I am a little bit snap happy at the best of times; however, when I was invited along to tour Jersey Museum and have a behind the scenes look at the world’s largest Celtic coin hoard, I really went to town!
You can immerse yourself in the history of Jersey as you wind your way through the different areas and gaze at beautiful paintings of the infamous Lilly Langtry, or wonder at the many artefacts on display from times gone by.
I actually had no idea how much is contained within the walls of the museum, it’s very deceiving from outside. As well as the Jersey Story, they are also exhibiting past images and items from the Jersey Evening Post, to celebrate their 125th year of production this year. Check out all the dishy men from yester-year!
The museum is also attached to The Merchants House, which is open to view, with an array of rooms all set up as they would have been when the house was lived in by Dr Charles Ginestet and his wife Jeanne. That was before he persuaded her to run away to France, abandoning debts and legal problems, in 1869!
The exhibition is fascinating, if a little eerie. The whole of the Merchants House is still gas-lit, so it’s pretty dark in certain places, but very authentic. You could spend hours peering into each room, at all the little trinkets and antique furniture dotted around. There are also audio-visual descriptions in certain rooms, which adds to the experience.
I think the children’s playroom was room was probably the most disturbing for me, I have to admit I did feel like it was reminiscent of a set from a horror movie! It was all still very fascinating though, and such a treat to be able to get up close with so much history.
Another great exhibit currently on display, is the Claude Cahun exhibit. This is available to see until early September this year, like many of the other exhibits I’ve mentioned. Born in 1894, Claude was a French artist, photographer and writer. Her work challenged the role of traditional gender concepts, and she was considered a leading force in the surrealism movement. Along with her life partner Suzanne, she is most commonly remembered for her highly staged self-portraits.
But, as fascinating as all the exhibits at the museum were, we’re forgetting the real reason I was there … the amazing Celtic coin hoard, the largest in the world!
I have been wanting to see this treasure since it was first discovered in 2012 by two men in Jersey. After hearing tales of a potential site to be discovered in a field in Jersey, Reg Mead and Richard Miles dedicated hours and hours to hunting the area with their metal detectors in order to locate the mysterious hoard.
One day, their incredible patience paid off and they were credited with finding the largest Celtic coin hoard in the world. Buried deep in the ground and over 3000 years old, the coins are known to have belonged to a tribe of people called the Coriosolitae, who resided in the area we now know as Normandy and Brittany in France.
The exciting thing about the discovery is that we still don’t know how much it is worth or why it was even here in Jersey and hidden away underground!
The team at Jersey Museum, from Jersey Heritage, work tirelessly every day in order to remove the coins from the block you see, one by one! They do this all by hand and with love and care so as to preserve each individual piece as much as possible.
The process is painstaking and requires an enormous amount of patience, but as I could tell from speaking to the lovely chaps undertaking the task, they are all thoroughly excited by the prospect of what they might find each day and are so passionate about the work they are doing to share this piece of history with the public.
The process of taking this huge hoard apart is expected to take another 2 years, in the meantime, they must preserve as much organic material as possible during the process to stop any further deterioration, which involves letting a vapour of de-ionised water flow over its surface.
As each piece of the puzzle is gently removed, they carefully map its original position using high tech equipment that will eventually leave them with a 3D model of the collection before it was taken apart. Once removed, each coin or artefact is then carefully treated to remove any corrosion and dirt, before being individually finished off by hand to bring them back to their former glory. Its an absolute labour of love!
I felt hugely privileged to have been given an up close and personal tour with such an amazing discovery, and even more proud that this a part of not only Jersey’s history, but a world wide historical find. I urge you to go and check out the exhibition if you get chance this year, it is truly amazing!
After such an impressive tour, there was only one thing for it. A celebratory dinner! Just downstairs is the Merchant House Brasserie, a casual dining restaurant with a beautiful garden / terrace area. They serve fresh, local dishes, which is really a pre-requisite for any restaurant in Jersey, as the produce is so readily available and delicious!
The food did not disappoint, I enjoyed delicious locally caught scallops with a peanut risotto, followed by a herb crusted chicken breast with crunchy greens, artichoke and of course, our lovely Jersey Royals!
Simple, tasty and exactly what the doctor ordered after a long day of curiosity and exploring Jersey’s history!
Most exhibits in the Museum will be there until at least September, so you have plenty of time to get down there and take a look, trust me, its well worth it. Let me know what your favourite part is, if you go along?