MP demands more access to UK treasures

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REGIONAL outposts should be set up to show off the nation’s treasures, MP Ian Lavery has said.

The Wansbeck Member has welcomed the temporary return of the Lindisfarne Gospels to the region, but said more should be done to make such items more accessible.

And he said it is unfair that people normally have to travel to the capital to see them.

“Given that such treasures belong to all the people of this country there should be a much greater requirement on our national museums to loan such artefacts to the regions,” he said.

“Museums do loan items, but generally they are the ones they see as being of lesser importance. The British Library should not expect people from regions such as ours to travel to London to see them. We have world class museums in this region that are perfectly capable of housing these artefacts and you can take the argument a stage further by asking why all the national museums are in London?

“We should be looking at creating national museum outposts up and down the country, especially in view of the Government’s latest spending review that could spell dangerous times and even closure for museums around the country.

“Rather than seeking funds to extend or refurbish London sites, why not create outposts within existing museums where people can see the treasures they want to see and experience what other people are experiencing?”

The Gospels are believed to have been written by Eadfrith, Bishop of Lindisfarne, between 687 and 721 in tribute to St Cuthbert. They are on display for three months at Durham University’s Palace Green Library, along with other artefacts.

Mr Lavery said they are not just one of the Christian world’s greatest treasures, but are part of the cultural heritage of the North East.

“Everyone is delighted to be able to celebrate the Gospels’ return to the North East, along with the wonderful exhibition that has been built up around them, and I am certain people of all ages will flock to see them,” he said.

“However, without being negative, I believe that we need to make sure iconic cultural artefacts like the Gospels are more accessible to people up and down the country on a regular basis.”

He added: “The visit of the Gospels to Durham will prove an inspiration to people and groups to engage with their cultural heritage so we need to make sure such iconic cultural artefacts are more accessible to people all over the country, regardless of whether or not they have the money to travel to London to see them.”