16th century ivory figurine of a fisherwoman cast in gold

Crowds flock to Scunthorpe in search of gold

Nicola Sullivan, 22.02.2017
Gold replicas of museum objects hidden around the town for art project
Thousands of people have been hunting for gold objects hidden across Scunthorpe as part of an art exhibition.

The exhibition Treasured City, created by artist Luke Jerram, invited the public to search for five 18 carat gold replicas of artefacts in North Lincolnshire Museum’s collection. The objects were chosen to reflect the heritage of Scunthorpe and the surrounding areas.   

“I like the idea that ancient objects that were once hidden beneath the earth and were discovered and displayed at the museum are now be re-hidden,” says Jerram.

“The art project is a way to consider and celebrate the original artefacts in relation to Scunthorpe and the region.”   

The five objects – a Viking trefoil brooch, an Ivory fisherwoman figurine, a Roman ram figurine, a model of a Janus train and an ammonite – were scanned and 3D printed in wax for the project. The wax models were then used to create plaster moulds, into which molten gold was poured. This technique is known as the ‘lost-wax’ process and is thought to date back to 3700 BC.

Each object is linked to a painting that contains clues to where it has been hidden. The five paintings are on display at an exhibition at the 20-21 Visual Arts Centre, which received 1,500 visits on the day the exhibition opened. Jerram worked with a puzzle maker, employed by a government agency, to design the coding and content for some of the paintings.

The codes vary in their complexity and include one that could be solved by a child, others that could be deciphered by a non-specialists and challenging puzzles for mathematicians.

At the time of writing three of five objects (which are made from £1,000 worth of gold but are each worth between £2,500 and £4,500) had been found. The finders can keep the object and are invited to choose a public venue to which the corresponding painting will be donated.

Jerram said: “I’m delighted by the public response. It’s like the whole town has ignited with people searching for the golden artefacts, whether they’ve cracked the codes or not. We have had people drive from all sides of the country to visit and explore the town.”

A £35,000 Arts Council England grant helped to fund the project.