Museum news: new exhibitions set to open in Norwich and London

The latest on exhibitions, acquisitions, and key decisions, including the BM's upcoming blockbuster exhibition on luxury and power in the Hellenistic period.

From wrecks to riches

Two major exhibitions have been announced: one set to open at Norwich Castle Museum & Art Gallery later this month, and the latest British Museum blockbuster, which will open in May.

IMAGE: National Museum of History, Bulgaria R

In Norwich, The Last Voyage of the Gloucester: Norfolk’s Royal Shipwreck, 1682 will showcase artefacts from a 17th-century warship whose discovery was revealed last year (CA 389). The Gloucester sank off the Norfolk coast in 1682 while carrying the future James VII and II to Scotland, and due to the age and prestige of the ship, the condition of the wreck, and its political context, it has been compared to the Mary Rose in significance.

The immersive exhibition, which runs from 25 February until 10 September, will feature research from the University of East Anglia and cutting-edge digital elements. The first section explores the ship’s history, life on board, and the events leading to her loss, while the second concerns the wreck’s discovery and conservation of its objects. Visitors will see artefacts including the Gloucester’s bell (which held the key to identifying the wreck) as well as navigational tools, barnacle-encrusted bottles, and personal possessions belonging to passengers and crew. For more details, see www.museums.norfolk.gov.uk/norwich-castle/whats-on/exhibitions/last-voyage-of-the-gloucester.

At the British Museum in London, Luxury and Power: Persia to Greece will feature artefacts from the Middle East and south-east Europe, spanning 550-30 BC, a turbulent period when the Persian empire of ancient Iran clashed with the cities and kingdoms of Greece, before being conquered by Alexander the Great.

Objects from Afghanistan to Italy will help to explore how luxuries were used as markers of authority, and how they influenced and were imitated by different social classes. Key exhibits include the virtuosic metalwork of the Panagyurishte Treasure – nine ornately decorated gold vessels from Bulgaria pictured left – as well as drinking vessels from Persia and ancient Athens, and a gold ‘oak leaf’ wreath from Turkey, similar to those found in elite tombs in the kingdom of Macedonia.

Luxury and Power: Persia to Greece runs from 4 May to 13 August 2023; see www.britishmuseum.org/exhibitions/luxury-and-power-persia-greece for more information.

New history centre for Staffordshire

A £5.4 million history centre exploring more than 1,000 years of Staffordshire’s past is set to be built following a grant from the National Lottery Heritage Fund. The project involves extending the existing Staffordshire Record Office in Stafford, and building a modern glazed entrance to incorporate the neighbouring William Salt Library and provide a new exhibition space. The result (artist’s impression shown below) will bring together collections from the Staffordshire and Stoke-on-Trent Archive Service (which include Anglo-Saxon charters and a letter written on the eve of the American Revolution); the County Museum (which include the nationally significant Douglas Hayward puppet collection and carriage collection); and the William Salt Library’s rare books and manuscripts. A dedicated itinerary of touring exhibitions and new learning programmes are being drawn up. For more details, see www.staffordshire.gov.uk/Heritage-and-archives/Staffordshire-History-Centre.

New exhibitions

2023 Banner Exhibition

People’s History Museum, Manchester
Until 7 January 2024

Labyrinth: Knossos, myth and reality Ashmolean Museum, Oxford

10 February-30 July 2023

Last chance to see

Alexander the Great: the making of a myth

British Library, London
Until 19 February 2023

Ancient Egyptians: secrets of the afterlife

Dorman Museum, Middlesbrough
Until 26 February 2023

Hieroglyphs: unlocking ancient Egypt

British Museum, London
Until 19 February 2023

Gathering Light: a Bronze Age golden sun

The Collection, Lincoln
Until 20 February 2023