Chessmen will return home to Lewis in permanent display

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Six of the world famous Lewis Chessmen will feature in the permanent displays at the new Museum and Archive at Lews Castle when it opens in 2014. The loan agreement has resulted from a formal partnership between Comhairle nan Eilean Siar and the British Museum and the new gallery space will be a partnership gallery with the British Museum.

The Comhairle is conscious of the need to give local people access to unique artefacts, knowledge and history from national collections. Strong partnerships with the British Museum and the National Museums Scotland have opened up opportunities for further loans and activities that will help to widen horizons, enhance learning, and grow audiences for museums.

Both National Museums Scotland and the British Museum are supporting the development of the £4.6m Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) Lews Castle project and this partnership will result in a wider selection of loans to both support the new interpretation at the Castle and to give local people and visitors an opportunity to see significant world objects in a new and different setting. National Museums Scotland and Museum nan Eilean are currently finalising a list of further loans to the project.

The Lewis Chessmen: Unmasked Exhibition, led by National Museums Scotland and hosted by Museum nan Eilean last year, was delivered through partnership working between the three museums and demonstrates the considerable public and strategic value that can be realised through such joined-up working with the associated benefits of marketing, education, digital learning resources, shared skills and workforce development.

Announcing the initiative today Archie Campbell, Chairman of the Comhairle’s Sustainable Development said: The Comhairle is committed to raising the profile of the rich heritage and culture of the Outer Hebrides. These amazing little pieces will undoubtedly attract new visitors to the islands and once they are here visitors will find there is a lot more to see, enjoy and learn. Heritage is one of our most important assets and will make an increasing contribution to the economy of the islands

Angus Campbell, Leader of the Comhairle, said: “The presence of the Lewis Chessmen on the islands where they were found is highly appropriate and significant for the Outer Hebrides, and will support the substantial investment committed to the Lews Castle Museum and Archive project by the Comhairle, the Heritage Lottery Fund and other partners

Neil Macgregor, Director of the British Museum said: “The loan of some of the chessmen and other objects from the British Museum is part of a long-term partnership with our colleagues at Comhairle nan Eilean Siar. We are delighted to be partnering the Council on the redevelopment of Lews Castle and the partnership gallery which promises to be a major attraction for the Western Isles. The British Museum is committed to lending its world collection and to working with partners across the UK to share objects and expertise for the benefit of the widest possible audience.

Colin McLean, Head of Heritage Lottery Fund in Scotland, said: “We are delighted to acknowledge this excellent example of partnership working which will help underwrite our major capital investment in the Lews Castle museum project. It’s great to know the Lewis Chessmen will be on display where they were originally found and that local people and visitors will be able to learn about and enjoy them for the first time.”