Seahenge Focal Point of Museum Revamp
Norfolk's famous Bronze Age timber circle should finally go on public show in 2007.
A display of part of Seahenge, which in 1999 was controversially dug up from the shoreline at Holme, near Hunstanton, will form the focal point of a major redevelopment of Lynn Museum at King's Lynn.
The scheme, costing just over £1m, is due to start next summer, with the museum reopening in early 2006.
But it is not expected that conservation of the 55 posts forming the 4000-year-old ring will be completed until mid-2006.
Specialists at the Mary Rose Trust in Portsmouth are carrying out the painstaking process of freeze-drying the wood after it has been impregnated with poly-ethylene glycol - nicknamed "peg".
This will remove all the water vapour and preserve the sponge-like cell structure of the timbers, which would crumble to dust if left to dry out. The work is being paid for by English Heritage.
"What we are looking to do is reopen the museum building, once the building works have been completed, with temporary displays and we will wait until we've got the Seahenge timbers ready before installing the permanent displays," explained area museums officer Robin Hanley.
"Obviously it's a very complicated preservation job and it's ground-breaking in many respects, but it looks like the ring timbers will be coming out of conservation in the middle of 2006.
"We will look at mounting a display at the beginning of 2007 and then it will hopefully be finished by the summer of 2007.
"What we didn't want to do is keep the museum closed until the timbers are available," said Dr Hanley.
"We do need a period of time, once the timbers have come out of conservation, to design a display around them. It will require custom-built fittings for all the timbers.
"We want to do the very best we can, which is why at the moment we are looking at a whole range of different approaches to the display.
"When the Seahenge timbers come in they are going to be a key part of telling the West Norfolk story, which is what the permanent displays will do."
Preserving the large upturned tree stump which was at the centre of the circle is expected to be a much longer undertaking.
"It's such a massive piece of timber," said Dr Hanley. "It may take an additional couple of years before the central stump is ready.
"What we are expecting that we will need to do in the short-term is to have a replica of the stump alongside the original ring and replace that with the original one when it comes out of conservation."
The museum closed at the end of September so preparations for the project, which has a £778,500 grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund, to begin. It will result in a better entrance, a new study area and extra learning space on a mezzanine floor and removal of the suspended ceiling, revealing the interior of the historic converted chapel building.
Dr Hanley promised that although the finished displays would not be ready for the reopening "there will be lots for people to see and activities".
Sue Skinner. EDP24 website.
Posted by stubob
20th December 2004ce
Edited 20th December 2004ce