Museum Trying To Bring Historical Items Back To Scilly

Boxes of artefacts held in the museum

Boxes of artefacts held in the museum

Historical artefacts that have left Scilly over the last century could soon be coming back to our museum’s collection.

Museum Curator, Amanda Martin and her team have been trying to track down items found in archaeological digs and on wrecks around the coast in the hope of repatriating them to the islands.

Amanda says it started about 12 years ago when she met a man from a museum in Witney in Oxford, who told her he had some fragments of decorated tiles from King Charles Castle.

She felt it was crazy that they should be displayed there rather than on the islands.

The museum doesn’t want to get back every item, she says, but some artefacts need to be displayed together and in the place they were found, not least because researchers will visit Scilly to see them, rather than travelling around the country.

Some valuable or important pieces, like the Etruscan vases from the Colossus wreck, are unlikely to be given back by the British Museum.

And other items are still in private hands.

The Isles of Scilly Museum was built in 1967 and before that, many of the finds went to the   Royal Cornwall Museum.

Amanda says they have a good relationship with Cornwall and many of their items have already been sent back to Scilly.

But Amanda says it’s not an easy process. The museum also has to show that they can conserve the items, although this was helped by gaining official accreditation in 2006.

It’s a sort of “stamp of approval,” says Amanda.

Our location also makes it difficult to physically bring items over from the mainland without them getting damaged.

Museum helper Sue Lewington, who lives on the mainland, often goes to the Royal Cornwall Museum with a van and packs boxes, says Amanda.

She then brings them by hand to Scilly.

There have been some notable successes, like the Bryher sword, which is now on display in the museum.

But Amanda says there are still large numbers of items sitting in storage on the mainland, out of view of the public, and she feels that’s a great shame.

Amanda next big mission is to track down the large collection of items that were excavated by famous archaeologist George Bonsor.

With luck, some of those could be on display at the museum in the near future.