Treasure fans flocked hundreds of miles to queue for up to two hours as The Potteries Museum and Art Gallery (above) reported a record number of visitors for the opening weekend of the Staffordshire Hoard display, which went on show on Friday evening (February 12) following a formal opening by historian Michael Wood.
The selection of more than 100 Anglo-Saxon items attracted 4,700 people, inspiring a £50,000 donation from a mystery attendee towards the £3.3 million campaign to buy the Hoard.
"It far and away exceeds the numbers we would normally receive for a weekend at the Museum," said Stoke-on-Trent City Council museums strategic manager Keith Bloor.
"We have carried out a great deal of planning to cope with expected demand, and those plans have really paid off.
"Volunteers have been recruited to steward crowds, and Sunday opening hours have been extended.
"We have had very pleasing comments from lots of visitors who have enjoyed themselves and want to come back to the Museum – people who have not been here before and didn't realise the amount of activities we offer."
The Hoard had previously been on display in Birmingham
Visitors from as far afield as Essex and Cornwall were rewarded with a raft of gold artefacts including a horse’s head, snakes, helmet eyebrow adornments and detailed helmet fragments replete with illustrations of warriors and animals.
The Museum usually welcomes around 800 visitors each weekend, a figure bettered during the opening two hours of the display on Saturday.
Councillor Hazel Lyth, cabinet member for economic development and culture, said the unprecedented audience demonstrated the level of support for the Council’s bid to buy the full 1,500-artefact collection in a joint effort with Birmingham City Council.
"This is an incredibly impressive, world-class exhibition and I am thrilled with the amount of people who have viewed the treasure," she added.
"We have received around six times as many visitors to the museum as we usually would this weekend.
"More people attended a preview night on Friday than we have ever had been to a preview night at the museum before.
"Among the civic guests and business leaders who attended, we received a £50,000 anonymous donation towards the hoard fundraising campaign."
Costumed Saxon and Viking re-enactors danced to Abba hits as the Museum laid on entertainment for the crowds in an attempt to foster their philanthropic spirit.
"The exhibition is free, but we urge people to demonstrate their support by giving generously to save these treasures so they can continue to be displayed in the region they were found," said Lyth.
"This is the first time the hoard has been exhibited in Staffordshire, but it could also be the last if we don't raise enough money."
Open 10am-5pm until March 5 2010.
Visit the Staffordshire Hoard fundraising campaign to donate.