My Week: Dr David Symons

Author: Interview by Gillian Orr

We’ve managed to keep it secret for so long but the British Museum said that
we could do a small exhibition for it. So the secret will be out on Thursday
with a press conference followed by the beginning of the exhibition on
Friday. There is much planning to do; working with designers on graphic
panels, attempting to condense the history and where the pieces come from
for visitors.

Tuesday

I’m working on the exhibition again today. A lot of our choices of the pieces
come down to how clean they are. They can’t be cleaned until their final
ownership is agreed but they still sparkle through the dirt. In the evening
I travel down to London to visit my wife who is working on a project at the
British Museum this week.

Wednesday

Spend a lot of the day waiting for the boiler man to come to do the annual
service on the boiler, so among the very exciting week comes something
mundane. I get my favourite curry takeaway before driving back up to
Birmingham.

Thursday

It’s the press conference today and we break the story. I’m used to a couple
of journalists covering our events so I’m not prepared to be confronted with
about 90 journalists and tons of cameramen and photographers. I spend about
five hours moving pieces about, holding them up for pieces to camera,
generally guarding it. Everyone is very excited and positive about it. I get
home eventually, turn on the ten o’clock news and there we are, the lead
story, with me holding some pieces to camera. To be the first item on the
news, before Obama and Brown and an Aids vaccine, is both humbling and
frightening.

Friday

I come in early at 8am to find a decision had been made to double the size of
the exhibition. We have to move to a bigger venue in the museum before the
exhibition opens at 11am. People are queuing outside, which doesn’t happen
every day. We have 1,000 people through in the first hour. People are
surprised at the quality of the hoard.

Many people’s impression of the Saxon period is of them living in huts,
wearing skins, and in truth they were far more advanced. When you see this
stuff, you realise these are people with a striking artistic sense, a
skilful metal-working tradition and a very sophisticated civilisation.

I realised there was going to be more interest in this than we’d anticipated
when my colleague was contacted by the Vatican press office. I’ve done radio
interviews with Canada, German television interviews; we’ve gone global,
which is not necessarily something that happens to Birmingham Museum every
day. Any archaeologist will tell you that this hoard is the kind of thing
they dream of.

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