Hoard of 52,503 Roman coins, unearthed in April tightly packed into a large pot, is the largest coin hoard ever found in the UK. The Museum has until February 1 2011 to raise the cash to secure it.
After kick-starting the appeal with a £40,250 grant in October, The Art Fund have now stepped in with a double-your-money offer which will see public donations made through The Art Fund matched and effectively doubled.
Anyone who donates to the appeal via www.artfund.org/frome will see every pound matched, up to a total of £10,000.
“We’re extremely excited to be part of Somerset’s campaign to acquire this extraordinary treasure,” said Art Fund Director Stephen Deuchar. “To think that this pot packed full of coins lay buried beneath the soil for almost 2,000 years – it really is incredible.”
Unsurprisingly there is great support for the campaign locally. The Somerset Archaeological and Natural History Society has donated £10,000, and in July an event showcasing a selection of coins from the find drew more than 2,000 people in one day. Many queued for up to an hour to catch a glimpse of the coins. A second event took place on October 23 2010, attracting more than 1,000 visitors.
The Museum, in Taunton, is hoping to display the hoard when it re-opens in summer 2011.
If the Museum is successful it will also be a triumph for the Portable Antiquities Scheme, the government-backed programme to log and record archaeological finds made by members of the public.
When the Metal Detectorist Dave Crisp made his remarkable discovery he immediately reported it to the Scheme and a professional excavation was undertaken to recover it. The Frome Hoard was duly declared Treasure under the Treasure Act of 1996 on 22 July.
Roger Bland, Head of Portable Antiquities and Treasure at the British Museum, praised the actions of the finder, saying he “behaved in an exemplary way”.
“As a result there is enormous potential to properly understand why and how this coin hoard was buried,” added Dr Bland, “and perhaps change pre-existing views on the hoarding and burial of such assemblages.”
Dr Bland and fellow experts from the Portable Antiquities Scheme have written a book about the find, which includes coins minted by 21 emperors and three emperors' wives.
More than 760 of the coins belong to the emperor Carausius, a general in the Roman army usurped against the Central Empire. 50p from the sale of each book will go towards conservation costs of the hoard.
Visit the appeal at www.artfund.org/frome
Find out more about the Portable Antiquities Scheme at www.finds.org.uk