Reflections on Celts

Reflections on Celts, a touring exhibition organised with the British Museum, is now open at its first Scottish venue.

This tour features two Iron Age bronze mirrors, one from the collection of National Museums Scotland and one from the collection of the British Museum.

Metal mirrors with a polished reflective surface on one side and swirling Celtic art designs on the reverse were first made around 100BC. The two mirrors in the tour reveal both similarities and local differences which help us to understand the relationships between communities across Britain 2,000 years ago.

Balmaclellan Mirror, National Museums Scotland
Balmaclellan Mirror, National Museums Scotland.

National Museums Scotland’s Balmaclellan Mirror was found in a bog in Kirkcudbrightshire, south-western Scotland. It was part of a hoard of precious objects wrapped in cloth and placed in a bog, perhaps as an offering to the gods. Unlike the English mirror, both faces were smooth for reflecting.

Dated to AD 80-250, this mirror shows a mixture of influences in its style. The people who made this were familiar with southern British Celtic art and Roman art, adapting these to create a distinctive local style.

A detail of the Balmaclellan Mirror, National Museums Scotland.

The British Museum’s Holcombe mirror, from Devon, south-western England, was uncovered during the excavation of a Late Iron Age settlement which lay beneath a Roman villa. There is a hint of an animal’s face where the handle meets the round metal plate, a common feature in ancient Celtic art. The back of the mirror is engraved with complex swirling motifs which were laid out using a compass. Dating from 50 BC – AD 70, as Roman influence became increasingly strong in southern Britain.

The Holcombe mirror. © Trustees of the British Museum.
The Holcombe mirror © Trustees of the British Museum.

My role at National Museums Scotland focuses on the National and International work of the organisation. Our National Programme includes training and advice for museum professionals, administering the National Fund for Acquisitions, providing Community Engagement and Schools programmes, loaning objects to other museums and touring exhibitions throughout the country.

Touring exhibitions are a great way to share the National Collections throughout the country. They allow more people to see the objects and also connect museum collections throughout the UK, as local venues display their own related objects. What I enjoy most about working with this tour is learning about the collections of the partner museums, gaining an insight into their archaeological collections and also learning more about the work of colleagues – there’s a lot happening in museums in Scotland.

After visiting the National Civil War Museum in Newark and Littlehampton Museum, Reflections on Celts will tour three museums in Scotland; Old Gala House, Inverness Museum & Art Gallery and The McManus: Dundee’s Art Gallery & Museum.

You can see this tour during 2016 at the following venues:

  • Old Gala House, Galashiels: 15 March – 22 May 2016
  • Inverness Museum & Art Gallery: 25 May – 28 August 2016
  • McManus: Dundee’s Art Gallery & Museum: 31 August– 4 December 2016

The venues in Scotland intend to include a wide range of programmes around the tour including curator talks, school workshops, art programmes and community outreach. Please contact your local venue to find out more about their programme.

Reflections on Celts is in conjunction with the Celts exhibition now showing at the National Museum of Scotland until 25 September 2016.

The Reflections on Celts tour is generously supported by the Dorset Foundation.


- Posted

Add your comments

1 Comment

Other posts by this author.

Related posts