For the first time in sixteen years the Lewis Chessmen touched down on Western Isles soil as the summer exhibition was showcased this afternoon (Thursday) for the media.
Thirty of the intricate pieces are displayed in the exhibition ‘The Lewis Chessmen: Unmasked’ at Museum nan Eilean, which also features Scandinavian artefacts found at other Scottish sites.
The detail of the chessmen is fascinating, as well as individual and distinctive faces the public will also be able to decipher individual quirks, such as the Queen with the ‘shoogly’ throne (the throne is actually constructed of two different pieces of ivory when the carver realised one piece would be too small to serve as a symbol of Royalty). Or the ‘Bad Hair Day’ chessman (this character has hair on one side of his face but not the other).
The exhibition is expected to be a crowd puller at the intimate musuem throughout the summer season, however some of the chessmen will also be going on the road on September 13th when a special one day event showcasing six pieces will take place in Uig Museum - paying homage to the site of their discovery.
As for a permanent exhibition of the chessmen in Lewis perhaps that day may not be too far in the distant future.
Dr David Caldwell of the National Museums of Scotland and writer of ‘The Lewis Chessmen:Unmasked’, which highlights some new theories which better root the chessmen in the isles where they were found, commented: “My own personal view is that it would be surprising if it doesn’t happen. It’s up to the people of Lewis if they want a permanent exhibition.”