Fundraising campaign to protect 'star treasures' of Birmingham Museum

A £25,000 public fundraising campaign has been launched by a museums trust in the West Midlands to support the conservation of two "star treasures".

The Star of Bethlehem by Edward Burne-Jones. Photo: Birmingham Museums Trust
The Star of Bethlehem by Edward Burne-Jones. Photo: Birmingham Museums Trust

Birmingham Museums Trust made the move in order to protect both The Star of Bethlehem and the Holy Grail Tapestries for future generations.

The first artwork – the world's largest watercolour – has been on display at the Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery in the city for 130 years.

But the fragile glazing on the piece, by Edward Burne-Jones, needs replacing and the painting requires careful assessment and conservation.

It measures approximately eight foot by 12ft and has not been moved in decades – and due to the fragile, thin, original Victorian glazing the piece cannot be inspected, conserved or redisplayed due to a high risk of the glazing shattering and damaging the art.

Meanwhile the delicate Holy Grail tapestries, also designed by Edward Burne-Jones with John Henry Dearle and William Morris, are at serious risk of weakening and tearing.

Quest for the Holy Grail Tapestries - Panel 2 - The Arming and Departure of the Knights. Photo: Birmingham Museums Trust

All six tapestries were last on display in 2015 but they are now carefully stored away to safeguard them. They are one of the outstanding achievements of the Arts and Crafts movement, and the most extensive decorative scheme that the firm of Morris & Co. completed. To protect them conservation needs to be undertaken by specialists to clean and reline the tapestries.

Rachel Cockett, director of development at Birmingham Museums Trust, said: "We hope people will support this worthwhile project, to protect two of Birmingham’s well-loved treasures, by contributing to our conservation appeal.

"It’s incredible to think that Edward Burne-Jones’ The Star of Bethlehem has been on display at Birmingham Museum & Art Gallery for 130 years – this monumental artwork, along with the Holy Grail Tapestries, have an important place in the history of British art as well as being stars of Birmingham’s collection.

"This vital fundraising campaign will ensure that they can be enjoyed by thousands of visitors for many years to come."

Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery is home to the world’s largest collection of art and design by the Pre-Raphaelites and their associates. The museum and art gallery is currently closed for major electrical works, but Birmingham Museums Trust continues to care for these important collections so that visitors can enjoy them in the best possible condition when the museum fully reopens.

Birmingham Museums’ Conservation Appeal has already secured £39,000 from The Pilgrim Trust, The Friends of Birmingham Museums & Art Gallery and Tru Vue towards the total cost of £120,000 needed to conserve both artworks. It is hoped the remaining amount will be raised through trusts and foundations, with people asked to donate and hit the target of £25,000.

To support the conservation of the artworks from Birmingham’s collections, visit: justgiving.com/campaign/BurneJones

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