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Lost Property: The Treasure Act (1996) and English goldsmithing of the early Tudor era

31 January 2023, 2:00 pm–4:00 pm

PAS NARC-509038, found in 2017 and initially recorded as a gold pilgrim badge. Now held to be a figure of Henry VI, probably from a reliquary, circa 1481-1538. CC BY-SA 4.0 Eleonore Cox, The Portable Antiquities Scheme

This event is free.

Event Information

Open to

All

Availability

Yes

Cost

Free

Organiser

Millie Horton-Insch – History of Art

Location

Malet Place Engineering Building 1.20
Gower Street, London
London
WC1E 6DH

The implementation of the Treasure Act (1996) legally obliged finders in England, Wales, and N. Ireland to report objects held to be at least 300 years old and containing at least 10 per cent gold or silver to the coroner for inquest. Treasure finders never cease to surprise, challenging material culture specialists with discoveries that expand knowledge, test assumptions, and require far-ranging collaboration. 
The resulting trove of information has fundamentally changed what is known about the object landscape for the post-medieval period. For example, huge numbers of dress hooks have been recorded.

These constitute an object type that was essentially unheeded before 1997 and completely absent from museum collections but which has since been identified in 16th-century portraiture. Still a widely unknown resource, the Portable Antiquities Scheme crucially and critically challenges historical museal prejudices and requires holistic interdisciplinary engagement. A huge depth of unpublished data is generated in a museum and heritage context daily, much of which is difficult for researchers outside of the sector to access. The Portable Antiquities Scheme, however, is exceptional in its immediacy, aiming to process objects within 18 months.  

This paper will present case-studies of two complex early Tudor cases which have required very different approaches but which both significantly advance the material and technical understanding of English goldsmithing in the years circa 1485-1525. I will show the steps we take in researching these objects and how these differ from traditional object research, sometimes in exciting and unexpected ways.

Image: PAS NARC-509038, found in 2017 and initially recorded as a gold pilgrim badge. Now held to be a figure of Henry VI, probably from a reliquary, circa 1481-1538. CC BY-SA 4.0 Eleonore Cox, The Portable Antiquities Scheme. 
 

About the Speaker

Dr Rachel King

Curator of Renaissance Europe and the Waddesdon Bequest at The British Museum